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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Zero Hour: 4 Weeks From Today...

It will be exactly 4 weeks from today when my wife and I leave Dallas for our trip "Down Under" to Australia and then New Zealand. That's the good news.

The bad news is that I have been watching exchange rates with the type of nervousness that Morne` Steyn would have trying to tackle Sonny Bill Williams. I am glad that most of my major purchases while I am in-country in New Zealand are already paid for, like the flight from Wellington to Nelson, the bus ride from Nelson to Picton , the ferry from Picton to Wellington and my housing in Wellington and Auckland. The reason for my happiness has nothing to do with being organized, it's just that with the US Dollar getting hammered by every major currency(And the game of chicken going on between Republicans, Democrats and President Obama is not helping to fuel confidence in the US Dollar), I am breathing a sigh of relief that those purchases were done before the US dollar has lost even MORE value. What should worry Americans is that if the European Union has bailed out Greece, Portugal and Ireland, and the Euro is STILL gaining value against the greenback, what does that say about confidence in the US and our economy?

I know more than a few of my fellow American rugby tourists going to New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup have been watching the shrinking value of the American Dollar with visions of having to re-think purchases in New Zealand. I know for me and my wife, it's going to mean maybe fewer restaurant meals and going to the grocery store to prepare food at the homes where we will be staying.

The saying goes that you cannot worry about things over which you have no control. In spite of the shrinking value of the US dollar compared to it's Aussie and Kiwi counterparts, I still plan on having a great time on this trip.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reds v Crusaders - Brilliance and Heartbreak...

Most years I probably would have been rooting for the Queensland Reds in a Super Rugby Final. The Crusaders are royalty in this competition after having won it more than a few times, and year in, year out seem to be among the top clubs in Southern Hemisphere Rugby.

It remained to be seen if the Crusaders could get just one more win on the road to cap off and incredible season in Brisbane. It turned out to be a compelling match. The Crusaders were dominant in the first half.  Dan Carter, the fly half scored a really great try off a perfectly placed grubber kick that he touched down. The Reds were tackling with all of their collective heart to stay in the game. In the second half, two tries of individual brilliance-particularly the 70 meter scamper by Reds Scrumhalf Wil Genia gave the Reds their first-ever Super Rugby title in the professional era.

It was a great final with more than a few overtones for the upcoming Rugby World Cup in September, as the Crusaders will supply more than a few players to the All Blacks, and Reds like Genia and Cooper will be wearing the gold of the Wallabies.

With all of the joy the Reds' victory gave to Queensland-let's not forget the horrific flooding they had last year with loss of life and millions of dollars in damage, the win would have been a shot in the arm to the people in Canterbury in New Zealand, who have been going through their own rough year with not one, but two earthquakes and a badly damaged downtown in Christchurch.

In the end, the Crusaders and Reds served up a great match for rugby fans all over the world to enjoy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

One Last Road Game for the Crusaders

The earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand on February 22nd of this year killed 181 people and caused destruction on a huge scale in the center of Christchurch and the eastern suburbs. It caused enough structural damage to AMI Stadium where Rugby World Cup organizers had no choice but to move the matches originally slated for Christchurch to other venues.
The result for the Canterbury Crusaders was that this 2011 Super Rugby season was going to put them as the rugby version of the Harlem Globetrotters. All of the Crusaders games this year have been on the road. It's been figured that the Crusaders have covered over 113,000 km(enough to circle the earth 3 times) and have played games as far away as England.

With all of that in mind, the Crusaders' emphatic 29-10 semi-final win against the Stormers in Cape Town was almost like a walk to the corner market. Their victory gives the Crusaders a chance to put some last frequent-flyer miles to their credit when they travel to Brisbane to take on the Queensland Reds to see if they can boost morale back in Canterubury with a win.

I have been wracking my brain, and I cannot think of a single sports team in any sport who has had to overcome so much and play every game away from home. It's one thing to be on the road for a World Cup or World Championship, but to belong to a league and play every game on the road, and still make it to the final is pretty incredible stuff.

As great as Queensland's turn-around has been this year, I have to say that even their rise to the top of Southern Hemisphere club rugby from door-mat status pales in comparison to what the Crusaders have been able to do. It's really a testament to the resiliency and leadership of the coaching staff and players to have even gotten to this point.

After the way they dismantled a pretty good Stormers side(Loaded with players who will be wearing Springbok colors at the Rugby World Cup) in Cape Town, I would not bet against McCaw and his mates against the Queenslanders this coming Saturday.

Friday, July 1, 2011

And USA-Australia Makes Three....

In spite of the grim statistics about slow ticket sales for the RWC 2011 in New Zealand, this middle-aged, American prop is doing my part to try to help out the Kiwi economy: Today I just got my third set of match tickets, for USA-Australia in Wellington on September 23rd.

There is a certain amount of symmetry to all of this, as 4 years ago, my son and I saw 3 games at France 2007.

I feel bad that the earthquake that hit Christchurch hit the hotel infrastructure in Canterbury so hard that it just did not seem practical to go there. As it is, my wife and I will spend a week in Wellington and 3 nights in Nelson.

One of the things I stumbled onto via the internet is a site called
It's a site where you can rent out apartments or rent a room in house from a home-owner. Thanks to that site, I have been able to take care of lodging for me and my wife during our stay in New Zealand. We will stay in one house in Lower Hutt, near Wellington and then in a house in Nelson-as luck turns out, the house in Nelson is a 5 minute walk from Trafalgar Park, where I will see USA-Italy.

I am just so pysched up about this trip to Australia and New Zealand. My hope is that with my next pay check, I will actually be able to get my plane tickets to Australia and New Zealand. As luck would have it, Qantas just started flying from Dallas to Australia. I had a really good experience flying on Qantas 5 years ago when I went to Australia. If you are going to spend 14+ hours in a plane, it's really not a bad way to fly.

I am hoping that now that the last of the tickets have been released for sale, that more rugby fans will snap them up. I have my tickets-do you have yours?