October 30, 2011

What's up, Skip?

Crikey. Who'd want to be booked on a Qantas flight right now? Thousands of people all over the globe have been caught short, unwittingly becoming casualties of a long-running industrial dispute between management of Australia's national carrier, Qantas and several of the workers unions here. Through no fault of their own, passengers have found themselves stranded at airports for an as-yet undetermined period of time after the entire Qantas fleet of planes worldwide was grounded without warning yesterday. Virgin, Jetstar and Tiger Airways must be smiling all the way to the bank.

This grounding is unprecedented in terms of industrial disputes. CEO Alan Joyce is definitely playing hardball with this escalation. The immediate cost to Qantas is $20 million per day, every day the planes stay grounded. Long term though, the damage to their name and reputation as well as compensation to passengers could make this figure seem minuscule. Already there are hundreds of disgruntled people swearing they will never fly Qantas again. Ever. Not good news for the flying kangaroo. Hardly the 'Spirit of Australia' now is it?

So what's it all about? On one hand, we have Qantas who say restructure was necessary to make their business financially viable by out-sourcing some operations overseas and ultimately protecting the commercial longevity of the company. On the other hand, we have a group of unions saying that they are only protecting the basic rights of their workers and stopping Australian jobs going overseas. And in the middle, we have the flying public who are trying to get on with their everyday lives but becoming understandably upset because THEY seem to be the only ones paying the price.

It's a tough one.

Air travel has changed a lot since I was a kid. It's a much less expensive option compared to what it used to be. I was 21 the first time I ever flew on a plane whereas my boys have flown many times already (they don't know how lucky they are!). The internet and globalization of competition has forced airlines to streamline their operations to compete for a share of the available market. It's like anything else. I mean, who hasn't shopped around for cheap flights? I know I certainly have. But you know what? I hardly ever flew Qantas because their fares were usually one of the dearest. Food for thought, right there.

I don't have a lot of personal experience with unions as I have always worked in private enterprise. And to be honest, I'm not sure that I'd want a body of people speaking for me anyway. I like being able to do what's right for ME, not what's right for most. Unions by their very nature seem to stir things up, not keep things running smoothly, at least that's my perception of them. In private enterprise, you don't get to say: "I'm going on strike until you give me what I want." You either have a conversation with your boss and come to an agreement, or you tough it out until you find something else. When you have bills to pay, there simply isn't any other option. And to think we used to treat this experience as character building!

I do wonder how this will affect Australia, in general, though. If it isn't sorted out in the very near future, the ramifications for the tourism industry alone, one that has already experienced massive hits this year, could be immense. Queensland Tourism especially, must be worried about how this will affect their livelihoods.

As you might imagine, talks to end this dispute are going on right now. Let's hope someone has the sense to come to an agreement, sooner rather than later.

The flying kangaroo might end up going walkabout if they don't.

October 25, 2011

Hello, it's Destiny calling!

Never has a game of rugby been so hotly anticipated by so many. Who would be the Rugby World Cup champions for 2011 - Les Bleus or the All Blacks?

From Auckland to Avignon, Peru to Port Elizabeth rugby fans across the globe gathered en masse, either at Eden Park or tuned in via the nearest television set. What they collectively witnessed was a heart-in-your-mouth Battle Royale that took hold and violently shook the earth, so fierce was the fight, so close was the scoreline. Minute after nerve-wracking minute the Pendulum of Victory swung back and forth, teasing the viewing audience without mercy for the entire 80 minutes. OMG, it was intense. Millions hardly dared to breathe whilst desperately hanging on to the very edge of their seats, so transfixed were they by the match unfolding before them. At least that was the case at MY house. I couldn't sit still during the game, almost driven to watch between my fingers at some stages.

All Black coach Graham Henry had commented earlier in the week about the upcoming final."This French team, we are not sure who is going to turn up, quite frankly, so we have got to prepare that they're going to be the best in the world." This statement would turn out to be one of the most astute observations printed by the media. France had not played particularly well up until now, losing twice during the earlier pool rounds (including a shock loss to Tonga) and had barely squeaked through their semi final against the Welsh, who were playing with a man short after their captain was sent off for a dangerous tackle. However unlike the majority of the press who'd written them off as the the 'worst rugby team ever' to make a RWC final, the All Blacks squad contained many who knew only too well how dangerous it was to underestimate a French team. Especially during a World Cup. Remember Cardiff, 2007? We were nervous, and rightly so.

From the very start, Les Bleus showed the world they meant business. No matter what anyone said, they were here to play. And it was during the haka, when the French joined hands and stood in a 'V' formation before defiantly striding toward the All Blacks in a shock move, that the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up. The French were not only accepting the challenge but were issuing one of their own - this had the makings of one hell of a game.

And so it began. Tough, grinding rugby with no quarter given by either side. Brute force vs passion and guts; the blood bin was kept busy yet again. The All Blacks lost yet another man at No. 10, the brave Aaron Cruden hyper-extended his knee during the game, bringing on our 4th backup five-eighth, the much-maligned Steven Donald. Two weeks prior to this he'd been whitebait fishing on a river near his home, about as far away from top-level professional rugby as you can get. But now there he was, smack bang in the middle of the pressure cooker, preparing to face the heat of the World Cup final cauldron. With time ticking away, he stepped up for a penalty kick and cool as you like, slotted it over the crossbar by the right hand upright. All Blacks were in front, by ONE. The rugby-mad public cheered long and loud for their new hero - Steven will be the Duck no more!

After 80 exhausting minutes with all participants nearly out on their feet, the referee's whistle thankfully brought this almighty battle to an end. The journey was over - the All Blacks triumphant!!

All Blacks   8      France   7 

It had been close but in the end, the solidarity of belief held by our boys had been the difference. Mistakes from the past had been learned and nothing was left to chance. The French could go home with their pride intact; they had deserved their place in the final but had been denied by a team who ultimately wanted it more. This was a wonderful win for the AB's and for all the fans but as Richie McCaw pointed out, it would be held especially dear by the many thousands of people in New Zealand affected by the Christchurch earthquakes and the Pike River Mine disaster. Now there would be something to smile about.

All Black captain Richie McCaw raises the William Webb Ellis
trophy in triumph as a country rejoices with him. So very proud!

This was the moment I had been waiting for. And yes, I'll admit it, I had a few tears in my eyes watching Richie McCaw lift that cup over his head, although his aching arms must have felt like lead by then. And then there was that fantastic typically Kiwi moment during his post-match interview when he told the world that he was 'absolutely shagged' after his efforts. LOL. The crowd, naturally, roared their utmost appreciation. We loved it.

What a wonderful end to a marvellous tournament. My heartiest congratulations must go to the victorious All Blacks on finally achieving their destiny. You did us all proud and we love you for it. We'll be there to cheer you all on again in London in 2015. 

Kia Kaha.

October 19, 2011

Blood, Sweat & Tears

I can't help myself -- I'm grinning a mile wide as I type this:


All Black fans were treated to an incredible 80 minutes of rugby on Sunday night. If anyone was still unsure about the state of the All Blacks game during the singing of the national anthem, those worries should have vanished when the camera panned down the line of players. All were calm. Focussed. Steely-eyed with fierce determination.  

And that was even before they did the haka. WHOA.

Every. Single. Man in Black. Was as one.  This should have been a red flag in the minds of the opposition who were perhaps still luxuriating in the memory of their performance of the week before. The ferocity and passion of this haka was a clear standout - All Black muscles were bulging, blood was visibly pounding and the ground shook with intent. Truly something very special.   

Consequently, right from the moment Quade Cooper's first kick went out on the full, it was on. The All Black machine roared into action, sucking up Wallaby players and spitting them out in relentless fashion. It was, as one scribe wrote, like "a wave of black magic crashing relentlessly upon green and gold shores." The intensity, speed and clinical efficiency at which they took control of the game, grabbing it by the throat, was nothing short of awesome. Fans everywhere were ecstatic. This was the performance we had all yearned for.

Cory Jane - bloodied but unbowed, Man of the Match!

Friends of this blog will know I've spoken before about the type of men who proudly wear the black jersey. They are a rare breed of elite athlete, willing to subject their bodies to all manner of physicality in order to bring honour and pride to their country and its people. Men who will shed blood, sweat and tears on the way to their goal. Men who welcome the challenge and embrace it. I hope they know how much we love them because of it.

Captain Richie McCaw fends off a tackle

But our World Cup journey is not over yet - there is the not-so small matter of beating France in the Grand Final. Coach Graham Henry reminded us all about that earlier this week: "We've got to come down, get to base again, clean sheet of paper and build for this Test match on Sunday against the French." 

Quite right, Graham. Don't want to count our (French) chickens before they've hatched, do we? Been there, done that! So there'll be no celebrating from me just yet. I'll wait (nervously/excitedly) until the final whistle on Sunday night. After that, who knows! My neighbours should consider themselves warned - if I actually do get to see Richie McCaw raise the William Webb Ellis trophy in the air this weekend, it may get a little rowdy around here, lol. 


October 4, 2011

Got attitude? Good.

Winston Churchill once said: 'Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference'.

And he was right. Having the right mental attitude is virtually ALWAYS a key factor in determining how successful you are. Positive people are, by and large, far more adept at making lemonade when life gives them lemons. And you don't need to be Anthony Robbins to do that either. While it's true that success is often achieved by timing, skill, perserverance, strength or ability - these variables are invariably magnified further by the added presence of an excellent mental attitude.

Think about it. What happens when you are faced with stress or adversity? What controls the way in which you react? It's your attitude to it. How well you handle a situation when your back's to the wall, the odds seem stacked against you and the proverbial shit has hit the fan. Attitude becomes the template with which you can take stock, formulate your next course of action, muster up every ounce of courage you've got, take a deep breath and carry on.

Underwriting this concept or thinking is the other crucial element of belief. If you do nothing else, you HAVE to believe. Sports people understand this concept well. They have to ooze an attitude of inner confidence that is so rock-solid no-one can shake it. If they don't, self-conscious doubt will trip them up before the referee's first blow of the whistle even sounds.

Which leads me to what at I'm trying to say now. Our 'attitude' and what we're doing with it, is something I'd like every All Black supporter to think long and hard about today.

For those who aren't in the loop, every AB fan on the planet is currently coming to terms with the worst possible news imagineable: our maestro of magic, our architect of awesome, Dan 'The Man' Carter is OUT of the 2011 Rugby World Cup. During training yesterday he suffered a freak groin injury. News of this has been devastating for all, not the least of which, Dan himself. Coach Graham Henry has been obliged to name a replacement, a job next to impossible as no-one can hold a candle to Dan Carter's mental abilities or his brilliance on the field.

However, the bloke who's got the nod is one Colin Slade. He's a young player with solid abilities, yet a little underdone in the experience department. He has been given the monumental task of trying to fill the shoes of Dan Carter during the World Cup stage and honestly, you can't envy him the job. His previous outings at No 10 so far have not been overly impressive and there have been moments when he has faltered under the intense pressure. However, Dan Carter, to his absolute credit, has already come out and given this young man his total support saying that we need to get behind Colin; the rest of the All Black team and coaching staff have already overwhelmingly done so.

And this is what I'm getting at. We need to change this negative 'OMG, the dream is over!' attitude I keep seeing in the media and get with the programme! Yes, Dan is out and it's a tragedy for everyone; sport can be cruel mistress and the timing of this injury sucks. BUT - and here's the important bit - the All Blacks are made up of a TEAM, not just one player. We are blessed with a depth of quality in our side that other rugby nations can only dream about and every bloke on that list is simply waiting for the chance to step up finish the job they started with Dan.

As is Colin Slade. He, more than anyone, will want to do everything he can to get our boys over the line. The key here is the overall attitude - he'll be doing it with the total support from his team mates and coaching staff. As it should be. We as fans need to get behind Colin too, no matter what our own opinions are, for the good of the TEAM.

The All Blacks are still an awesome proposition for any side and as such, will be very hard to beat with or without Dan Carter. Our Men in Black are not considered the number one side in the world for nothing.

One of the main reasons for this is their attitude - they all believe.

We need to keep the faith - so should we.

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