Nice to be back. Having last written for the Herald in 1970 there has been a bit of a gap, so perhaps, in the spirit of honest disclosure, it's time to note some truths I hold self-evident.
Steve Hansen is not only a great coach but a top bloke, too. You have to go back to JJ Stewart in the 1970s to find the last All Blacks coach who could make you laugh out loud. (JJ's best story? "Your Dad doesn't look very well son," he said to the wee son of great halfback Dave Loveridge at a Taranaki Sunday training. "No, Mr Stewart. He leaned over this morning and all his porridge fell out.")
Ian Foster will become the All Blacks coach after the World Cup in Japan if the All Blacks win. I believe they will.
It would be unwise to hold your breath until you go blue and faint in the hope Auckland, a city that, against all advice to go bigger, built a four-lane harbour bridge that was too small within two years of opening in 1959, will be organised enough to rustle up a great new sports stadium in the near future.
Noelene Taurua should have been in charge of the Silver Ferns since 2015, but she obviously scared some of the officials with her exuberance. How ironic they're relying on the same dynamic personality to now turn the team's fortunes around.
Sir Fred Allen, our only undefeated All Blacks coach, was right when he told me Dan Carter was the best rugby player he'd ever seen.
Dame Valerie Adams is a national treasure. My wife and I love her like family, so if you're a fan, be assured the funny, decent, public persona is a perfect reflection of the real person.
Michael Cheika wasn't born with a clown's cap on, but he's more than earned the right to wear one for however many more days he coaches the Wallabies.
Women's rugby is the best thing that's happened to the sport for years. Not only are players such as Michaela Blyde and Portia Woodman amazing athletes, but the Black Ferns are also not remotely blasé about the delight they find in playing and winning.
Winter snow sports have everything the 21st century New Zealand fan could ask for. First, anonymous in their helmets and goggles, the competitors seem to defy death with their stunts. Then Zoi Sadowski-Synnott or Nico Porteous take off their helmets, and the most exuberant, likable kids you've ever seen are giving beaming, joyous interviews.
However you feel about professionalism in rugby, in 1995, there was no other choice. If New Zealand had tried to stay amateur, every All Black would now be playing in Europe or Japan. Playing numbers in men's club rugby are worrying, but the jury should be out on whether that's mainly because the best players are rushing to professional contracts. If rugby was still an amateur game, then keeping young people playing, in an age where the range of other sports, from BMX to online gaming, is infinitely greater than 24 years ago, would still be tough.
Like the vast majority of Kiwis, I become a yachting expert when the America's Cup rolls around. My personal experience in the sport is vast — it consists entirely of sailing once with Peter Blake on his Round the World yacht Steinlager. It was a promotional trip from Auckland to Whangarei. It wasn't my idea of fun.
Peter Burling is already a legend. For me, the peak of his career to date came not in the ninth race in Bermuda in 2017 when New Zealand won the Auld Mug, but in the race before, when Burling tied Jimmy Spithill on Oracle in knots at the start and sailed past the becalmed American boat. Burling caught the eye of his mouthy Australian rival. He didn't raise a middle finger. Instead, as every Kiwi farmer driving his ute on a dusty back road does, he flicked a casual index finger. For a couple of seconds, Fred Dagg was at the helm of a hi-tech AC72, and if you looked very, very closely, he had a tiny smile on his lips.
Sir Murray Halberg is our greatest living role model in sport. As a 1960 Olympic 5000 metres runner, he was fierce. "I looked around the room before the final," he'd say later, "and I realised I was with 11 frightened men." The warrior side of his heart was huge. But even bigger was the kindness that led him to found the Halberg Trust, to assist children struggling with disabilities to enjoy sport.
As a journalist, I worked for 15 years as a general reporter, covering city council meetings, court cases, wool sales and natural disasters from shipwrecks here to hurricanes in Fiji. I now choose to concentrate on writing about sport because no fictitious play, book, or movie can ever provide such exciting, unscripted drama. How could anyone resist the chance to come back to the New Zealand Herald / Weekend Herald, where the fun started?
* Phil Gifford joins Simon Barnett on the new Newstalk ZB Afternoons show from July 2019