Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review : "The Open Side"

By: Mark Wilson | Tuesday, January 29, 2013

As tradition states each Christmas I receive a biography tailored for a Kiwi male. Its subject is generally a national or international sporting icon, tradition also dictates that I read this in one day, typically Boxing Day, as I laze around the holiday house in Manapouri. This is a nice addition to the usual fare of sock, undies, petrol vouchers, a few more inches around the waist and strands of grey hair.
I’ve had some real beauts in the past: Tim Shadbolt’s book was humourous, interesting, concerning and insightful all in one. Jeff Wilson’s a classic tale of a Southland Childhood I could relate to without any of the extraordinary sporting talents of he displayed;  Zinny was a very good read… I could go on, my shelves at the old family home at Otatara are full of legendary reads books from Sean Fitzpatrick, Jonah Lomu, Ian Jones, JK, Lance ‘EPO’ Armstrong, just to name a few.
Usually, I am riveted to these well-crafted life tales from some of society’s heroes.  However 2012 Christmas tree read was a little different. This is hard for me to say as I feel a little un-Kiwi even thinking it, but Richie McCaws biography The Openside was one I just couldn’t get into at all.
It started solidly, but I got bogged down in the chapters about the Crusaders, what else can you really say about this team we don’t already know, win win win, while stockpiling some most of New Zealand’s rugby talent and packing out national teams en route to a full trophy cabinet etc.
They have become the Auckland of the 80’s and 90’s with their excessive success breading disdain among some fans.
Personally, being a diehard Stags fan, I have never been a fan of the red and blacks in any level of the game and these chapters just lost me. I had to put the book down and have a week off to recover.
The story of the World Cup was interesting, but apart from a few more insights into the foot issue it didn’t really delve into anything I didn’t already know, only serving to reinforce the iron will of McCaw to represent his country and the desire of the All Blacks to break one of New Zealand’s most troublesome sporting hoodoo’s.
It really illustrates Richie’s legendary attitude to hard work, but was anyone ever in doubt of McCaw’s commitment to a cause and his almost un-human work ethic and focus?
The story about his notebook and the scrap of paper with his goals tucked up in his cupboard hidden from those who might judge and laugh as his heady aspirations was great fodder for the next generation of aspiring All Blacks and this along with the material on some of his early days as a club and school player was fresh news to me and perhaps the most interesting part of the book.
But I’m no longer an aspiring All Black, and those dreams along with being the ruler of the world and finding a wish granting leprechaun at the end of a rainbow evaporated well prior to puberty due to a lack of size and skill along a body prone to more breakdowns than a Twin Turbo Subaru Legacy, alas I had little use for this motivational segment.  
I did go back and finish the book and although I feel I know a little more about one of New Zealand’s all time rugby gods, I could have hit up Wikipedia for most of it.
There was no scandal, no entertaining tales of behind the scenes touring antics, no insight bar a few lines into the women in his life. Knowing Nicola Grieg I was interested to see what he thought of her Twitter debacle a few years back when they were close.
I got from some of my prior Christmas reads a real appreciation of the environment these special people in our sporting world operate in, not for its ability to build winners but for the memories and camaraderie garnished by those who operated within it.  With McCaw, there was none of this the book was a very clean and clear chronological look at his rugby career and how it pertained mainly to him, it was for lack of a better description boring and predictable.
Maybe this is a bit harsh or perhaps this is a side effect of greatness, Richie McCaw has given so much of his life to playing sport for his country that we know him so well already, maybe he just doesn’t feel like baring his deepest secrets in public, or maybe Richie’s life has been so filled up with Rugby there actually isn’t much else to report.
Whatever the reason, Richie McCaw’s book falls well short of his ability as a Rugby Player and left me hoping that he is far more existing in person outside of Rugby than the book would indicate. 
Maybe like Jeff and Jonah, we will be lucky enough to get a second book where Richie can let his hair down a bit more. 


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