Bryce Johns: Boxing on but it's not all tickety boo

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ITM Cup a no-go zone. Photo / Getty Images
ITM Cup a no-go zone. Photo / Getty Images

Giving away free beer and a good feed shouldn't be so difficult. But so is the lot of the corporate box holder at Eden Park these days, where trying to attract someone to go see an ITM Cup game is not a job for the impatient.

That I, the editor of the Herald on Sunday, was even allowed a handful of tickets to the company's corporate box for Wednesday's Auckland-Taranaki match was perhaps indicative of the interest in the occasion. It was only my second invite in over two years here.

But always one to roll my sleeves up and do my best for the company, I tried to reward some key contributors - those who do the writing or suggest ideas - with a free night out.

This was no easy task.

The excuses rolled in. One was working; one had dinner with friends; one was hosting a client elsewhere; one was out of town; one was overseas (that one was believable); one was "too tired" and another simply said he was "busy".

But the best, or should that be most honest, excuse was from a long-time rugby tragic: "I don't do the ITM Cup, thanks."

It only took 10 days but we finally managed to allocate the tickets.

That was better than a mate of mine, hosting a box for a major Australasian corporate. He invited me the day before the game, desperate to be shod of his last two tickets.

On the day, only one person didn't turn up to our box. He texted from outside the ground to say that he couldn't find a park so was going home.

This for a match where there looked like there were about 250 people in the ground. Okay, plus corporates, hiding in the warmth.

Inside the ground, the hospitality was flowing, and so was the anti-Auckland sentiment.

One client kept screaming "Taranaki" every time the yellow and blacks threatened. This after telling us he had been the most dyed-in-the-wool Auckland supporter his whole life.

But that went pear-shaped this year. His son, a 1st XV member of one of Auckland's most elite schools, had been in the representative/development system of the region for a couple of seasons. Mid-year, he was told to keep performing at the level he was, and he would again be in the frame for post-season rep teams. However, come the trial camps, he wasn't included, nor even told what he had done wrong.

So it's off to university next year, almost certainly not in Auckland, and his is a name I'll be looking out for to see if it pops up in the Canterbury, Otago or Waikato colours in years not too far away.

"Auckland's run by a bunch of old boys stuck in their ways," he moaned at halftime.

Inside the box, away from the cold, a group of women decided the action wasn't that hot, so stayed inside for the second half. At the end of the game, one asked: "Who won?" Others left without waiting for an answer.

At least questions won't be asked about the size of the bar tab. Unless we did the record for the lowest imbibed in the box.

Questions do need to be asked, however, about the state of the ITM Cup and of Auckland rugby.

It used to be suggested that the administrators of the game needed to get out and mix with grassroots supporters on the terraces to find out the pulse of the nation. It'd be a lot easier for them these days - if they could be bothered getting out of the Auckland union's corporate box, and popping into the one next door, they'd find out just as easily.Footnote: If you were one of the lucky people with the Herald at Wednesday's game, please don't think you were only there because dozens of others were unavailable. You are valued and we'll try to get you to a Warriors match next time.

- Herald on Sunday

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