Scotty Stevenson 's Opinion

Sky TV's Scotty Stevenson on rugby

Scotty Stevenson: A 'perfect' season punctuated by loss

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Quade Cooper runs with the ball in attack during the Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Bulls. Photo / Getty Images
Quade Cooper runs with the ball in attack during the Super Rugby match between the Reds and the Bulls. Photo / Getty Images

You want memories of the season? Here's one: I'm sitting on the floor of my parents' house back in March. It's the 23rd in fact, a Saturday night. The salt is still drifting off the ocean, well after the light has drained from the day. My father is sitting in an arm chair, borrowed. The wine in my glass is cheap, Dad's. The Reds are playing the Bulls and I am holding my Pop's hand. That's the rugby game I remember most.

Crazy, really. In a season that began for me in early January in Queenstown, and will finish for me in two week's time in Hamilton, I remember the damn Reds battling their way to victory at Suncorp Stadium courtesy of Quade bloody Cooper. Not even a New Zealand team in sight.

And it's just plain daft when you think about it. Here I was back in the New Year talking to Jamie Joseph about the Highlanders and how confident they were about a play off spot. I can still see the drive in those dark eyes of his, set between that italicised exclamation mark of a nose, answering my questions with all the subtlety of a punch to the face.

Back in January, when the Highlanders thought they had as good as bought a semi-final. I remember that.

I remember the Blues towelling up the Crusaders at Eden Park in their first home game of the season. What hope there was then for the Blues. No more talk about Piri Weepu's derriere, only the promise of a 'rollercoaster' season from Sir John Kirwan. Frank Halai announced his arrival that night with a double. Blues fans dared to dream of a post season. Ali Williams seemed almost composed. Surely that couldn't last...

And surely the Chiefs couldn't go back to back, could they? But then, here they were two weeks before the playoffs, fresh from a shellacking at the hands of the Crusaders, standing on the training field at Ruakura surrounded by buildings in which mad scientists do strange things to cattle, and here were the Chiefs own mad scientists - Dave Rennie, Wayne Smith, Tom Coventry, Andrew Strawbridge - never doubting, only imploring.

Smith had talked of a dynasty after 2012's breakthrough franchise victory and if you had been there that day at Chiefs HQ, if you had seen the way they trained, you may have believed then and there that dynasty and destiny had been mauled and rucked until they had become synonyms.

To be with that team a few weeks later, after the job was done against the Brumbies, when Toby Smith played the house down and Hamilton went feral, that was something unforgettable.

It's the little things I remember: the look of satisfaction on Dave Rennie's face, surrounded by family and friends, already talking about the next season; or sitting outside a Christchurch hotel with Rene Ranger as he prepared to tell Steve Hansen that he would be playing for Northland, not the All Blacks; or standing on the park well after the final whistle of the final Bledisloe Cup test in Dunedin, when Kieran Read, not a camera on him, calmly took off his boots and handed them to the last two kids hovering above the tunnel.

Of course I remember that other week in Dunedin too, when Dave Latta and Dick Knight stood beaming on the grounds of South Otago High School and had their photo taken with the Ranfurly Shield, and probably would have cried had they not been smiling so damn much. And what a game that was against Hawkes Bay when, not for the first time in my broadcasting career I screamed Ihaia West's name as he clinched a thriller for the Magpies.

Then there's this All Blacks season to consider. My dad would have loved watching them post the perfect record. He really would have. Yet, there I was, sitting on the floor of my parents' house back in March, before that sweep of the French and that epic in Johannesburg and that Houdini act in Dublin, watching Big Kev's Reds hold on against the Bulls, while I tried to hold on to my dad.

That armchair, you see, was borrowed from the North Haven Hospice. The wine in my glass hadn't been any good to Dad for months, so I had promised him I would make sure I finished his stash. And we just sat and watched the game like we had at Okara Park where he took me when I was a kid, back when he was indestructible, and could still yell at the referee, and complain about all the kicking, and when he would hold my hand as we walked back to Granddad's house.

So I hung on tight on that Saturday, and we watched our last game together, before he slipped away into the coma that would last for two more days, before the stomach cancer he had battled with more bravery than I have seen, or ever will see, on a rugby field, finally won.

A week later, we buried him by the river and the bagpipes had played. And a few months after that I held my son's hand as we went off to Eden Park together, for the first time, to sit and watch a game.

- NZ Herald

Scotty Stevenson

Sky TV's Scotty Stevenson on rugby

Scotty Stevenson is a Sky TV commentator and Editor of SKY Sport - The Magazine

Read more by Scotty Stevenson

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