In preparation for their Super Rugby final clash against the Lions on Saturday night, the Hurricanes were seen today at Rugby League Park in the company of local ambulance staff who were demonstrating to players how to perform the Heimlich Manoeuvre.
“Obviously in previous years we haven’t been properly prepared for an entirely predictable closing or blockage of the windpipe,” said Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd, “So under my watch I’m not leaving any stone un-turned this year.”
Wellington Free Ambulance staff donned team jerseys during the three hour session to ensure that Hurricanes players wouldn’t hesitate in reacting to signs that any of their fellow teammates were experienced signs of restricted breathing on Saturday night.
“Keeping the esophagus free of blockages and allowing air to pass clearly through it is a hugely important focus for the team this week,” said captain Dane Coles.
“It was great having already gone through these drills with the All Blacks at the last World Cup, which meant I was able to devote more time to helping some of the younger guys in the side,” added Coles.
For his part assistant coach John Plumtree said that he’d learnt all too well in his previous stint coaching the Wellington Lions that such drills were vital preparation for a final.
“Unobstructed airways are key in a big match like this,” said Plumtree. “It’s vital that air remains circulating at all costs otherwise the team will not succeed.”
At the conclusion of training players were also seen being issued with new team jerseys with specially designed wider collars in a move team management said would help reduce the change of choking.
The Hurricanes have been forced to purchase additional bandwagons to accommodate the anticipated influx of people who have suddenly discovered they are Hurricanes fans following the teams defeat of the Chiefs in the weekend’s semi-final in Wellington.
Hurricanes CEO Avan Lee said that while the franchise had easily accommodated the Blue’s handful of fans who were early season arrivals on existing bandwagon space, the recent surge in numbers first from former Crusaders, then Chiefs and Highlanders supporters has meant the Hurricanes have had to find additional space.
“Obviously at the start of the season we had excess bandwagon space due to the exodus of fans following last year’s choke and the departure of players who were clearly past their best but fan favourites,” said Mr Lee. “But as the season’s progressed and the team has looked more and more like actually achieving something, we’ve had steady demand for bandwagon places.
“And now that all the other sides have fallen short, the demand from jumpers has been unprecedented. Last year we had a small surge of bandwagon demand, but with the Highlanders in the final everyone assumed we’d fall short so it was manageable. Now that we’re up against the Lions, everyone’s forgotten how good they’ve been all season and for some reason they think the Hurricanes have a chance,” continued Mr Lee.
Bandwagon jumpers are easily identified via their multiple and vocal proclamations that they’ll be going to the final combined with obviously false attempts to play down their excitement by feigning that they don’t really understand sports.
Long-suffering Hurricanes fans have allowed themselves the briefest moments of joy this weekend as their team somehow finished as minor premiers of the 2016 Super Rugby season, before they return to anticipating the inevitable choke that comes with the Hurricanes and post-season rugby.
After an odd Saturday evening where the Hurricanes thrashed a typically hapless Crusaders side, forcing Hurricanes fans into the uncomfortable and complicated situation of both cheering for the Highlanders, but not too much as to ensure they didn’t get a bonus point try during their clash for the Chiefs, they awoke from their post-match hangovers around 1pm to discover that the Hurricanes were on top of the table.
While they were pleasantly surprised with the result, having previously written off the 2016 campaign after the embarrassing loss to the Brumbies in round one, Hurricanes fans spoken to by Sportbox have calmed down from their weekend high and are now coming to terms with the unrelenting advance of fate.
“It’s great and all being top of the table and getting a home quarter final,” said often-quoted Hurricanes fan Callum Webb, “but it’s important to be realistic. Even if we win this weekend, and even the weekend following that, we’re just delaying the inevitable – we’re going to choke when it counts and we’ll still be the only New Zealand franchise without a title.
“After so many seasons, with so many disappointments, it’s just easier to consign this post-season to the dustbin rather than expending vital energy and warmth on getting excited about it.”
Mr Webb was clearly already moving on from the Hurricanes impending loss as he tried to move the conversation to new topics.
“Anyway, wouldn’t you rather talk about our amazing cafe per capita ratio? Or maybe some of the great craft breweries we have dotted around the city? Or what about that one, single calm and sunny day back in February that caused us all to post photos and claim that you can’t beat Wellington on a good day?”
Palmerston North resident Ryan Suddy has hatched a plan to use Nehe Milner-Skudder’s now famous “Skudder Step” to avoid a collision the next time he and another pedestrian are walking towards each other.
“What usually happens is we both zig, and then we both zag, and then we both zig again, and we end up nearly colliding, exchanging an awkward laugh, and then going on our way,” said Mr Suddy. “Next time I get in that situation I’m planning to break out the old Skudder Step, and just hit the gap and blitz past them before anyone gets embarrassed.
“I’ve been practicing it in my hallway all week, it’s going to work,” added Mr Suddy.
For his part, Milner-Skudder was glad his exploits on the rugby field were inspiring people, but suggested that he was “hoping people might aim a little higher than avoiding walking accidents.”
Following their thrashing at the hands of the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday night, Wellington based Hurricanes fan Callum Webb is reportedly relieved that he can consider the season over after one game.
“Not many people realise how hard it is being a Hurricanes fan,” said Callum while he contemplated the serenity of the harbour from his Khandallah townhouse. “Each year we’re told things are going to be different, that this will be the year we go all the way, and it always ends up in defeat and disappointment.”
Glancing down into his luke-warm cup of Nespresso coffee, Callum continued, “Last year was the worse. Mark Hammett had successfully trampled our hopes into the dust when he left, and we honestly didn’t expect much of Boyd at all. But then the Hurricanes went and got us all excited, played some great rugby, got us our first over home final, were overwhelming favourites. Our expectations went through the roof, we’d forgotten all the things we’d been taught from past golden runs. We should have remembered how it all ended. These are the Hurricanes after all.”
We go outside, where his Hurricanes top is hanging on the washing line drying on an usually sunny and calm Wellington afternoon.
“It’s easier this way,” Callum reassures himself in front of me while reaching up and holding the sleeve of his Hurricanes jersey. “Losing the first game so badly means I won’t bother to put any emotional investment into the team this year. If you do well, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you crash and burn…”
The price of kindling for fire places has plummeted overnight in Wellington as dejected Hurricanes fans burnt their jerseys following Saturday night’s embarrassing loss to the Highlanders.
“Enough is enough,” said Cameron Webster of Mt Victoria. “The Hurricanes have gotten my hopes up far too often. Between their perpetual inability to deliver titles, Beauden Barrett’s lack of goal kicking accuracy, and TMO meddling, I’m giving up on the Hurricanes.”
Throughout the city on Sunday chimneys could be seen spilling out noxious yellow vapours of disappointment and resentment as Hurricanes fans burned their jerseys en mass.
“They kept promising me they’d change, but they never did,” said Lauren Williams of Thorndon. “I just kept giving them second chances, I wanted to believe their words, but enough is enough. I’m breaking it off with the Hurricanes, permanently.”
Wellington Free Ambulance were forced to respond to several incidents where Hurricanes fans found themselves unable to function as human beings following the loss. One fan, Edith Holland, was reported to have been picked up by paramedics some three hours after the final whistle after she was found curled up in a foetal position underneath the seats at the Caketin, softly chanting to herself “Hurricanes, cha cha cha, Hurricanes”.
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd has fired the first salvo ahead of Saturday night’s Super Rugby final against the Highlanders by alleging that the southern team’s preparations will be hampered as their players adjust to things such as flushing toilets, telephones, and electric lighting.
“It’s obviously a big cultural adjustment Jamie Joseph will have to lead the team through,” said Boyd following Hurricanes training this morning. “Coming from Dunedin, which is still a 19th century colonial city that only recently got telegraph wires, to a modern, cosmopolitan city like Wellington which has ultra-fast fibre, electric street lights, plenty of cars, and flushing toilets, it’s going to be a big adjustment for their team.”
Boyd pointed out that the Highlanders had already struggled to get their players to board an Air New Zealand flight to Wellington, “From what I head most of the team were wanting to come by steamer up the coast, they really thought that the aircraft was powered by some sort of witchcraft or sorcery.”
For their part, the Highlanders said they were trying to ignore those distractions and focus on the task at hand.
“You can etch and print what you want in your woodcuts and broadsheets,” said Highlander’s coach Jamie Joseph. “We’re just focused on the game and getting Ben Smith out of police custody after that unfortunate incident where he tried to dig a long drop on Featherston Street. We tried to assure him that the flushing toilet wouldn’t swallow him, but he didn’t believe us.”
After a stellar season the Hurricanes meet the Brumbies in a Super Rugby semi final showdown in Wellington. But the key question is – what do the Hurricanes need to do to beat the Brumbies?
Score more points. History shows that the team with the most points at the end of 80 minutes are the winners of the game. If you score less points than the opposition, then you lose.
So how can the Hurricanes do that?
They need to either have someone kick the ball through the opposition’s goal posts during general play, and get three points each time they do. Or they can place the ball on the ground over the opposition team’s “try line” and get five points each time. Then, if they kick the ball through the goal posts again, they get another two points. If they can’t do any of that, the Hurricanes will not score any points on Saturday night and they will not win. Unless the Brumbies also are unable to score any points, then we’ll play on until one of the teams have more points than the other.
Both these sides know how to score points, they’ve scored points in the other games they’ve played all season, and usually they’ve scored more points than the opposition, but what they really need to do is score points on Saturday night. Points scored in previous games aren’t carried forward. Only points scored in the two 40 minute halves following kick off at 7.35pm will count in determining who is the winner.
It’ll be a tight game. But I’m sure maths will be the winner on the night. As we need that to add up the scores and determine which team has accumulated the greater number of points.