I could be wrong because I first heard this more than 12 years ago but, apparently, gardening is New Zealand's No 1 hobby. It shouldn't be; goal-kicking should.
Here is a pastime that doesn't hurt but heals, a pursuit that doesn't involve people, but a paddock-traipsing dance of up, down, end-over-end, bouncy bounty. It's surfing without the salty dehydration, walking minus the boredom, golf without the stigmatic garbage, farming without the animal degradation. What we're talking about here is a head-clearing semi-rural lifestyle choice. To watch the football sail between the uprights is to rejoice and be glad, needless to say.
Unlike golf where you need a whole armoury of sticks, a whole heap of cash, half a dozen hours, a stifling outfit and three other ghouls to join you, in goal kicking all you need is a rugby football, rugby posts, a pitch, kicking tee and the right attitude. Amazing.
Moreover, to have success as a kicker on these sojourns, a person must be as cool as wool, as limber as timber and as relaxed as cats. And that is where the beautiful parallels between golf and goal kicks lie. Tension and over-exertion will not see the imaginary flags go up to delineate success in this terpsichorean game.
A New Zealand man is a rugby man in almost all cases, on some level, whether he is equipped with the dreaded "skill-set" or not. I believe a man should get acquainted with the lightest side of this intensely heavy game for his peace of mind. The lightest side that is goal-kicking. Goal-kicking, being thankfully non-contact, only requires the soccer skills of timing, precision and grace. You don't have to be a gorilla of explosive "physicality" to excel. You don't have to be a horribly cliched "good team man" to do well in the field of goal-kicking, on the field of goal-kicking, when taken as a hobby. You can fly as solo as the ball itself.
Unlike farming where you have to chide, wound and kill benevolent creatures and combine that with absurdly hard yakka, goal kicking is a breeze. Kick a ball, walk after it. Kick a ball, walk after it. Wondrous. Like farming, the "kicking" room is breathtakingly refreshing and expansive, mentally and aesthetically. The queer, disconcerting din and sin of a city won't be found in these environs. A man can breathe again, in uninterrupted bliss. It's madly divine.
Surfing is earthly communication in its floaty, thrusting, crest-and-trough, up-and-down, cylindrical systematic, emotional-wash-and-dry splendour. Goal-kicking is comparable but less intense. Surfing is much more dangerous than goal-kicking and in our country involves a great deal of car travel and brutal disappointment. Most of the time it involves a lot of pernickety people, which is mostly scary and/or nauseating. Goal-kicking is free from all that. One simply shows up to the park, does "the bizzo" as Jonah used to say, and heads home, smilingly and laughingly. And what's more, the goal-kicker remains hydrated with canteen on hand - something not possible in surfing, at least last time I looked.
Walking is lovely, but can get doggone boring. Add an oval ball and the application of football skills and this boredom is assuaged immediately. Goal-kicking is a hobby; we love to do it, and most importantly no one is keeping score, unlike in a rugby match. Life as we know it isn't about keeping score and isn't a rugby match. No, life is much more peaceable, untroubled and blissful - mirrored in the carefree slotting or missing of shots at goal on the iconic paddock, in wistful boyishness.By Jem Beedoo Email Jem