Twenty Nineteen was a mixed year for New Zealand’s National Holiday team – and thus far 2020 has seen a similar display of form, the COVID-19 distractions notwithstanding. They all fronted fit and ready and played out. But individually, how did they fare and are they still our top ranked XI for the game of holidays?
Our seasoned openers, New Year’s Day and The Day After NYD, are good party boys kicking off the year exuberantly and energetically, if a bit fuzzy headed in the heat of the summer sun. “Nooie” and “Two-ie” remain popular and are the first choices still to open the innings. They play an unsophisticated game, predictable and reliable. 7/10 each.
Waitangi Day at first drop (“Waits” to her mates) is solid, stolid and a bit serious, playing more of a thinking game. Occasionally divisive and political, she nonetheless delivers on the day and on the strength of the unique skills and perspective she brings to the pitch her place in the team is assured. The backbone of the side, we’ll look to Waits to relax more and try to curb that occasional flare of anger at how the game is progressing. 8/10.
Anzac Day is cut from a similar cloth to Waits – he’s also a stalwart in the side and an auto-pick each year. His game is rock-solid if predictably so, nothing fancy – “Zac” just delivers, year-in, year-out, tweaking his game as necessary to keep up with the times. He’s a no-fuss, humble team member with appeal across the board. 9/10.
Queen’s Birthday is an import, but “Q’bee” has been here long enough to be accepted by the fans, though they may be a little wary of the cultural niceties she brings. She’s a bit posh, eh. But is courteous and reliable if she does tend to play an old game. Her time may be up soon but expect another Brit to take up the bat. 6/10.
Labour Day (“Laybo”) by contrast brings a solid workingman’s grit and application to the game. Not flashy, he quietly gets on with the job at hand reminding us of what he’s brought to the holiday game (lest we forget). He’s worked hard to get where he is and isn’t going to let things slip. But there’s a fashion change in the wind that puts his place in the side at peril; flashy play gets attention and the contribution of players like Laybo may get lost in the turmoil. 8/10.
Good Friday and Easter Sunday, “Goodie” and “Sunny” to their mates, are – like our openers – somewhat joined at the hip and work together immaculately. They’re a long-standing mainstay of the team who bring a religious fervour to the field, mixed with moments of pensiveness – and the odd streak of animation to liven things up. Their game is an old one though, still admired by many though a good body of fans aren’t as taken by the strokeplay and probably wouldn’t miss them if they stepped down. But they are reliable and admirable. 8/10 each.
Which brings us to the team’s most attention-grabbing duo – Christmas Day and Boxing Day (“Critter” and “Bo”). They spin some lively, exuberance moments on the pitch and invariably put on a game-breaking show. Critter is the star of the two – a big-game player with plenty of tricks in the bag. He entertains, rocks and unsettles – leaving Bo to mop up (at a much cheaper run rate too). These are good party boys too, often livening up the town into the wee hours with Nooie and Two-ie. For all that, the selectors can’t go past them; the fans wouldn’t allow it. 9/10 (Critter) and 8/10 (Bo) for sheer chutzpah and longevity.
Rounding out the XI is Anniversary Day, which is a different player nominated by each province. They’re all cut from the same cloth though; steady, capable, reliable, likeable. They put on a good show if not with the same command of the stage that Waits, Critter and Zac bring. “Ani” in his many guises holds down an important spot, representing the lesser ranks – so his pozzy is assured. 7/10.
A word or two here for a couple of days that are also playing in New Zealand, one a more recent arrival.
Guy Fawkes Day hasn’t cracked the national holiday side but Guido’s game caught the attention of the public for many years. His style is now passe though, and aspects of his delivery are close to being outlawed.
Halloween is an Irish-American import who landed here a few decades ago after holding down a space in the cultural frame in the UK and US for many, many years. His original game is lost in time, and how he plays now is more a creature of commercial drivers but he has a strong following all the same here. Won’t crack the national side but will continue to capture attention especially among the young.
And watch for Chinese New Year and Diwali – two immigrants that have settled into New Zealand well and, again, while they haven’t as yet demanded their place in the national side, they have a strong and growing following.
It’s hard to see much changing in this side in the foreseeable future, but the National Holiday selectors may wish to step back some time and take a measure of the team as a whole: Does it deliver all of what the fans are looking for and the game demands? Where are the gaps? Where is the fresh vision?
The side is also noticeably weighted towards the beginning and last stages of the innings, with a need perhaps for someone to carry the bat through the middle period, when the runs tend to dry up and the crowd can get impatient. But is there also a place for a new breed of player, bringing something different to the country – a Family Day or a National Diversity Day, perhaps?