Jim Hopkins on current issues

Jim Hopkins is a Herald columnist

Jim Hopkins: Now for a few words from on high

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Now, through the miracle of ImagiCam, we take you inside the nation's dressing room where the Head Coach, not unlike the mighty Pinetree himself, is about to speak ...

An excited clamour of conversations roars louder than a thousand geysers. "Oy," the Head Coach yells, but to no avail. He can't be heard.

Vexed, he thrusts two gnarled fingers into his mouth and produces a whistle so piercing it could shatter Quade Cooper's kneecaps - which would be a jolly good thing, and so say all of us.

"Okay, bit of hush, please," The Head Coach tries again as the echoes of his deafening whistle fade. "Ears on, gobs off. Got it?" He glowers at an inattentive member of the audience. "That includes you, Ponsonby. You can talk about Fashion Week later." Imperious as a kea on a Range Rover's bonnet, the Head Coach waits for the last murmurers to fall silent.

"Thank you," he continues, his tone fierce enough to scare an earthquake. "Right, guys, you all know why you're here. And you know what you've got to do."

"Dig deep, Coach?"

"Deeper than you've ever dug, Dargaville."

"And play the game?"

"Absolutely, Ashburton!" roars the Head Coach, exultantly punching his fist into his palm. "Play the b****y game! Play it with everything you've got and more. Play it like there's no tomorrow. Or yesterday. And no Tri-Nations either ..." his voice quavers as an unthinkable thought suddenly storms, like Radike Samo, across the try line of his soul.

The Head Coach shudders. "Saturday wasn't a defeat," he mutters, as much to himself as the crowd. "It was a challenge. We weren't beaten, we just had a victory deficit. And we'll be the better for it. Yes!" He stares at the anxious multitude. "Repeat after me," he yells, "'the sports psychologists are right. The sports psychologists are right'."

"The sports psychologists are right," intones the throng, 4 million strong. The sound they make is like a hundred thousand Welsh choirs trying to depress themselves.

The Head Coach realises his charges need cheering. "Enough of that," he cries. "Team huddle, everybody."

"But everybody's not here," a voice declares.

"What do you mean, everybody's not here?" the Head Coach rasps.

"Who's missing?"

Silence.

"Come on. Who's missing?"

"Ummm, Wairoa, Coach. Wairoa's missing."

"Where the b****y hell are they?"

"Out buying more ammo, Coach."

"You're joking!" the Head Coach roars, beating his forehead with his clipboard. "Tell me you're joking! Strewth, that's all we flippin' need. Some patched pillock blazing away during the Georgia-Romania game. The British press'll think they're back in London. And the Aussies will be on to it quicker than a leaf in a shipment of apples. This is a disaster! What are we going to do?"

"Don't worry." A corpulent figure, wearing nothing but a kilt and revealing the kind of chest you'd expect to find on Page 3, steps forward. "I'll sort it," he says, cocking his shotgun.

"Good on ya, mate," says the Head Coach. "A round of applause for Tame Iti, folks. Let's have that huddle, shall we? It's time for some bonding."

Three hours later, with the last huddler finally huddled, the Head Coach is ready to begin his all-important pre-match address.

"Righto, guys. This is it. The big one. You know it. I know it. We all know it. We've waited 27 years for this. 27 years! Thought we had it 8 years ago, till the Okkers took it off us.Well, not this time. No way! This is our show. No-one else's. And we're the ones on show. No-one else is. The world's in town, team. And we've got to paint it.

"So, if you want to grumble, zip it. If you want to whinge, do it in the dunny. As of now, we're off the bawl and on the ball, okay? No more moaning. No more groaning. No more wailing about the cost. You can do all that later, if you must, when the world's gone home. Right now, we're playing to win, okay? I'm talking hearts and minds, friends and neighbours! Other people's hearts and minds. We invited this invasion, team. We asked the world to come. We said we wanted them. Let's show 'em we meant it, okay? We've got the moves. We know the score. Just remember what your Head Coach says, 'It's all about the top two inches, folks'."

"Excluding haircuts, of course," adds a helpful lady from Pukekohe, lest there was any confusion.

"You're on to it," the Head Coach smiles, pleased that old Kiwi impulse to lend a hand is still alive and well. "Let's head round the back," he says, "We've got a few beers out there for you and the ladies have put on a spread. Go for it. Enjoy yourselves. I'll see you at kick-off."

- NZ Herald

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