New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Centres

Sometimes thinkers, sometimes raw power, the inside and outside centre work as one of the great partnerships on the rugby field. Always communicating, deft at moving the ball with the skill of David Bowie from the Labyrinth (you must remember all the cool things he used to do with those little glass spheres) and having the ability to destroy the opposition with superb textbook tackling, it is this combination that can be key to the backline in both attack and defence.

Think of those great combinations throughout the years – Walter Little and Frank Bunce, Tim Horan and Jason Little, Phillipe Sela and Thierry Lacroix, Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll, there has been some brilliant rugby played by these lads, but they’d have nothing on the ultimate brewer combination…

Number 12 – Inside Centre/Second Five Eighth

Someone with smarts, a sidestep larger than the ones you’d need to climb the Pyramids and the tendency to sneak through the opponents defensive wall, there can be only one Kiwi brewer that would make the grade. Stephen “The Plough” Plowman of Hallertau Brewbar and Restaurant is so named for two reasons: 1) The obvious one – his ability to plough through the opposition’s defence. 2) His unerring skill of devouring an entire Ploughman’s lunch by himself. When the lunch was intended for the whole team.

Although slight in stature, The Plough has a physiological condition that means his bones and muscles are twice as dense as the average human. He may look 70 kg, but due to his anomaly, he actually weighs in at 140 kg, making him one of the most powerful men on the team (second only to the mighty Dave Kurth of West Coast Brewery). Due to this, his need for cheese and ham and other protein-rich foods is incredible. In fact, the NZ Brewing Dream Team has two catering companies assigned to it. One for The Plough and one for the rest of the squad. His other nickname… Stuntman, refers to his immunity to fear, he smashes his opponents left, right and centre and his ability to offload the ball to players around him borders on the divine.

Where's my lunch?!

Number 13 – Outside Centre

With such a communicative and powerful inside centre, the outside centre has to be about size and skill. We need someone built like a lighthouse, able to take a thrashing from the opposition yet be sturdy and safe as houses under the high ball. They would need the smarts to spot a gap and set up their team mates for the perfect pass as well as having arms like tree-trunks and the ability to phagocytose members of the other team. Who better than the mighty Dick “The Gentleman” Tout of Lighthouse Brewery in Nelson to take on the mantle of the mighty centre!

This man is all about the team. He keeps the squad together with his brilliant anecdotes and yarns, his jokes ensuring the NZ Brewing Dream Team works its abdominal muscles to their full potential. He is sound, he is solid and he is 100% dependable. One of the more experienced members of the backline, Tout is the Tana Umaga to pair perfectly with The Plough’s Smokin’ Joe Stanley toughness. I’d pay top dollar to watch the pair smash any other centre pairing in world rugby.

Dick "The Gentleman" Tout showing off his awesome skills by balancing a rugby ball on his foot whilst tackling two innocent bystanders

Coming soon… the Outside Backs!

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New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Halves

The pretty fellas. The ones that always have a tube of moisturiser in their after-match bag and often tend to have some sort of aftershave spray that they insist they put on in the changing rooms so that the forwards can get together and punch them.

While the forwards are the guys that do the hard yards up front, it is the responsibility of the backs to pass, catch and kick the ball in the hope of scoring loads of fabulous points so that their team comes out victorious. While there are 8 forwards, there are only 7 backs, most probably because the forwards always want to win if they have to ever fight the backs…

I digress…

Number 9 – Half Back

The most raucous member of the team is usually the link player between forwards and backs. The ability to ferret in, throw forwards out of the way, snaffle the ball, question every decision the ref makes, show disgust at the dodgy calls and scream adulation when the team does well are all attributes well sorted to the feisty scrum half. I’ll be honest, this decision was a tough one for the Thirst XV selectors, and the other candidate will be named in the reserves (as a super-sub of course) but the player likely to be wearing the mighty Number 9 jersey on the pitch is none other than Luke Nicholas, Mr. Epic Beer himself. Never afraid to stick his head out of the gopher-hole and with the knack to make an underhopped lager blush with shame, Nicholas would bring a great set of skills to the team. Antagonising opposition players and fragmenting the refs calls would be his strong points and I imagine post-game, Nicholas would lather himself with pure lupulin glands instead of the standard “soap-on-a-rope” option. Great players that spring to mind? A cross between Graeme Bachop and George Gregan…

 

"Product placement? I don't know what you're talking about..."

Number 10 – Fly Half/1st Five Eighth

The playmaker and clinical to a tee, this position is one of the most important on the field. The ability to make or break a game with a deft chip kick, ninja-like offload of the ball or a low, hard tackle mean there is no room for error. None other than Tracy Banner, Sprig and Fern Brewer extraordinaire could fit into this role. Originally from football territory in the north of England, a cool demeanour and a scientific eye would make Banner an unstoppable tactician on the field. With her brewing prowess encompassing a range of 18 or so beers and ciders as well as a handful of pubs, the ability to analyse play on the field would be a walk in the park. Those early days surrounded by Everton and Liverpool supporters would also pay off with Banner’s boot being one of the more formidable in the game. Kicking goals from anywhere on the field would be a breeze for her and her skills at reading play on the field would mean that hardly a player would get past her text-book tackles. Carter and Wilkinson… beware!

Super skills - The ability to pour 8 pints of beer whilst showing how to execute the perfect spin pass is a walk in the park for Banner

 

Coming soon – The formidable Centres!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The Thirst XV – The Loose Forwards

Loosies, the speedy ball-hungry virtuosos of the forward packs. The players that love to tackle and to win the ball whenever and however they can. Hunger in their eyes. Determination. Success is in their hands.

The tight five have been revealed already with Tuatara’s Carl Vasta, Emerson’s Chris O’Leary and Liberty’s Joseph Wood in the front and a locking combination of Cryermalt’s Dave Cryer and Three Boys’ Ralph Bungard. Bring on the loose forwards!

Number 6 – Blindside Flanker

With a mane of hair that is only rivalled by Captain Cryer, the blindside position would have to be filled by none other than New Zealand Hops‘ very own Doug Donelan. An import from across the other side of the ditch, the former Malt Shovel Brewery‘s Head Brewer would be the perfect blindside flanker. His Australian pedigree means the hunger for success and victory would result in him putting his body on the line. Snaffling up the loose ball, putting in the big hits and giving the odd facial to any opposition players at the bottom of a ruck. Not just any facial, mind you… Donelan’s trademark would likely be a pocketful of NZ Super Alpha hops, ready to be rubbed in the noses of anyone on the end of his merciless tackles.

His uncanny ability to offload the ball anywhere on the field being demonstrated at The Malthouse

Number 7 – Openside Flanker

Openside flankers have to be as hard as nails. They would probably need an upbringing on the Waikato, with it’s impressive rugby pedigree, would need to have worked on some great breweries around the world, Sharp’s in Cornwall springs to mind (where another hard as nails rugby player and UK Brewer of the Year, Stuart Howe, would have been his boss) and  would be able to wear real proper Craft Beer sweatshirts like this…

Craft! Bear! Get it?!?

Yep, we’re talking West Coast Brewery‘s very own Dave Kurth. A utility forward with the ability to smash people in the front row as well as sprint around the field like a brewing version of Richie McCaw, eating opposition players for breakfast and using their shredded rugby jersey’s as toilet paper, Kurth would bring the thing that all team’s need. Hardness with a little sprinkling of mongrel. I imagine his ability to cut down even the biggest people in their tracks would give him legendary status. The type of fella that doesn’t speak much, but when he does, you better listen, otherwise you may find yourself on the bottom of the mash tun at 6am in the morning, wondering why there is 75 degree celsius foundation water and milled barley malt raining upon you from above.

For training, The Hardman tackles those vessels behind him tho the ground. Then picks them up again. By himself.

Number 8 – The Number Eight

Brutish size, hands like dinner plates and forearms like Popeye as well as a blistering turn of pace are attributes needed for this position at the back of the scrum. The ability to tackle players so hard that an archaeological excavation crew are needed to pull the poor sod from the Earth’s outer core are also a benefit. Who in New Zealand brewing could we liken to the legendary Wayne “Buck” Shelford? It would have to be Invercargill Brewery‘s Steve Nally. This tough Southern Man is used to getting results and success is his middle name. With beer’s like Pitch Black, it’s evident that there is one thought going through Nally’s mind as he jogs on to the field. He tackles to knock the opponent’s lights out. Not only would his ability around the pitch be awe-inspiring, it’s likely that he would be able to lift the entire front row in the line out. Now, that would guarantee a win of the ball!

Nally wrestling the ball from his strength training coach, Murray Cleghorn (former holder of The World's Strongest Hand title)

Up next? The pretty boys of the Dream Team… you guessed it… the Backs!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The 1st/Thirst XV – The Tight Five

The front row named in my previous post saw Carl Vasta (Tuatara), Chris O’Leary (Emersons) and Joseph Wood (Liberty) as the three hard men of the Kiwi brewing scene. But behind every front row lies the tall timber of the pack… the locks!

Hulks of men with legs like Kauri trees, hands like baseball mitts, size 13 rugby boots and the ball skills to rival an NBA player, the lock’s role is dual purpose. They have the bulk and brute force of the front row, have hands that act like magnets for rugby balls and their height is their asset for those towering line out jumps.

Number 4 – Lock

Who else to put in this position than the man of malt himself, David Cryer. Without him, New Zealand and Australian craft brewers would be lost. His malt empire brings in grains from across the globe and as past President of the New Zealand Brewer’s Guild, his leadership abilities see him crowned as team captain. Cryer always leads from the front and his hair has an almost John Eales-like quality, staying perfectly groomed and coifed… the Captain’s Crown. With height on his side, the big man would be brilliant at stealing lineout ball from the opposition and his great mane of hair is bound to invoke fear in the hearts of his opponents.

The Mighty Captain getting ready for a stirring press conference. Note the full sized tree to the right. Told you he was tall...

Number 5 – Lock

There is only one man who could match Cryer in terms of height and lineout prowess and that is the Wiry Doctor himself, Ralph Bungard of the brilliant Three Boys Brewery of Christchurch. Dr. Bungard would be the thinking man’s forward… using his scientific mind to hunt out and take advantage of the opponents weaknesses. With a diet of Oyster Stout, the big man would be surprisingly more powerful than he looks, but with that light frame, he would devastate in the lineouts. Vasta and Cryer would be able to hoist him to the heavens to secure the ever important rugby ball. Light on his feet with the ability to sidestep the defending players, Dr. Bungard could easily fit into a flanker role. Diversity and smarts. Perfect.

Bungard practicing his lineout catching against some cylindroconical fermenters. He wins the ball again!

Stay tuned for the announcement you’ve all been waiting for… The Loose Forwards!

New Zealand Brewing Dream Team – The 1st XV – The Front Row

Whilst at Beervana in Wellington a month or two back, I got chatting to Brendan McKenzie from the newly formed Revolution Brewing. We sat at The Malthouse watching a rugby match between New Zealand and Australia, got chatting about our time in Dunedin, rugby and (of course) brewing. Brendan began chatting about a New Zealand brewing 1st XV, so I thought I’d scrap one together…

Number 1 – Loosehead Prop

Carl Vasta – A veritable hulk of a man, this West Coast powerhouse would be ideal in the front row. The head honcho of Tuatara Brewing could be a bit of a challenge to topple over and I imagine his turn of pace would be similar to another legendary rugby Carl… Carl Hayman, All Black extraordinaire (albeit a tighthead specialist). His welding skills already legendary up and down this Land of the Long White Cloud, who else to act as the man who could potentially hold this team together.

Vasta - Foregoes soft feather pillows and sleeps with the rugby ball

Number 2 – Hooker

This would have to be none other than the nuggety Chris O’Leary of Emersons. The man behind the now extinct Limburg and (along with Richard Emerson) brewing some amazing beers down in the Deep South, Chris would be the ideal man in the front row. Precision in both brewing and throwing the ball into lineouts. Smashing! The role model for the younger members of the team, Father O’Leary would be as cunning as Sean Fitzpatrick with the skills to boot. Can’t you see him sneaking out there on the wing ready for the match-winning try?

Warming the ball up over the kettle... a technique extremely helpful on those frosty Dunedin days (photo courtesy of Jed Soane of the awesome http://www.thebeerproject.com

 

Number 3 – Tighthead Prop

With the height and power of Vasta on one side of the front row, there can be only one choice for the other lad that is to prop up the mighty O’Leary. Joseph Wood of Liberty Brewing is definitely the man for the job. Unprecedented prowess with sideburns that could trip up Jonah Lomu, Wood would have both the aggression and the smarts to turn even the toughest scrum. Ball in hand would be a formidable sight as the gentleman of the NZ brewing scene would definitely take it “up the guts”. I imagine Jo “King” Wood would be akin to All Black legend, Richard Loe. The gentlemanly version…

Imagine this powerful chap chasing you down the sideline wearing that t-shirt. Brewing legend!

 

Stay tuned for tomorrow when I will unleash the New Zealand Brewing Dream Team Tight Five!!

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