Hockey endeavour emphasises need for a pitch

New Zealand deservedly won the Rugby World Cup, the first side to retain the trophy, and on the way brushed seven teams aside in superb style.

Only South Africa in the semi-final took the All Blacks to closer than a 10-point margin, but the 20-18 result flattered the losers, who only kept in touch through a series of penalty kicks.

Traditionally the final has tended to be a rather dour affair but Saturday’s match was anything but. For making it the spectacle it was Australia are as equally deserving of praise as the winners.

Plenty of the best action in the group stages was provided by the teams regarded as “minnows”, and it would be good if some way in future could be found to recognise the progress they have made.

For instance for Japan to have gone through their group matches with only one defeat, against Scotland, but not to progress any further was disappointing.

In many lesser rugby tournaments a plate competition is run alongside the main quarter-finals and I feel the world cup would benefit from that in future.

Many pundits have been busy this week picking a “team of the tournament” and, although you would be sorely tempted to go with the New Zealanders en bloc, here is my own selection:

15 Ben Smith (New Zealand); 14 Santiago Cordero (Argentina), 13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand), 12 Matt Giteau (Australia), 11 Julian Savea (New Zealand); 10 Dan Carter (New Zealand), 9 Fourie de Preez (South Africa); 8 David Pocock (Australia), 7 Richie McCaw (New Zealand, captain), 6 Francois Louw (South Africa); 5 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), 4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa); 3 Owen Franks (New Zealand); 2 Augustin Creevy (Argentina); 1 Marcos Ayerza (Argentina).

And hearing that New Zealand coach Steve Hansen will now be turning his attention towards building a new team to take on the British & Irish Lions in two years time, it may be worth considering who may be in contention were a Lions side to be selected on current form.

Based on world cup performances, and allowing for the absence of injured Welsh full back Leigh Halfpenny and Irish fly half Jonny Sexton, the following could be worth considering:

15 Stuart Hogg (Scotland); 14 Anthony Watson (England), 13 Jamie Roberts (Wales), 12 Mark Bennett (Scotland), 11 George North (Wales); 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Gareth Davies (Wales); 8 Toby Falatau (Wales), 7 Sean O’Brien (Ireland), 6 Sam Warburton (Wales, captain); 5 Alan Wynn Jones (Wales), 4 Jonny Gray (Scotland); 3 Willem Nel (Scotland), 2 Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England).

Of course the make-up of the side will likely be determined by whoever is chosen as manager. If current Welsh boss Warren Gatland, who successfully led the Lions to victory over Australia in 2013, is given the reins again over half of the team will be from Wales.

It would be good if that didn’t happen because the Lions, as the full name suggests, is traditionally a combination of the best talents from the four areas involved.

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The Shetland Ladies hockey team recorded another fine result at the weekend, defeating Glasgow Accies 4-0 on Sunday to reach the quarter-finals of the Scottish District Cup.

The latest win followed their first-round success, a resounding 10-0 victory over Inverleith Ladies, as the Shetland players bid to at least match their achievements of last season when they reached the semi-finals.

Relative success in this competition has not come about without a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment, which sees the players making endless trips to Brae for both competitive matches and training sessions.

Now that the new Anderson High School has now passed the point of no return, with building imminent, surely the time has come to reassess the provision of facilities at Clickimin.

Many years ago budding hockey players at the AHS used to develop their talents on the old Bellevue pitch, while most serious games were played at the now defunct Seafield field.

Now, with the game having progressed to the point where grass is no longer suitable, there is nowhere save for the artificial Midway Pitch at Brae.

There is an excellent all-weather rugby pitch at Clickimin, along with several football
pitches including a separate kick-about area. There is also a running track, bowls hall, swimming pool, indoor sports centre, squash courts and, we are told, an outdoor arena will be coming.

One thing is obviously missing – an adequate surface for hockey. The area inside the track, which is no longer used for football, could be a possible place.

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The Clickimin pool is back in full swing, and apparently as busy as ever, following the enforced closure for structural problems.

With Shetland Recreational Trust having reportedly lost well in excess £100,000 due to repair costs and lost revenue, could the trust perhaps consider taking less time off over the looming festive season?

People in the isles are often on holiday for up to a fortnight over Christmas and New Year, with schools closed during that period, but in recent years the pool has been unavailable.

Staff should obviously be given Christmas Day and New Year’s Day off, but having the opportunity to go for a swim during the rest of the holidays would be a real bonus for people.

Surely it’s an idea for the trust to consider, and a way to recoup a little of the lost cash.

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Although Jose Mourinho is, in my opinion, vastly over-rated both as a football manager and a personality, it is difficult not to have some sympathy with the current plight of the Chelsea boss.

It is hard to understand what is going wrong at the club, who are after all still the English champions, but possibly the foolish treatment of team doctor Eva Carnero was a catalyst.

At the end of last season the team was considered pretty near invincible. Commentators were regularly lauding John Terry as still being the best defender in the land, Diego Costa was the top striker, Nemanja Matic the number one holding midfielder and Eden Hazard almost on a par with Ronaldo and Messi.

Fast forward a few months and Terry is now described as a player whose “legs are gone”, Costa spends more time fouling than scoring goals, Matic and Hazard are in and out of the team and Mourinho himself cuts a shambolic figure.

Terry’s reaction this week to criticism by television pundit Robbie Savage may have made good viewing, but it only cemented the current plight.

Terry described Savage, a Welsh international and league cup winner, as only having played at a “really bad level” and how he only listened to the “very best” such as Rio [Ferdinand]. That said it all.

You start to wonder how long the manager can go on, with more and more people appearing to be turning against him.

The news that a player went on record, according to a respected BBC sports reporter, as saying he would rather lose than win for Mourinho, is pretty shocking.

Whoever this individual is, and there appears to be a difference of opinion as to his identity on social media, he should have no future at Chelsea if Mourinho stays in charge.

It is not a healthy situation at any club to have a player, be he the biggest superstar in the world, considering himself to be more important than the manager.

It has happened plenty of times in the past. At Glasgow Rangers a mini-revolt fronted by Barry Ferguson was thought to be influential in getting rid of Paul Le Guen, although Ferguson has since denied it, while the Frenchman was in the process of introducing his own style at Ibrox.

There is little doubt that player power forced Mark McGhee out of the Aberdeen job, likewise Tony Mowbray at Celtic, while there has also been evidence in the past of it happening at a local level with the county managerial position.

But if the manager is strong enough he will ultimately prevail, as in the case of David Beckham who was never going to get the better of Alex Ferguson. It remains to see how much of that quality Mourinho possesses.


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