OPINION: RWC organisers hit sour note with song choice

NOT FEELING IT: The Feelers have hit a sour note with their cover of "Right Here Right Now".

I WAS astonished when Martin Snedden unveiled a cover version of British band Jesus Jones’ song Right Here Right Now performed by the Feelers as the official unofficial anthem of the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Now before I get into this I can already here some people saying “Big deal, get over it. You should be more concerned about whether Auckland will be ready in time for the event or if the All Blacks can end their 24-year drought at rugby’s showpiece event and finally lift the William Webb Ellis trophy.”

I agree. The abovementioned issues are legitimate concerns as the world cup draws increasingly closer.

However, that still doesn’t disguise the fact that event organisers have hit a sour note with many New Zealanders, who have panned the choice of song and group performing it.

No disrespect to the Feelers, but they’re hardly the greatest New Zealand band, are they?

Moreover, one of their songs was used on an advertisement for failed finance company Hanover, whose owners (Eric Watson and Mark Hotchins) have left many New Zealanders with bitter tastes in their mouths and financially up shit creek in a leaky waka without a paddle. Hardly a good look, eh?

But that is an entirely different matter altogether.

Surely a New Zealand song performed by a New Zealand band would have made sense given the event is being held in OUR OWN backyard?

Apparently not. The reason Right Here Right Now was chosen was because it tells a story of a significant moment in history (it is inspired by events that led to the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall), is catchy and well known internationally.

Be that as it may, opting for a foreign song – which isn’t even about sport – over a local one is  a slap in the face to the New Zealand music industry, which is currently thriving (see Gin Wigmore, Evermore, Dane Rumble, Lady Hawk, to name but a few) and has come along way since the days of Crowded House and OMC’s international smash hit How Bizarre in the 1990s.

The Rugby World Cup presented a grand opportunity to showcase this- as well as the other great aspects of Kiwiana that make our two little beautiful islands at the bottom of the South Pacific ‘heaven on earth’ – to a huge worldwide audience.

After all, the world cup is third biggest sporting event behind the Olympic Games and the Football World Cup, with the 2007 instalment drawing a global television audience of 4.2 billion.

It is estimated around 60,000 tourists will grace Aoetearoa for 45 days in September and October next year, meaning the rugby world’s eyes will very much be focused on us. Thirteen venues – from Whangarei in the far north to Invercargill in the deep south – will be spotlight and centre stage as 20 teams from around the globe do battle.

Using Right Here Right Now as part of an marking and advertising campaign is also questionable, as it’s implying the 2011 Rugby World Cup is going to be another huge, defining noment in world history.

While it will be a huge event for those in the rugby fraternity, it’s hardly going to carry the same weight – let alone significance – of the events depicted in the song. The world is not – I repeat, is not – going to stop spinning on its axis and come to a standstill when the All Blacks play their Pacific cousins Tonga in tournament’s opening game.

LOYAL: McCormick is plumping for Dave Dobynn's popular song to be the 2011 RWC anthem.

Entertainer and poet Gary McCormick, who has started a campaign to have the song changed, told the NZPA last week after the announcement was made that kiwis deserve to have a New Zealand tune as the unofficial anthem.

“The people of New Zealand are stumping up a couple of hundred million dollars so far and rising towards this World Cup and it’s being held in New Zealand,” he said.

“The very least we can do is have a New Zealand song for the anthem for the World Cup…”

However, I don’t agree the song should be Dave Dobbyn’s Loyal, which McCormick is plumping for.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good song – Dobbyn’s finest hour, I believe – but far too old. We’ve been there, done that and got the t-shirt and coffee mug to show for it.

Anyone remember the 2003 America’s Cup? You know, that disastrous yachting regatta in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf where Team New Zealand’s mast snapped in half en route to being totally massacred by Alinghi.

Instead I reckon the organisers should have asked a New Zealand band or solo artist to write and perform a song for the occasion. How hard would it have been to approach a Kiwi muso with a description of what they wanted the anthem to epitomise?

Better still,  they could have had a bit of fun and run a competition where young unknown New Zealand singers, bands or songwriters are asked to enter their songs, with the winners getting the right to perform and record their masterpiece.

Think of the marketing opportunities that could’ve presented, not to mention the music career it could have launched given the ad featuring the song would be played worldwide.

Nonetheless it is unlikely the status quo will change. Whether we like it or not, the unofficial anthem is here to stay.

I just hope the organisers have the decency to make all venues across country to play only Kiwi music during games. That should at least go someway to showcasing the local music scene and appeasing those who are feeling a little ripped off that a New Zealand song was overlooked as the anthem for what’s going to be the biggest sporting event to hit our shores.

FOOTNOTE: The official anthem of the Rugby World Cup is World in Union, hence the use of official unofficial Rugby World Cup anthem when referring to the Feelers’ song.

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Another Asian Bledisloe on the cards

THE ALL Blacks and Wallabies look set to play another Bledisloe Cup test in Asia this year, according to the Australian Press Association.

But with the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the expansion of the Tri Nations to include Argrentina on the horizon, it could be the last time the teams play an additional Bledisloe test.

The announcment comes after the two sides played matches in Hong Kong in 2008 and Tokyo last year – both of which were won by the All Blacks. CLICK HERE to read more.

England confirm five-match tour of Australia and NZ

ENGLAND has confirmed it will play five matches Down Under in June as part of their preparations for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

According to The Telegraph, the Martin Johnson-coached side will play the Wallabies in Perth and Sydney, as well as two midweek games against the Western Force and Australia A prior to the first and second tests respectively.

The tour – which will be the 2003 Rugby World Cup winner’s longest since the trek to South Africa in 2000 – will conclude with a match against the New Zealand Maoris in Auckland. CLICK HERE to read more.

Fans to pay through nose for RWC tickets

PUNTERS will need deep pockets if they are to afford tickets to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The Dominion Post reports House of Travel and Seasonz Travel will begin selling package deal to rugby’s showpiece event from January 1.

Deals including tickets to the semi-finals and the final would likely cost thousands of dollars, say the travel agencies.

Package deals are only way people can buy tickets at the moment.

Venue and team pool packs (excluding the semi final and final) and individual tickets will go on sale in April and September respectively.

Around 1.7 million tickets will be available, with prices ranging from $30 for a pool match to $1250 for the final at Eden Park. CLICK HERE to read more.

OPINION: Depth at lock runneth over

Tom Donnelly

ONE OF the real positives to emerge from the 2009 season is the sudden depth at lock. Put simply, the number of quality options New Zealand rugby has in second row has never looked better.

And that’s a good thing, as far as  Yours Truely is concerned, because there was a time when the cupboard was looking a little sparse and the lineout a tad shaky.

One only has to cast their mind back a season or two when Chris Jack, Greg Rawlinson, Troy Flavell, Keith Robinson and James Ryan – all of whom had worn the black jersey – announced they were either cashing up and heading to greener pastures overseas or pulling the pin on their respective careers.

That left a gaping hole, and although Graham Henry and co. were able to fill the void, there was a feeling that if injuries struck, the selectors would be scrapping the bottom of the barrel to find suitable replacements to do the business.

Fortunately those fears have been alleviated following the emergence of some fantastic exponents of second row play this year.

Top of the list would be Otago and Highlanders beanpole Tom Donnelly.

Although the tough-as-teak southerner has been on the scene since 2002 and has come close to cracking the national side in the last couple of seasons, it was this year he came of age and showed his wares after being gifted a chance against the Wallabies in the final Tri Nations match of the season.

The 28-year-old grabbed the opportunity with both hands, bringing some much-needed organisational skills, simplicity and stability to what had been a farcical All Black lineout display up until that point by doing the type of stuff he had been doing at super and provincial level for a number of years.

The fact the men in black dominated the airways during their recent European jaunt had much to do with Donnelly, who has made every post a winner in his six tests since his debut at the Cake Tin and is now an integral cog in the All Black machine.

Brad Thorn

On the subject of integral cogs, one cannot look past Brad Thorn, who in his second season of his second All Black coming continued to produce consistent displays that defy his 34 years of age.

NZ Rugby World editor Gregor Paul named the former Brisbane Broncos star as the player of the tour and described him as “the glue that held the All Blacks together” in December/January’s issue of the magazine.

It is a pretty accurate assessment, for not only did Thorn perform strongly on tour, his heavy workload in the trenches, around the fringes and up the guts were at the fore during all 14 internationals the All Blacks played this year.

The fact he also played every minute of every test, except for the final 15 minutes against the Frogs in Marseilles, was a testament to his ability and value to the team.

So inspirational were Thorn’s performances in the black jersey, it is hard to believe the second rower was not nominated for the big gong at last week’s Steinlarger Rugby Awards.

Another to have caught the eye with some scintillating displays was young Isaac Ross, who, after initially struggling to buy a start for the Crusaders, was an All Black by the end of the Super 14.

Isaac Ross

The son of former All Black Jock did a superb job deputising for the injured Ali Williams in his debut season and by the time the Tri Nations rolled around, he had become well known for his mobility, aerial prowess and honest attitude.

His career may have stalled somewhat after being unfairly dropped for the final Tri Nations test and then being left at home to bulk up while the All Blacks jetted to Europe, but the 24-year-old looks a world class player in the making and it will be interesting to see how he comes back in 2010.

Others on the comeback trail include ‘Comical Ali’ and Hawke’s Bay lock Bryn Evans, who like Ross, could not crack the Hurricanes starting XV, but did enough in his limited appearances to impress the three wise men with his skill set and earn two caps for the All Blacks before injury curtailed his season.

Throw All Black tourists Anthony Boric and Jason Eaton – as well as proven performers like Jeremy Thrush, Craig Clarke, Kevin O’Neil, Josh Bekhuis, Hayden Triggs and the returning Jack – into the mix and it appears our stocks in the locking department are overflowing.

All of which means messers Henry, Hansen and Smith have some difficult decisions to make as they look ahead with one eye to the 2011 Rugby World Cup.