Eden Park has a chance to quickly open up the country's biggest stadium to rugby, if there's a willingness in government circles to be open-minded.
During the week Eden Park chief executive Nick Sautner outlined a plan to Simon Barnett and myself on Newstalk ZB that could see as many as 5000 people watching games in the Super Rugby Aotearoa competition, with safety considerations that would satisfy the strict rules that have allowed the country to record so many Covid-19 free days.
Sautner was at pains to say that the proposal wasn't an attempt to blindside the regulators, but "we think social distancing could be maintained under Level 2."
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Basically our largest sports arena would be divided into 10 blocks holding 500 people, each with its own entrance and exit. "We can comfortably do this and trace the ticket holders through technology and ticket allocation. The efforts in the community and by the Government have been tremendous, and we believe there's a chance to help in the rebuilding of sport and event centres that we all want."
Eden Park has copped it hard and strong in recent years, something that I've found slightly puzzling. Trust me, if you were a Kiwi at the semifinal of last year's World Cup in Yokohama, it wasn't just the thumping from England that would have stunned you. The stadium itself was old, grey, and tatty.
Having had the huge good fortune to be at every World Cup since 1987, the final at Eden Park in 2011 was as dramatic and enjoyable as any, and whatever the disbelievers say, the ground played a major role in the sense of occasion. It has a history - now that Athletic and Lancaster Parks and Carisbrook have gone - that no other stadium in New Zealand can remotely match.
The Blues have driven away people from the place for years, and the smaller crowds led to an inevitable drop in atmospherics, and an increasing chorus of distaste for the venue itself. But when the ground is full, there's a buzz like no other in New Zealand sport.
(It's one of life's bitter ironies that the full 2020 Super season was killed off at a stage where the Blues had found their mojo, for the first time in more than a decade. A handful of sneering texts that arrived on Tuesday while Sautner was on air suggesting they'd be lucky to get 5000 people at Eden Park for a Blues game anyway ignored the fact the Blues had just won four matches in a row, and were lying second in the New Zealand conference after seven games when the pandemic struck, and rugby stopped in the middle of March. That's the sweet smell of success lingering around the ground at the moment.)
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Sport without a crowd is like a band's sound check compared to a live concert. The performance may be the same, but the excitement is sadly lacking.
I really hope the imagination of the Eden Park plan is appreciated at high levels. If there's support it could also offer a blueprint for other grounds. Not all New Zealand stadiums will be able to offer as many gates and sections, but the idea is at once daring yet practical.
God forbid that we should find ourselves watching our best rugby players on television playing in front of sad, empty, echoing stands.
To meet Olsen Filipaina is to like him. How could you not warm to a man who's humble, quietly spoken, and sweet natured? Easily, it would seem, if you're infused with the racism that ran rampant in Australian rugby league when he went to Sydney in 1980.
Filipaina was so good he became one of the first young Polynesian players from New Zealand headhunted in 1980 to the Sydney competition. It wasn't a happy time, although he stuck it out for eight years, strictly for the money.
In a 2006 interview for Sydney's Rugby League Week Filipaina said, "When I was training at Balmain, blokes would deliberately try to put me out of action during opposed sessions. They were pissed off with me taking their spot and were deliberately trying to injure me. I spent a month playing with a cracked sternum that was delivered by an elbow at training."
Racial sledging when he played was the norm. "I was called a black b******, a n*****, even had cans thrown at me."
In an excerpt in the Herald this week from his book, The Big O , Filipaina spells out why casual racism digs so deep, and hurts so much. "For some reason people don't understand that racism is different. Call me short or fat or dumb or ugly, I can deal with that. But insult my colour or my people and you are insulting my parents, my friends, my children, my grandparents and all those that came before them.
"If you were to insult a white person's mother, they would go crazy on you. But that's exactly how I felt in a lot of matches when I was racially abused. I understand things happen in the heat of battle, but not that many times from that many people. At least one person saying sorry would have been nice."
Test match football for the Kiwis was the only way he could strike back, and the legendary Wally Lewis, who made the bad mistake of refusing to shake hands with Filipaina the first time they opposed each other in a test, was one who especially suffered. Filipaina said, "When he didn't shake my hand I thought, 'Right mate, I'm going to become your worst f****** nightmare.' And I did."
If Filipaina suffered racial abuse at its most feral and disgusting, don't believe for one second that Polynesians in sport here aren't aware of coded references, the sort you hear, for example, when the Warriors struggle, about how they need more hard-headed Aussies (translation: white men). The same sort of comments emerge when the Blues are losing.
The best summing up of ignorant racial stereotyping I've heard was when a Samoan friend finally became too exasperated to stay silent when a media man, preceding his remarks by saying, "I'm not being racist here", held forth on how the Warriors needed "smarter players."
The Samoan, himself a sportsman at the highest level, said, "I'll believe that's not racist the day I hear you say, after the Black Caps have played like crap, that the problem in the side is that they've got too many dumb whities."