Meeting the New Zealand Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. John Key

It has been a while since I met the New Zealand Prime Minister – 15 years in fact. The last time was meeting the Rt Hon. Helen Clark at the opening of the Westlake Boys High School library back in 2000.

This week I met the Rt Hon. John Key at a function in Dubai. I thought I would start the New Zealand publicity of my upcoming book, Conquistador Puzzle Trail at the top.

Meeting the New Zealand Prime Minister, the Rt Hon. John Key in Dubai.

Opening of the Westlake Boys High School library, 2000. The Rt Hon. Helen Clark and Winston Cowie.

Humour aside, keep an eye out for Conquistador Puzzle Trail in July. It will be available in bookstores around New Zealand and online at www.fishpond.co.nz 

Pre-order a copy via the website here.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service 2015, Abu Dhabi.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service 2015

Centenary of the Gallipoli Landings

Saturday 25th April. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

A moment of togetherness and emotion for the over 700 who attended the Centenary Dawn Service on the lawn of the Fairmont Hotel this morning.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service, Abu Dhabi, 2015. Centenary of the Gallipoli Landings.

Grab a copy of today’s Sunday Star Times in New Zealand for details and photos from this morning’s service, written and taken by New Zealand author Winston Cowie. I’ll update when they are online. We will remember them.

Doha Rugby Football Club win the Arabian Gulf Top Six for the first time!

Doha Rugby Football Club win the Arabian Gulf Top Six for the first time!

It was March 2011. The second-ranked Doha Rugby 1st XV lead the fifth-ranked Jebel Ali Dragons,  by six points in the final Arabian Gulf Top Eight (now six) match of the year. An earlier loss by the top-ranked Dubai Hurricanes meant that win, and the title was Dohas. With 30 seconds left on the clock, 30 seconds from Doha winning the Gulf Top 8 for the first time in their 39 year history, Dragons get the ball on their 22 metre line. They work it down field. Right to left, left to right. There is a ruck on the Doha 22 metre line. The Dragons half-back dummys, the Doha player “posting the ruck” takes the dummy, despite training to do just the opposite for the preceding eight months. The Dragons half-back scores under the posts. They convert. They win. Doha take second place in the Arabian Gulf Top 8. I was the captain of that Doha team. And that loss hurt.

Fast-forward nearly four years and Doha still hadn’t won the Arabian Gulf Top Six competition. It’s an incredibly hard league to win, especially for those teams based outside the UAE, who have to travel (fly) to every second match in the now six team home and away fixture format. There are two teams from Dubai (the Hurricanes and Dragons), two teams from Abu Dhabi (the Harlequins and Saracens) and  two teams from the wider Gulf (Doha and Bahrain). And its very competitive.

The 2014 Abu Dhabi Harlequins deserve a mention here. I don’t just mention them because I helped coach them last year, I mention them because they deserve it; their incredible record last year of 10 wins out of 10, 47 points out of a possible 50 on the points table speaks for itself. Well done to all players involved. Mana to you.

And then there was this year….

And Doha once again played Jebel Ali Dragons in the final Gulf Top 6 game of the season, at Jebel Ali in eeringly similar circumstances to the 2011 match. Top-ranked Doha play fifth-ranked Jebel Ali. With 20 minutes to go and Dragons on the comeback, 25-22 to Doha, nervous supporters thought that history might repeat…

Not for the class of 2015. The result?

49-22 to Doha!

Doha win the Arabian Gulf Top Six for the first time!!

Doha Rugby Football Club win the Gulf Top 6!

Doha Rugby Football Club win the Gulf Top 6!

No 79 minute 30 second brain explosion. Just a big W on the chalkboard! In the words of Doha stalwart Angus Fraser “Only a fool makes the same mistake twice.”

Sincere congratulations to the Doha Class of 2015. There is a smile on this dial as wide as the new moon. So much mana to you all. Well done on being the only and first Doha team in 41 years to win the Arabian Gulf Top 6! There were some very happy former players and managers yesterday, from Doha (Nick Croker), to Dublin (Richard Liddington), to Wales (Paul Caddick), to Australia (Charlie Napier), to Abu Dhabi (me), to New Zealand (Doha rugby godfather Kerry Hill). Thank you for finally doing it!!!!

 This week: The West Asian Club Championship Final

The top two teams in the Arabian Gulf Top 6 play in the West Asian Club Championship Final. This week, top-ranked Doha play one of the Gulf’s newest additions, four-year-old Abu Dhabi Saracens, in Doha. At stake, the chance to be the rugby kings of West Asia.

It has been billed by some as a clash of the eras. The old-school country club (Doha) v the big-spending Saracens. I don’t buy completely into that analogy. Paying rugby players in amateur competitions occurs all over the world – it has just come later to the Gulf competition than most. My view is that culture is what will prevail at a club, and it appears that both clubs currently have plenty. And regardless, time will be the best indicator of that.

So who will win?

Saracens were the early season favourite and beat Doha at Al Ghazel back in January, 39-15. Two weeks ago, Doha playing at home, reversed the result and did their own demolition job on Saracens 31-17.

Both games have been one-sided affairs.

This week’s result? If both sides show –a rugby match for the ages. Saracens have a solid forward pack, a big kicking ten and a very hard to repel rolling maul. Doha are unbeaten at the Fortress and have more of an expansive all-round game. If Doha keep their feet on the ground after this week’s league victory, I’m backing Aaron Palmer, Liam Frost and Jamie Clark’s men.  I believe the Doha team can and will do it. It’s difficult for any opposition at the Fortress playing against men possessed.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

And for those Gulf Rugby enthusiasts, I include the article below, written in 2012, after Doha won the West Asian Club Championship for the first time.

The Doha Rugby Football Club by Winston Cowie (2012)

There are rugby clubs and Rugby clubs. The Doha Rugby Football Club is a Rugby Club; epitomising the principles of what the game is about; a desire to play rugby for enjoyment, but with the competitive spirit and good sportsmanship that are the game’s building blocks; and the development of a supportive community around that.

What is my connection to the Doha Rugby Football Club (DRFC)? I lived in Doha for three years and had the pleasure of playing for and captaining the Doha 1st XV and coaching and playing for the 7s side at the Dubai 7s.

 A Rugby Club in an arid country? Yes. Formerly a British Protectorate, the State of Qatar became independent in 1971. Three years later, a group of British expats started throwing a rugby ball around and in 1974 the DRFC was formed.

 Easily said but not easily done, to set up a Rugby Club in a  hot and arid country. Let me give you some context as to what was achieved in 1974 and what has been achieved since.

The Country; Qatar

Qatar is an arid country that sticks like a finger out from Saudi Arabia, into the Arabian Gulf. Over the past 35 years, a city has been built from scratch in Doha (the capital), based on the oil & gas industry, with industrial cities at Ras Laffan in the north and Mesaieed in the south. It is not the typical setting that the likes of William Webb Ellis would have envisaged the game of rugby being played.

 Yet, today (2012) the Doha Club are the West Asian Club Champions and Qatar, the national side, have twice won the 4th Division of the Asian 5 Nations, recently beating Lebanon 67-0 in the final.

 What makes it, with Oxford and Mahurangi (my other home clubs), the most special rugby club I have ever played for?

A combination of the people, the setting, the temperature and culture.

The Fortress

Every rugby club needs a pitch. Our pitch is enclosed by a thickly painted, cream brick wall and is known around the Arabian Gulf as ‘The Fortress.’ The Doha 1st XV are known as the “Mighty Men,” who on any given Friday afternoon, “defend the Fortress,” a term coined by club stalwart, Mr Kerry Hill.

 Grassed in 1998 (previously sand), the Fortress is a lush, springy grass pitch with the cosy Clubrooms and Grandstand located pitch side. Every Friday afternoon the Doha expat population flock there. A lively collection of English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, French, Italian, Dutch, Kiwis, Samoans, South Africans, Aussies, Belgian, Romanian, Sri Lankan, Indonesian, Filipino, Americans, Canadians, Lebanese and Nigerian; you name the nationality, on any given Friday afternoon, I am sure they will have a representative. A bit like the Doha 1st XV. As for the supporters, well, at the start of the game the fridges would be filled to the brim with diet-Pepsi and near on 600 Mighty Men fans would be there to cheer as the lads defended the Fortress. By the end of the match the firdges would be empty and the 1st XV very well supported.

The Heat

I haven’t yet mentioned the heat. The season runs from September through to March, from Autumn through to Spring. At the beginning of the season, we play in temperatures of 40-45oC and yes it is more than pretty hot. At the end of the game you are absolutely buggered. During Winter the temperature gets down to 25- 35 oC so it is manageable. Don’t let me forget to mention pre season training on Doha’s only grassy knoll behind Aspire Park; 50 odd blokes burning their lungs out in a humid 45 oC. Dry reaching was the acceptable and to be honest; normal, training standard.

The Competition

And so to the competition. The Arabian Gulf Premiership (in 2012) is generally played (depending on the political situation) between 8 teams, two from Dubai (Hurricanes and Exiles), one from Jebel Ali, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Doha (in 2015 it is six teams). The competition involves a Home and Away game, with flights mostly provided, depending on sponsorship, to the games. Home and Away sounds like an easy format but think again.

Playing at home was dear I say it, easy; we would play in front of 600 raucous fans having a quiet swill on a 45 oC afternoon and I could count on two fingers the number of times we lost at home in 3 years. This is because everybody is available to play at home and we took pride in our pitch; it was the graveyard of many a cocky Dubai side, notably the Exiles. Playing away is a different story; not every nationality is fortunate enough (as we are in New Zealand) to be able to get into most countries in the world. Playing away was hard, especially given our strong South African contingent and their visa situation and players having to work some Fridays. With over 50 players to choose from, some weeks it would be difficult to get 17 players to front most away games!

 As such, in my first year in Doha, 2008, I think we lost every away game and by quite a bit. It was heart breaking to play your heart out in the scorching heat, know you were better than the opposition if you had your full team, but lose by 60 points. One game I will never forget; we lost to the Dubai Hurricanes away by 60. After the match we were demoralised and hurting. It had been a baking hot day and we had been spanked. To turn that loss around later in the season to a home win of over 50, was pretty satisfying.

In my first two years, we finished third in the Premiership behind Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, traditional Arabian Gulf powerhouses who in 2009-2010, had very strong sides. It was the third year, 2011, that things really started to happen for DRFC…..

The People and Culture

You could make a movie about the goings on at the DRFC, mainly based on the characters involved. When I first arrived, the place was like living in the Wild West and the footy took second place to socialising, always a hard balance to make at country footy clubs. By the time I left and due to a number of rugby loving characters, we took playing rugby seriously, trained hard, played hard and had a very quiet swill afterwards ;). Thirty eight years after being founded, in 2012, we were the West Asian Club Champions.

Why?

A variety of reasons is the answer. We had great support off the pitch from the Club. Stalwarts and some of the Godfathers of the DRFC (Keith Townson and Howard Bevan) and Club Captains Dave Kane and Chris Downey really supported what the boys wanted to achieve. We had a good relationship with the women’s two teams, the Oryx and Trojans, and we supported each other when the other was playing. It was a really good community and family vibe.

We also had a great coaching team of Aaron Palmer (former Manawatu player), Nicko Poulos (former Tongan and Toyota Assistant), Paul Caddick (former British Army player), Charlie Napier (former Olympic Bob sledder (true) and Manager) and all overseen by the Director, legendary Doha Coach and Manager (6 years involvement) and former New Zealand Olympic Sprint Coach, Kerry Hill.

 We had the club, the coaches and the supporters. We also had a core group of players, many of whom were leaders and all whom wanted to make the elusive championship win happen.

The Team

Every championship winning Rugby club needs a core of players to be keen and get everybody motivated. In Doha, the player count really depends on how much construction work is going on in the country at any given time. In 2008 we were lucky in that we had the beginnings of what would be the core of that championship winning side 4 years later.

 A quick insight into the changing nature of Club Rugby in New Zealand (and probably in other parts of the world). Back in the day in New Zealand, the community was focussed around rugby clubs; most of the men played and the highlight of the weekend was the rugby match and after match function. Take the Omaha Club in Mahurangi, New Zealand as an example. In the 1960s and 1970s the club regularly won the Govan Wilson Cup and the ‘Cock of the North’ Championship and players like Laly (Tracker) Haddon, Des Chitty, Ian Ward, Murray and Rod Jones became legendary when playing for North Auckland during the 1960’s to early 1970’s when North Auckland beat most teams including visiting Test Nations. Rugby and the community were directly linked.

 Nowdays, Omaha is part of the Mahurangi Club and very few young players in the area play; fishing, duck shooting and surfing are more attractive options. I guess this is related to youngsters having more disposable income these days and more options, but you can imagine how pure Rugby and the community was back in the day, can’t ya?

Back to Doha. Playing for Doha was, I imagine, a throwback to the old school and Omaha days in that most guys in the community played rugby; we were living in a desert country with little to do in our spare time and with really only one establishment we could socialise at; the Rugby Club. As such, we threw ourselves into rugby for a release, became tight friends and experienced the joy of rugby and the community being one and the same. I feel privileged to have played in an environment like it; they are rare in this day and age.

 Anyway, back to the DRFC.

The Doha lads, I guess like the Omaha days, were the real drivers behind turning the team around. We had some pretty impressive rugby credentials and pedigrees and rather than list them right here, I have included them at the bottom of the blog for those rugby enthusiasts and the Doha Boys.

So what happened?

We lost by 60 away together, we won at home and then with a bit of hard work, we started winning away matches.

 So what happened in 2010-2011? After 20 games, seventeen won, three lost, 778 points for, 224 against, the boys had given it a bloody good nudge. To share with you a couple of highlights:

 -Beating the 2009 Premiership champs Bahrain 3/3 during the season;

 -Beating the Exiles comprehensively at home and away as well;

 -Winning in the sandpit in Kuwait (always a struggle) against the Fijian army regiment in the last minute;

 -Beating Abu Dhabi away by scoring 3 tries in the last 4 minutes to get a bonus point win;

 -Putting cricket score tonnes on Muscat and Beirut in successive weekends; and

 -Winning the North Gulf Four and Gulf Conference.

That all sounds pretty good, however….. in what was essentially the decider in the 2010-2011 Arabian Gulf Premiership, we were playing Jebel Ali Dragons, Away. With no time left on the clock, we were in the lead and on attack, yet we self destructed and the Dragons scored a length of the field try, to win and make sure that we didn’t take the Premiership, that trophy going to the Dubai Hurricanes. To come so close and lose the Premiership was devastating. Yet, we had a shot at redemption with the West Asian Club Championship, which we had reached the final of. Playing at Home v the Dubai Hurricanes, we were quietly confident of winning. Yet, disaster struck. There was no happily-ever-after story for DRFC in 2011 or for me.

 I dislocated my knee in the 10th minute of the final and tore everything (ACL,PCL, Lateral ligament, Hamstring, IT Band, Medial ligament) and was rushed to hospital. After two operations and six months later, I left Doha. We also lost the final, 24-20. Devastated would be a way to put how the season ended up for the DRFC. Losing is hard to take when you put so much effort into something. But such is life sometimes.

When the chips are down, you know who your mates are.

I needed two operations. They were both very very expensive. You can imagine how I felt when the Rugby Club held two fundraising events for me and other injured players; fundraising events that covered all of the costs of operations for all injured players, including me. What a bunch of people and a community. I couldn’t be more grateful to a community for helping me out when I needed assistance. I thought about what I could do to say thanks; I said thanks and also had framed one of my prized Oxford University Varsity Match Shirts; it now sits proudly on the wall of DRFC. Thanks guys. I still shake my head with wonder at your kindness and won’t forget it.

Doha Rugby Football Club – 2012 West Asian Club Champions

And so I returned to New Zealand and got on with life with my family. I stayed in touch with all of the Doha crew; we had become pretty tight over the preceding 3 years. Just over a year to the day that we lost the 2011 Final, and a year after the injury, I received a phone call in the middle of the night. The boys were singing and had won the West Asian Club Championship Final. I was so stoked with the result, chatted to the inebriated bunch, put the phone down, and then cried my eyes out. It meant a hell of a lot to receive that call and the win brought closure to four years of hard work. To the likes of Kerry Hill, Aaron Palmer, Nick Poulos, Charlie Napier, Richard Liddington, Liam Frost and Paul Caddick who drove it this year (2012); well done boys, you nailed it.

 This was a story I was keen to share. It is a microcosm of all things good in life.

Cheers

Winston Cowie (Winnie)

And the Team? I have included below some details of those guys who were the core driving force behind Doha’s success. I have also listed all (there are 117!) of those guys that played for Doha over the past 4 seasons.

 (Thanks also to Kerry Hill for the stats ;) Who else? ;)

Qataris

We had one Qatari play for us between 2008-2011, Mr Muhammed Al Maliki.

Muhammed was a fantastic player, a winger who could step and sprint his way through any opposition. He also had the biggest biceps you have ever seen. Move over Hulk Hogan.

Rugby is not really part of the national sports’ psyche in Qatar (Football/Soccer is the dominant sport), but with the recent winning of the Asian 5 Nations 4th Division, it looks like rugby in Qatar will now be a funded sport, and hopefully more Qataris become involved in the playing of it; they certainaly have the talent to do so.

New Zealanders

Aaron Palmer. Chucky was our No 6 / Lock and Coach. With 34 New Zealand NPC games for Manawatu between 1999-2003 and after a stint played at Reggio Emilia and Colorno in Italy, not a bad fella to have calling the shots. He is now also (probably) the only International Coach with a 100% record (8/8 with the Qatar side). The guy really grabbed DRFC by the scruff of the neck, put his coaching stamp on it and nailed it, while being a good bloke.  A big coaching future ahead and well deserved….

Winston Cowie, the writer, and try scoring No 8, holder of the try scoring record for Doha (35 tries in 40 matches (note to Frosty – we need an update from you now mate), played for Oxford University v Cambridge in the Varsity Match at Twickenham in 2006 and 2007, the British Penguins in Scotland, Varsity & Harbour Clubs in Dunedin, and Westlake Boys and Mahurangi in North Harbour.

Scott Murray was our outside centre and played for Varisty A in the Dunedin Club Competition. Say no more, the guy played for the club that has produced the most All Blacks of any and with Frosty, dominated the midfield for Doha.

Liam Geraghty was our No 10, a Tauranga Boys College and Bay of Plenty Colts product who had previously won a Bay of Plenty club title with Tauranga Sports. The General was all class and top points scorer in 2010-2011!

Wayne Balsom and Dayne Matthews, both from Taranaki,  also fronted for the boys during ther stints in Doha.

Kerry Hill. hailing from Auckland’s North Shore, a former New Zealand Commonwealth Game representative and Olympic Sprint Coach, Kerry coached / managed / directed the Doha 1st XV over a period of 6 years. His passion and analytics are second to none- I doubt you would meet a more passionate guy about sport generally and rugby. He did the hard yards with the team when results ‘away’ were hard; I am so stoked to see that all his effort has now been rewarded with the title! A Doha Legend.

Englishmen

Richard “Two States” Liddington. Liddy was our loose head prop who had played for Northampton Saints, Stade Francais (French Championship Winner), Exeter Chiefs; and played for the USA in the 2004 Rugby World Cup, a career which included 2 appearances for the Barbarians. A legend of a bloke, former Doha 1st XV Captain, Club Captain, Social Captain and inventer of the infamous DRINGO, the downfall of many a visiting team. One of the best guys you could meet playing rugby.

Dave Kane. Whilst not  a 1st XV player, Dave Kane was the Club Captain and was a legend for the work he put in; he met at the airport all men and women’s teams that played in Doha, took them to the club and cooked them a fry up. The coach of the Vets and a father with twins; the guy epitomised everything a good club man is about.

Nick Croker was our tight head prop and rock who prior to Doha played all his club rugby for the mighty Redruth (English National Division 2) and also for Cornwall in the English County Champs. Cornwall is famous for producing tough props and both English props that started for England in the Rugby World Cup Final in 2003 were Cornishmen. Nick also played a season of International Rugby for the Arabian Gulf, prior to them being disbanded.

Liam Frost and Mark Hibbs. These two were joined at the hip. Both played for The University of Leeds 1st XV, Ilkley, Bradford & Bingley and Morely in Northern England (National Division 3 North) and both were class. Frosty, an inside centre, captained the England U16s and has since captained Doha and the Qatar National team. He has scored 32 tries for Doha in 28 matches and will soon overtake Winston Cowie’s record of 35 tries for Doha in 40 matches. Good on ya Frosty as well. Well deserved. Hibbsy, a big boned Northern Englishman, also brought some grunt to the pack.

Daniel Liddell. A Leaguey who played for the Acorn Rugby League Club in York. A bloody good defender and try scoring machine.

Paul Beard. Beardy, a product of Doha College and a former Arabian Gulf international and current Qatar Inernational, was a star 10/12 for Doha, who kicked his goals, made his tackles, scored tries and was this year the top points scorer for Doha and Qatar.

Jim Hamilton, the biggest heart in DRFC and one of the most passionate rugby men you will ever meet. Top points scorer in 2008-2009, and a top 10 / 15, Jim was Mr Passion and played on the Friday after running 7 marathons in 7 days the week before. Unbelievable!

Scots

Cheerful Charlie Napier, our Manager. The guy loved being involved, was super organised, had good banter and was tight – everything needed of a good manager. Charlie had everything sorted week on week, year on year. Cheers mate ;) a bloody good sort as well!

Australians

There are never that many Aussies in World XVs and for good reason. ;) Joking aside, we had a couple of crackers.

Angus Fraser, a hard Papa New Guinean / Australian No 6, grew up with Will Genia in Papa New Guinea and made the move to Queensland with him, narrowly missing out on selection because he couldn’t make the conversion to the change of rules around rucking. Angus loved rucking and was one to keep the spirits of the troops up, twice being elected Players’ Player. He also introduced the PNG half time equivalent of oranges; Sugercane. Supporters often laughed to see the DRFC boys chewing on the stuff at half time. Good gear.

Nick Poulos. Former Tongan (at the Rugby World Cup 2003) and Toyota, Japan Assistant (under Eddie Jones), Nicko brought all of the nous that had helped South Africa win the World Cup. His drill and analysis of the game were, as you would expect, of a top professional standard and really helped Doha come on in leaps and bounds. Nicko was a super passionate coach for Doha, and as with Kaney, he balanced it with his young family and gave the boys everything. The boys are super grateful to him and wish him the best with the AFL Adelaide Crows.

Trent Webb, King of Stradbroke Island and spearfishing supremo and a hard edged lock.

Wade Quinn (Wombat), North Queensland’s No 1 Fly Half got stuck in when work allowed and played loosie, Fly Half, Centre and Full Back,

Welsh

Paul Caddick was our fiery Welsh half back who had played rugby for the British Army and was of the Royal Welsh Regiment. Cad was our Captain in 2008-2010 and Assistant Coach thereafter. I really doubt that any other changing room could reach the intensity levels that Cad set. A Welsh and Doha Legend!

Irish

We also had some hard Irishmen in the forwards; Shane Kelly, a fearsome  hooker from Old Belvedere; Conor Coakley, a tall, gruff and hard unit from De la Selle Palmerston), Phil Cronin, a dynamic No.7 who had played for Boroughmuir (Scottish Premiership 1), Naas RFC AIL 3, Irish Universities, and Leinster U18. We also had Irish backs who knew how to kick; Colm Coyle, a Stephen Larkham style Fly Half and Fullback from Trinity College Dublin and Ian O Conor, fastest winger the Gulf, also from De la Selle Palmerston.

South Africans

We had plenty of Saffas and we all know that Saffas can play rugby. Unfortunately for the DRFC but fortunately for them, a lot of our South African contingent worked on the Emir’s Super Yacht and in between sojourns in the Seychelles, were only available for half the matches. Saffas included the likes of hardman and grunty lock and over 50 game Doha veteran, Gavin Piek, former Currie Cup Player Donnie Raw, Arabian Gulf International Jaco De Jager and semi pro surfer Tyrone Von Berg. Our South African star, however was a No.7 called Lindsay Fitzgerald. A former age grade South African Sprint Champion; Lindsay knew how to score tries and at the right moment.

And….

And not to underestimate the contribution of all of the fellas below who played at least one 1st XV match over the past 4 seasons and contributed in some way shape or form to Doha being the West Asian Club Champions in 2012:

The Doha Boys

All listed here.

Winston Cowie Book Update

Greenstone Trail by Winston Cowie climbs to Number 22 on Amazon Kindle in the history book category for Australia and Oceania! And a big year ahead with the launch of both ‘Flames Flicker’ as an ebook and ‘Conquistador Puzzle Trail’, a book which assesses early Portuguese and Spanish voyages to Australia and New Zealand – it will change how Australians and New Zealanders view our history.

Greenstone Trail by Winston Cowie – No. 22 Oceania history book on Amazon Kindle!

Greenstone Trail by Winston Cowie

Greenstone Trail is a New Zealand historical fiction novel (ebook) which spans Fiordland, the South Seas, Auckland, and brings to life the key events and people of the First Taranaki War of the 1860s. It is the first part of Winston Cowie’s New Zealand historical fiction series. To purchase Greenstone Trail on Amazon Kindle, click here.

To download the ibooks app for free, click here. And to purchase Greenstone Trail by Winston Cowie from ibooks, simply type in ‘Greenstone Trail’ and you will be on your way to learning about the fascinating and largely unknown New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s, written in an interesting historical fiction style.

Flames Flicker by Winston Cowie

Flames Flicker is a New Zealand historical fiction novel (ebook) which spans the Invasion of Waikato, the Chatham Islands, East Cape, mystical Ureweras, and Second Taranaki War. It will be released as an ebook in early 2015…. It is the second part of Winston Cowie’s New Zealand historical fiction series. Watch this space!

A Flame Flickers in the Darkness – Get one of the few remaining hardcopies!

To booklovers in New Zealand, you can purchase one of the few original hard copies of ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness,’ from which the ‘Greenstone Trail’ and ‘Flames Flicker’ ebooks are based, via Fishpond by clicking here. Great for a January and February read under the pohutukawa. A note, you have to be in New Zealand to order a hard copy.

A Flame Flickers in the Darkness by Winston Cowie

Conquistador Puzzle Trail by Winston Cowie

I have recently completed writing this non fiction book which will change how Australians and New Zealanders view our history. It introduces 20 puzzle pieces that make up the ‘Conquistador puzzle,’ the conclusion of which is that the Portuguese most likely, and on the balance of probabilities, discovered New Zealand and Australia, over 82 years before Willem Janszoon, 118 years before Abel Tasman, and 245 years before James Cook. It is a modern day adventure in that it contains excerpts of my activities in getting to the bottom of each puzzle piece, as presented in the fascinating feature documentary ‘Mystery at Midge Bay – Discovering New Zealand’s oldest shipwreck.’ It includes the likes of discovering old shipwrecks in Dargaville, chilling oral tradition in respect of buried Spanish helmets, pohutukawa trees in Spain, and the search for a buried treasure.

Mystery at Midge Bay documentary

Watch this space…

Have a fantastic 2015!!

Te hei mauri ora,

Winston

Taking on the G-Monster. G-Land, Indonesia.

Big. Heavy. Powerful. Fast. Unforgiving … Exhilarating.

G-Land. One of the world’s premiere left hand waves. Situated at Grajagan Bay, Alas Purwo National Park, East Java, Indonesia, it is a special place – a tropical paradise.

It’s just the sort of place I wanted to go to assist in my recovery from a serious knee injury. I wanted to test myself against the G-Monster. An old mate from Otago University, Karl Trask, joined for the adventure, and we were away in early October 2014.

Day 1 Morning.

“Hi, I’m Eban. Watch out for tigers, snakes, and monkeys. Welcome to the Jungle,” he said, pushing forward an Indonesian coffee from behind his bar at Raymond’s Camp, one of three surf camps at GLand. “And the wave,” he adds, almost as an afterthought. “It’s a heavy wave.”

I had been surfing at Middles off Kuta two days before and met an American bloke called Jeff [Jeff Wisener], who had broken his hip in solid 10-12 foot Big-G four years earlier. “Know your limits there, and if its getting too big, get out. Mine was a life changing accident resulting in a bone infection and five operations.”

As I walked across the reef for my first surf there, I was definitely pretty nervous – like before a rugby final. I had been watching YouTube clips of Slater and Dorian pulling into monster barrels in the preceding weeks which on top of the hip story, added to the little squirts of adrenalin which were already pulsing. Further to that, I was on my own personal journey of injury recovery, having dislocated my knee and torn every ligament in it three and a half years earlier in the West Asian Club Championship Rugby Final, playing for the near-all-conquering Doha v Dubai Hurricanes.

Surfing Doctor, Dr Nick Maister, comments on the injury:

It was a catastrophic injury, as knee injuries go. Not only was there complete dislocation of the tibia on the femur, the tearing of the ACL, PCL, medial, lateral ligament, hamstring tendons and iliotibial band, but the nerve which runs down the outside of the knee, the common peroneal nerve, became entrapped between the two bones. Because this nerve is in charge of controlling lifting the foot up, Winston now has limited dorsiflection in his foot, which makes Winston’s return to surfing a heavy wave like G Land really remarkable, especially given it’s on his backhand.”

Surfing Doctors

[The Surfing Doctors generally have somebody on duty at GLand at Raymond’s Camp, and provide a phenomenal service at this off-the-beaten-track spot].

I remember lying there in hospital in the first few days after the dislocation and hoping I would be able to walk properly, and more importantly surf again. Never did I think I would head to G-Land to test myself against the Big-G.

After the 200 metre walk across sharp reef, interspersed with coral, clams and sea urchins, it was time to have a go at running the keyhole. The surf was heaving – a solid six to eight feet – Big-G six-eight … I jumped in and went for it.

I might have to save the rest of the story for a surfing magazine – it was one hell of an adventure.

The story generally consists of:

-Some big beatings. Some even bigger ones. The best left hand waves of my life. Eat, surf, dress coral cut wounds, eat, surf, dress coral cut wounds, bintang, eat, bed. Repeat.

-Hanging out and surfing with Trasky (Karl Trask), an old mate from the rugby playing Otago University days.

-Sharing Kate Wilcome’s, (née Skarratt) come-back surf with her. Kate was the former surfing world No 4 (2002), was on the ASP world tour for over 10 years, starred in the movie Blue Crush, is known as fearless, a charger, and it was awesome to share an injury come-back surf with her.

-Meeting a cool bunch of people.

I am definitely feeling alive, and with that contented glow of having paddled my heart out, had a good crack at something well outside the comfort zone, and done alright.

It’s that old surfing saying. If you don’t go, you don’t know…..

A couple of taster pics below. Thanks to Norris of Raymond’s for getting a couple of good pics of some smaller ones on the inside.

Winston Cowie surfing GLand, Indonesia

Winston Cowie surfing GLand, Indonesia

Winston Cowie surfing GLand, Indonesia

Winston Cowie surfing GLand, Indonesia

GLand Camp Raymond, October 2014

GLand Camp Raymond, October 2014

The GLand Machine

The GLand Machine, Raymond's Camp

The G-Monster got the last laugh – I have been down with a coral cut fever the past week. But then, I think of some of those waves and smile. Lets call it even.

Te hei,

Winnie

Winston Cowie

New Zealand Author

p.s. Christmas is coming. Get hold of the New Zealand historical fiction novel Greenstone Trail by New Zealand author Winston Cowie, which is now available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and Apple Ibooks.

To purchase Greenstone Trail on Amazon Kindle, click here.

To download the Ibooks app for free, click here.

And to purchase Greenstone Trail by Winston Cowie from ibooks, simply type in ‘Greenstone Trail’ and you will be on your way to learning about the fascinating and largely unknown New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s, written in an interesting historical fiction style. To booklovers in New Zealand, you can purchase one of the few original hard copies of ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness,’ from which the ‘Greenstone Trail’ and ‘Flames Flicker’ ebooks are based, via Fishpond, by clicking here. A note, you have to be in New Zealand to order a hard copy.

Flames Flicker, the second ebook in this series, which spans the Invasion of Waikato, the Chatham Islands, East Cape, mystical Ureweras, and Second Taranaki War, will be released as an ebook soon …

 

 

 

Mike Ballard: The Four and a Half Month Update.

It has been four and a half months since the West Asian Club Championship Rugby Grand Final, where star forward Mike Ballard suffered a serious spinal injury. He is doing “just great, man.”

 

Mike Ballard boating on Lake Ann.

Mike Ballard boating on Lake Ann.

“It’s been an incredible ride [imagine a strong American accent]. From when the injury happened; to Mafraq Hospital; to the support I received there from my Mum and the rugby boys and girls – Phil Abraham, Andrew Hall and Eileen Siegel didn’t sleep – they were there looking after me every minute of the day; to getting medevaced to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Centre in Grand Rapids in Michigan, my home state; to seeing my family; to having an awesome team of doctors and nurses (Dr. Ho was running the show, Katie Larsen was my physical therapist, Diana was my occupational therapist and Andrea Zajac was my social worker … a.k.a. the paperwork goddess); to smashing all the records there and becoming independent which was my goal in going there. When I’m talking about records, I’m talking about jumping curbs on the first go, balance in general, and having the highest vitamin D levels the Doc had ever seen [Living in Abu Dhabi is good for that]. I was an inpatient for about 5 weeks, even though I had a week in the hospital for two bonus surgeries [The classic understatement].

I bought a new car with joysticks and learned to drive again. It was the most emotional time, because it meant I got my freedom back.”

Mike Ballard and his new wheels.

Mike Ballard and his new wheels.

“Other things were awesome like receiving messages of support from rugby and league legends like John Smit, the Springbok captain; Steve Borthwick and Chris Robshaw, England captains; the Vunipola brothers; Kelly Brown, the old Scotland captain; Kevin Sinfield, the England Rugby League skipper; Chris Ashton, the England wing, the swan-diver; the Glasgow Warriors –all you boys taking the time to get in touch was a huge lift so thank you to you all [awesome blokes – good on ya]; moving home here to Mum and Dad’s at Lake Ann was a relief; to doing hill sprints up the driveway too many times that I developed carpal tunnel syndrome – I had to pull back on the rehab a bit – I realised that rest is sometime good too [wry chuckle]; to becoming an outpatient – I have four hours gym a week with the occupational therapists and then the rest is up to me; I’ve been working hard – real hard [see Mike’s rehab progress below]; and then there was June and July when I was visited by so many good friends from Abu Dhabi – I got pretty good at BBQing.

On the rehab:

“I am way ahead of where I should be in every demographic – I am even making the therapists uncomfortable with my progress – they want me to slow down a bit, so I’m on the right track; I would prefer to max out my balance and risk falling down, but a patient falling down is bad news for the Personal Trainer who is working with them … So they have to reign me in a bit when it comes to the exercises.

I have also been hitting the pool and the gym.

The pool is great – I basically swim with my upper body and work on muscles so that my legs stay straight behind me; I move my hips so basically I’m doing the flutter kick. It’s a zero gravity environment so I can work on firing muscles and re-training my legs so my head, muscles and nerves are all on the same page.

In the gym there is this thing called the tilt table and it basically tilts you so you can stand up – you are meant to have three straps and I am down to one around my knees.

Taking away two of the three straps was something I really had to work on the therapists to do … They weren’t too comfortable with it initially. I weigh 200 pounds and I’m counting on a middle aged 120 pound lady to catch me. I basically stand there and play catch with two medicine balls while I am standing up; a point of pride for me is that the therapists come out of sessions more bet-up than me. They’re not used to that. They haven’t asked me to do anything I haven’t been able to do so I’m making progress.

It’s good because you get weight-bearing with your legs and joints and that’s the best thing you can do for them – legs are meant to bear weight so it’s good for muscles, joints and circulation.”

One of the best Mike Ballard quotes ever:

“I have a prescription for straight leg braces. At the moment, they aren’t a priority. If I wanted to walk with straight leg braces I’m sure I could do it right now. It takes your legs out of the equation, and makes you use all upper body strength and balance, both of those are areas where I’m fortunately ok. My view on the situation is that if I keep working on the requisite skills, bending and straightening and using my knees, I’ll set myself up to walk while bending and straightening my knees. If things all work out, hopefully I wont have to have those braces.”

Challenges:

“Honestly the biggest challenge is dialing it back and trying not to do too much. I need to rest and have learned that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve hurt myself a few times getting in and out of my wheelchair because I’ve been too proud to ask for help. I fell out of my chair onto concrete. So the message is, if you have a problem, just talk to someone.”

The Water-works:

“I’m making progress when given the time and space to run my routine. I tell you what – it’s an ab work-out. When I lose some weight I am going to have a six pack. Imagine a nasty 15 minute crunch or 15 minute bridge workout. The way I see it, if your bladder is full, and you fill your lungs with air, and you flex your abs enough, your bladder doesn’t have an option … it’s going to empty. It’s hard but I’m getting there, man. It also saves me $2US for each catheter so, anytime I’m independent it’s a victory [Jees, I admire you mate].

The fundraising and Mike Ballard Foundation:

“Ed Lewsey and Eileen Siegel are amazing for spear-heading fundraising for me. I can tell you man, it’s pretty moving [a sincere sniff].”

Ed Lewsey, co-founder of the Mike Ballard Foundation, a foundation set up to support Mike and raise awareness on spinal cord issues, comments:

There have been countless items donated by various businesses and private donations in Abu Dhabi and across the Arabian Gulf region. Rugby Clubs alone, from Mike’s Abu Dhabi Harlequins, to Abu Dhabi Saracens, to Doha Rugby Club, Jebel Ali Dragons, Al Ain, Bahrain Rugby Club, to the Dubai Hurricanes have all got behind him. It has just been phenomenal and speaks volumes for Mike as a person and rugby and the Arabian Gulf community.”

To summarise the past few months:

“It’s been great, I mean, the emotional and mental side is the most important part. Physically it will take its time; I am getting stronger and more nerve function every day, but yeah, on the mental side, having people around lightens the load. We go out and do fun things – fishing, wine tasting, its always a party, a full week of not reality. I love hearing from everybody and between when it all went down to now, it’s the people, man, the people that lighten the load. It’s nice with the time changes, because there is always somebody online, and I love hearing about the most recent brunch and the shenanigans involved. Family and friends are just phone call away – if I need anything, I can just call, so that makes me smile. I’m a lucky guy, man, I’m a lucky guy.”

The future:

“My spine will be healed … It will be healed by New Years – that will be eight months since the day, which means in mid-Feb I’ll be in to hospital to get the hardware out. I’ll then be out of action for 4-6 weeks and then I’ll be back into the rehab. Once I’m recovered and strong from that op, I’m keen to help people and I’ll think about going back to work. So yeah, what I mean by giving others a hand – if you break your back, the idea is you check out the Foundation website that we have set up and get help. We can tell you the difference between 24 inch and 26 inch wheels. Stuff like that. Hopefully the Foundation will transition into a community for people with spinal chord injuries. And I’ll get into my public speaking – I debuted at my home town at my old school, Gladwin High School and it went well. So yeah, that’s where I’m heading.”

Mike Ballard. Doing more than well. Doing exceptionally well. You continue to blow us all away, mate. Proud, Mike. So incredibly proud of how you are doing.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………

Golf Day

FYI – the next event in Abu Dhabi’s programme of fundraising events will be the Mike Ballard Texas Scramble Golf day, held at Yas Links golf course, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi on the 12th Sept 2014. Flyer below. Get involved!

 

Our Big Blue Backyard Documentary – ON NZ TV1 FROM 2 NOVEMBER 2014!

Great news everyone! OUR BIG BLUE BACKYARD, a fantastic documentary series on New Zealand’s ocean will premiere on NZ TV1 at 7:30PM on Sunday November 2nd.
I am proud to say I was part of the diving team for the North Island filming, and was privileged to be underwater with legends like Brady Doak, Dave Abbott, Steve Hathaway and Steve Hudson.
Keep an eye out for updates – can’t wait for November!

Our Big Blue Backyard

Our Big Blue Backyard

Surfing Abu Dhabi

I am wearing a smile as wide as the new moon. I went surfing yesterday, in the most unlikely of places! The feeling, well you know the feeling.

It had been over a year since my last wave, an epic six hour session with my good mate Magic Matt at one of Northland’s famed breaks, pic below. I love surfing. It is without a doubt, my number one recreational pursuit. I am still buzzing from yesterday.

Northland, New Zealand.

A year is a long time, but having since moved from New Zealand and now settled in Abu Dhabi, and the Arabian Gulf not being renowned for its surf, it was time; I was getting the itch. I started assessing options and after checking Magic Seaweed, it looked like it was going to be two foot (big for the Gulf), at a spot I had only just heard of. Teaming up with my old spearfishing partner, Stradbroke Island’s finest, Trent Webb, off we went, regaling tales of previous surf trips. This one, we decided, was going to be a burster.

We got to the spot after a couple of hours drive. We named it “The Breakwater,” because you catch the wave right next to the Breakwater. Pretty original. There were lefts and rights (half lefts and half rights in fact); and smiles and hoots galore.

The Breakwater, Abu Dhabi.

The Breakwater, Abu Dhabi.

Winston Cowie surfing The Breakwater "Right", Abu Dhabi.

Winston Cowie surfing The Breakwater "Right." Abu Dhabi.

The Breakwater "Right" Abu Dhabi.

The Breakwater "Right." Abu Dhabi.

Winston Cowie surfing The Breakwater "Right." Abu Dhabi.

Winston Cowie surfing The Breakwater "Right." Abu Dhabi.

The Breakwater. "Left." Take off. Abu Dhabi.

The Breakwater. "Left." Take off. Abu Dhabi.

Trent Webb surfing "The Breakwater." Abu Dhabi.

Trent Webb surfing "The Breakwater." Abu Dhabi.

Trent Webb surfing "The Breakwater." Abu Dhabi.

Trent Webb surfing "The Breakwater." Abu Dhabi.

Surfing Abu Dhabi.

A successful and pretty unique surf trip!

On the book front, the second ebook in Winston Cowie’s New Zealand historical fiction series, Flames Flicker, will be released later this year. It’s looking really good, has a cracking cover, and I can’t wait to share it with you…..And next year, the book that may change how Australians and New Zealanders view their history will be released. It is based on Portuguese and Spanish voyages to those shores, and over 82 years before Willem Janszoon, 118 years before Abel Tasman, and 245 years before James Cook.

More surfing adventures to come. It won’t be a year until the next one. The Breakwater is beckoning!

Te hei mauri ora,

 Winston Cowie           

My mate: Mike Ballard.

Mike Ballard, Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Mike Ballard, Abu Dhabi Harlequins

I am sitting up the top of Jebel Hafeet, one of the highest mountains in the United Arab Emirates. It is dark and I am staring out at the stars; the moon, lights of settlements and moving cars glitter the plain below. Less than 150 kilometres away in a hospital bed is my mate, Mike Ballard. Mike, a US national, teacher, and all round top bloke, was seriously injured in the West Asian Club Rugby Championship final six days ago, played between the team I help coach, the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, and the Jebel Ali Dragons.

Mike, a loose head prop and in only his third season of rugby, was one of two well-deserved Harlequins nominated for the overall senior men Arabian Gulf Player of the Season award this year. He played the final as he had all season: hard and at a consistently outstanding level. He was our hammer on defence and our workaholic on attack, assisting and assisting, and carrying hard when the opportunity arose.

About thirty minutes in, Mike fell awkwardly in a tackle, was stretchered from the field and has been numb from the waist down ever since. His lower vertebra was fractured and his spinal cord has suffered what has been described by doctors, as significant damage.” Mike is to be flown tomorrow to Grand Rapids in Michigan, United States, where he will receive treatment and physio to aid his recovery.I’m looking forward to the next stage,” said Mike when questioned by local journalist Martyn Thomas as to how he was feeling. I can hear Mike saying that in his very American accent. He would have finished the sentence with a determined stare and meant what he said. Facing the biggest challenge of his life, up to one year’s intensive physio to get mobile again, Mike is looking forward to it.

Mike’s injury rocked me to the core, especially in that first 24 hours. It brought back memories, vivid memories. In that very same final, three years earlier, as the captain of the Doha team, while not nearly as significant as the challenge facing Mike, I had my own freak accident – dislocating my knee, tearing every ligament within it and incurring nerve damage, affecting my feeling from the knee down. Three years later, the numbness is still there and annoys me on occasion, but like Mike won’t for his injury, I haven’t let it get in the way of doing anything I have wanted to do. I have run again (coming third in the fitness tests I set the Harlequins forwards, and taking pleasure after such a long recovery road in telling them that they need to get fitter), surfed bigger waves than pre-injury, assisted in filming an underwater documentary on New Zealand’s coastline in challenging diving conditions; even played half a match of rugby.

And having been the beneficiary of the generosity of a community, the Doha rugby community, as Mike will be in the Abu Dhabi community, I have been moved emotionally by people, who fundraised and helped pay for the expensive operations.  People can just be so incredibly kind sometimes; it makes ones eyes moist thinking about it.

Going through a life changing event makes me think we need to simplify things right down sometimes. You never know what the next day will bring. Smile at the sunrise.  Be grateful for shelter, food, water, family and friends. These are the fundamental building blocks, as I found three years ago and as Mike has found this week. But as people, we all want more. That’s cool; it’s only natural to want to grow.  Everybody’s different. We all have different dreams; some involving mental application, others involving physical application, some involving both. Whatever dream it is you want to chase down, go for it. But as a bottom line, if we all go on our personal adventures with good intentions and aspire to have a positive influence on those around us, whether family, friends or society, then surely we have succeeded in bringing joy to the world we know. We would have made people smile and hopefully had a positive impact. And isn’t that what we should all be trying to achieve at the end of the day? Isn’t that what’s important?

I’m going to make the candle burn bright man. Don’t worry about me, Mike Ballard; I’m going to be doing good things for people. I’ll be smiling.”

The guy is a champion. Without a doubt one of the nicest and most likeable characters of our team and whom I have met.  He’s going to deal with the challenge that has come his way with a smile on his face. He’s going to give rehabilitation his best shot. He’s moving on to bigger and better things and while he admits he dwelled on what had happened for a day, he is viewing it as an opportunity, to take a different route and go on adventures that weren’t previously open to him. As strong as an Ox, Mike’s already talking about Olympics in a new sport he has never heard of,” and that’s really exciting.” He’s also talking about continuing teaching once my rehab is done and writing books, like his father. Mike is going to be fine. And he has been overwhelmed with the love and support he has received the past six days.My family, my friends, they have been here for me. Every minute of the day I have had someone to talk to. I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he said, with that same accent that makes you smile and that same indomitable stare.  

I love this guy, have been so upset by what happened to him, but so proud of how he is rising to the challenge that life has thrown at him.

Mike, you will rise to this challenge. I know you. We know you. You know you. Kia Kaha.

A mosquito just landed on me (don’t forget I’m up on the top of Jebel Hafeet).  Shaken out of my reverie, I gently coax it away, noticing an orange on the table. I pick it up, have a good look at it, smile, and think how lucky I am to have an orange. I’ll take Mike an orange tomorrow. He’ll like that and understand its significance.

This guy is a legend and a role model.

My mate, Mike Ballard.

An inspiration to us all.

……………………………………………………………………………………

P.S. Abu Dhabi lost the West Asian Club Championship rugby final this year, as Doha did in that match three years ago. It initially feels pretty demoralising lying there in hospital, with a serious injury, not being able to finish the match, having put so much physical and mental effort into a team, and only finding out later that you lost. You always remember the result. That’s sport and competitiveness. There has to be a winner and a loser and Mike or I or any sportsperson wouldn’t have it any other way. The Jebel Ali Dragons were outstanding on 4 April 2014 and are worthy West Asian Club Champions.

But on Friday, as in Doha three years ago, something powerful occurred, something that reinforces why it is we play and love this game. Rugby brought the community together. Every team from around the Gulf has been in touch with Mike, members of the other clubs visiting him, such is the regard in which he is held, everybody wanting to help this champion with his challenge.  

The Arabian Gulf rugby community has this week epitomised the ethos of rugby, which teaches physical challenge, leadership, how to be a member of a team, how to be disciplined, how to have heart, how to have fun; the values of courage, sportsmanship and humility. And this week Mike has defined courage, and will continue to define courage, and the rugby community has collectively shown the high calibre of people involved in our sport.  Thank you all for being so wonderfully kind to Mikey.

Massive setbacks lead to massive comebacks. Looking forward to taking the next step at Mary Free bed Rehabilitation in Grand Rapids tomorrow.”

We are all looking forward to taking those steps with you mate.

Ka kite ika a whiro. Te hei mauri ora.

Your mate,

Winnie.

Winston Cowie

 

Mike Ballard, Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby

Mike Ballard, Abu Dhabi Harlequins Rugby

Mike Ballard, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in action

Mike Ballard, Abu Dhabi Harlequins, in action

Cowie seeks final redemption with Quins after being out of WACC in 2011

Winston Cowie playing rugby for Doha, 2011.

Winston Cowie playing rugby for Doha, 2011.

Martyn Thomas of Sport360 reports on this weekend’s West Asian Club Championship Rugby final here.

Abu Dhabi Harlequins assistant coach Winston Cowie has some unfinished business to attend to in this weekend’s ARFU West Asia Champion Club (WACC) final.

The 31-year-old saw his playing days ended by a horrific injury in the 2011 showpiece – the former Doha No8 dislocating his knee and tearing ligaments with the final just 10 minutes old.

Doha went on to lose 24-20 to Dubai Hurricanes and by the time they lifted the trophy 12 months later, Cowie was back home in New Zealand.

However, his decision to return to the Gulf with his family last summer, this time to Abu Dhabi, has given him a shot at “closing a circle”.

Cowie joined Jeremy Manning’s coaching staff at Quins at the beginning of the season, and has helped guide the capital club to 10 wins out of 10 in the Gulf Top Six as well as a home WACC final against Jebel Ali Dragons on Friday.

“It would be a massive deal,” Cowie said of the prospect of claiming silverware this weekend.

“I’ve got history with the competition, so while this week is very much about the team and what the team has achieved in the last three months, personally it would be a massive milestone and a closing of a circle given the circumstances in which I exited rugby as a player.”

Given his affiliation with Doha, where he spent three years and captained the first team, Cowie admits he was a little apprehensive about joining one of their main rivals.

He explained: “I was definitely a little bit cautious at the start because I didn’t want it to seem like I was rocking up and telling guys that I’d played against what to do, guys that I had a lot of respect for – the likes of Graham Murphy, Chris Jones-Griffiths and Billy Graham. So, I definitely started off cautiously but then you find your place within the team and this year has been great.”

Indeed, since the turn of the year Quins have been unstoppable and they head into Friday’s game at Zayed Sports City as favourites having dropped just four points of 50 available in an unbeaten campaign.

“I don’t know of another team that has scored 47 out of a possible 50 competition points in the Gulf Top Six,” the assistant coach said. “So that’s testament to the hard work the boys have put in and this week has been about taking each game as it comes, as we have done all year and working hard to make sure we do our season justice in the final.”

Cowie added: “They’ve been consistent and that’s against very, very good opposition. Being around the Gulf for a number of years I haven’t seen this level of footy across all six teams in the competition.

“To get 10 out of 10 against good opposition was really, really good but that’s behind us now and our focus is very much on Friday and beating the Dragons.”

Greenstone Trail update and Flames Flicker release

The New Zealand historical fiction novel Greenstone Trail by New Zealand author Winston Cowie, is now available as an ebook on Amazon Kindle and Apple Ibooks.

To purchase Greenstone Trail on Amazon Kindle, click here.

To download the Ibooks app for free, click here.

And to purchase Greenstone Trail by Winston Cowie from ibooks, simply type in ‘Greenstone Trail’ and you will be on your way to learning about the fascinating and largely unknown New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s, written in an interesting historical fiction style. To booklovers in New Zealand, you can purchase one of the few original hard copies of ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness,’ from which the ‘Greenstone Trail’ and ‘Flames Flicker’ ebooks are based, via Fishpond, by clicking here. A note, you have to be in New Zealand to order a hard copy.

Flames Flicker, the second ebook in this series, which spans the Invasion of Waikato, the Chatham Islands, East Cape, mystical Ureweras, and Second Taranaki War, will be released as an ebook in 2014.

And some spine-tingling reviews coming in from some of the descendants of those involved in the wars.                                                                                                                                               

Cheers,

Winston Cowie