Thursday, May 28, 2009


Two years in the making. Manny Castillo archive below. Will update as warrants. Honestly, after going through the ringer on this two years ago, I don't know how much more I can say, aside from the fact that we still really don't know the whole truth.

Teen guilty in rugby death

May 28, 2009
Bob Mitchell
Toronto Star

A Mississauga high school student was found guilty of manslaughter today in the death of a rival player during a rugby game.

The teen, now 18, was visibly upset – as were family members – after Justice Bruce Duncan rendered his decision in a Brampton courtroom.

His mother hugged him as he sat forlorn, his head down, at a table at the front of the packed Brampton courtroom.

Justice Bruce Duncan decided his actions that day caused the death of Manny Castillo.

The accused pleaded not guilty to manslaughter. He will be sentenced at a later date.

In rendering his decision, Justice Duncan rejected the defendant's self-defence claim that he only pushed Castillo to the ground to get out of a choking headlock during the game on May 9, 2007.

"The defendant intentionally applied force that was outside the rules of the game or any standard by which the game is played," Duncan said. "Manny did not explicitly consent to that force.

"I'm satisfied beyond any doubt no consent can be implied.

"There was no justification in self defence. Accordingly, the defendant committed an assault, an unlawful act. That unlawful act caused death. The defendant is therefore guilty of manslaughter."

Defence lawyers Lisa White and Calvin Barry had suggested Castillo knew he was playing in a physical game and that he accepted the dangers of the contact sport when he entered the field to play for his Lorne Park team that tragic day.

But Duncan rejected her assertion.

He described what the defendant did as being a "sucker tackle" and said at its "highest" it was done out of retaliation, not self defence.

Castillo died from a serious head injury a few days after the incident.

Crown prosecutor John Raftery said during the two-week trial that the accused, a major junior player with an Ontario Hockey League team, committed manslaughter when he lifted Castillo into the air, his feet facing upwards, and drove him head first into the ground.

For now, the identity of the accused is protected by Canada's Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Crown has said it intends to seek an adult sentence, opening the door to his name being published.

Raftery insisted in his closing remarks that the deadly move was separate and away from the normal play on the field and the ball was nowhere near them.

Following the critical play, Castillo lay motionless, and was dying from severe head and spinal cord injuries.

During the trial, various witnesses – including players, coaches, the referee, parents and rugby experts – gave conflicting accounts of what they saw.

Some said they saw Castillo put the defendant into a headlock and others didn't. Some said the play had already stopped at the time and others didn't. Some witnesses saw Castillo driven to the ground, others said they say him fall gently over the shoulder of the accused.

As for the convicted teen, he testified that he fell on top of Castillo when he wrestled his way out of a headlock. He said he had panicked because he couldn't breathe and denied intentionally hurting the opposing player. He said he was unaware Castillo was injured when they both fell to the ground.

Source: Toronto Star


Toronto Star, May 11, 2009
Accused denies trying to hurt Manny Castillo

Toronto Star, May 12, 2009
Manny Castillo had accused in headlock, manslaughter trial told

Toronto Sun, May 26, 2009
Tackle - or manslaughter?


Red Terror blog, Friday, May 11, 2007
Toronto teen near death during rugby game

Red Terror blog, Saturday, May 12, 2007
Update: Toronto rugby teen dies

Red Terror blog, Monday, May 14, 2007
Manny Castillo update

Red Terror blog, Tuesday, May 15, 2007
More Manny fall-out

Red Terror blog, Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Concussion rumour added to Castillo tragedy

Red Terror blog, Saturday, May 19, 2007
Moralizing pinheads

Red Terror blog, Thursday, May 24, 2007
More Manny Castillo exploitation and disinformation


The difficulty is that even the actual witnesses are in direct conflict about what they saw. All this is compounded by there not being a videotape of the incident, simply conflicting eyewitness testimony.

It probably didn't help that the offender unloaded swearing at the referee, which is sadly not uncommon in North American sporting culture, with rugby being a polite exception.

I don't want to open a can o' worms, but again, my first reaction sizing up the story two years ago was remembering the inflamed emotions and charges stemming from the Tana/Kev/BOD "He could have died" so-called "spear-tackle" controversy.

What if...?

What if there had never been video evidence of that incident? What if the only witnesses we had were reports in UK newspapers?

There was of course videotape of that "off the ball" cleanout, and yet opinions about "intent" and "assault" and "thuggery" were still starkly divided.

Two different people could watch that tape over-and-over and come to two different conclusions. I can look at the tape and believe, unfortunate, yes, but deliberate assault? I don't buy that. It's rugby, a game that involves hard physical contact and risk.

Whereas this Canadian judge Duncan could have sight-unseen listened to BOD's version of events and reached the same judgment that the "defendants intentionally applied force that was outside the rules of the game or any standard by which the game is played," .... "BOD did not explicitly consent to that force (and he could have died!)."

The fact that a kid actually did die only compounds the emotions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

S14 expansion and new playoff format unveiled

My guess is Melbourne.

(It's gotta be a better choice than plonking an ice-hockey team in Arizona, right?)

Rugby Planet reports:

Super 14 expansion plans revealed

19th May 2009

The Super 14 will be a Super 15 from 2011, with a new-look three conference calendar stretching the Super Rugby season to 24 weeks.

There will be three five-team conferences, one based in each of the SANZAR countries with Australia by far the most likely country to benefit from an extra franchise, something that will delight ARU CEO John O'Neill no end.

The new 24-week Super Rugby competition guarantees each team a minimum of eight home matches and a 16-match regular season. A new six team finals series includes an extra round with two "sudden-death" qualifiers before the semi-finals.

All teams will have a three-week bye while the tournament is suspended during the June International Test window, while the Tri-Nations series has also been given a new time slot in the calendar to run at the conclusion of Super Rugby.

The expanded competition has a 2011 launch date, with the current broadcast agreement to expire at the end of 2010.

"It has been an intense negotiation but we believe the outcome is a very good one for rugby, for the SANZAR alliance, for our players and fans and for broadcasters," said Andy Marinos, the CEO of SANZAR.

"We were all committed to an expanded tournament and have been able to make it work, taking into account the different landscapes of our domestic game. What we have agreed upon is a competition with added domestic interest and a compelling international component that will see Super Rugby retain its status as rugby's toughest provincial competition."

Key features of the proposed new season structure are:

> A 15th team playing in the Australian conference will be added to Super Rugby following a tender process open to all territories, and with SANZAR making the decision on the new side's location. A timetable for tenders will be released shortly to ensure adequate lead-in time is provided to the successful bidder.

> The Tournament will kick off in the last week of February and conclude in the first week of August, except in 2011 when the calendar will be shifted earlier to accommodate Rugby World Cup.

> Teams will be divided into three national Conferences of five teams each. The new team will compete in the Australian Conference.

> Teams play the other four teams in their Conference twice (home and away).

> Teams play four out of the five teams from the other two Conferences (four home, four away).

> All teams will have a three-week bye during the June Test window.

> The three Conference winners and three wildcard teams with the highest number of competition points from any Conference qualify for the play-offs.

> The wildcard teams and the Conference winner with the least competition points will play an elimination round to meet the two Conference winners with the greatest number of competition points in the semi-finals.

> Tri-Nations will always kick-off in South Africa in mid-August and conclude with two of the three trans-Tasman matches in early October to allow for early release of Springboks to Currie Cup. The will allow for Tri Nations tests between particular teams in particular countries to become permanent fixtures on the rugby calendar. [...]


Monday, May 04, 2009

Wild, unprecedented weekend

A memorable sporting weekend got off under a very dark cloud with the announcement of the death of Sunline, possibly the greatest and most elegant race horse of my lifetime. The girl died much too early, at the age of 13, succumbing to incurable laminitis, and will be buried at Ellerslie race track, a fitting tribute. More information here.

Sunline was already immortalized as the best Kiwi mare-ever, and in a very exclusive class of the best Kiwi thoroughbreds of all time. Chronologically... Carbine, Gloaming (actually an Aussie-bred), Phar Lap, Kindergarten, Rising Fast, Tulloch and Sunline. Carbine and Phar Lap are on a different stratosphere. For sentimental reasons I'd add Desert Gold, Balmerino and Bonecrusher to the list (Might and Power was pretty special, too), but Sunline is closer to the best than they are.

Three-time Australian Horse of the Year and Four-time New Zealand Horse of the Year, both unprecedented, says it all really. An inaugural inductee into the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame, and the only horse to ever be inducted into the Australian Hall of Fame while she was still racing.

I thought Canada's Dance Smartly might've been the best darling of the turf I ever saw ... until I saw Sunline. She has too many great memories to mention, but of particular note mention has to go to her 2000 Cox Plate, the second of her infamous back-to-backs in the Australasian weight-for-age championship. Her race was simply breathtaking (see Pt. 2 of youtube video below). The race wasn't as exciting as Bonecrusher's '86 Plate, but her victory was more awe-inspiring, more devastating.

Her speed and endurance and will-to-win were legendary. The girl didn't muck around, she went to the front, applied heavy pressure and basically said "catch me if you can." Thanks for the memories girl, and Rest In Peace.

WTF? Less than two years after scoring a try against the All Blacks (see video below) and representing Canada at the Rugby World Cup, fullback Mike Pyke "breaks the code" and makes a "miraculous" jump to the AFL:

Canadian Pyke to make his 'crazy game' debut

Richard Hinds May 1, 2009
The Age, Melbourne

WHEN Mike Pyke told his mother that he was moving from France to Australia to further his football career, she was not totally surprised. The Canadian rugby international had played in Edinburgh for two years before joining French club side US Montauban, and so the move to Sydney did not seem unusual.

"I knew there were two types of rugby in Australia, league and union," said Christine Peterson who lives in Victoria, British Columbia. "I just thought he was going there to play one or the other. I really didn't think much about this crazy game you have."

The crazy game is Australian football and, at the SCG on Sunday, Mike Pyke will become one of its most exotic debutants. About 10 months after a friend who was working in Melbourne sent an email to an agent saying he knew someone "who might be pretty good", Pyke will pinch-hit in the ruck for Sydney against Richmond.

While AFL fans have become accustomed to Irishmen making the transition from Gaelic to Australian football, a 24-year-old Canadian rugby player rising to the elite level so quickly is unprecedented. "Miraculous," says Michael Quinlan, the manager who recommended Pyke to the Swans. "It's really amazing that it's happened so fast."

Christine Peterson, who had just returned to Canada last week after spending three weeks with her son in Sydney, will board another long-haul flight and be at the SCG on Sunday. It will be, she says, a head-spinning experience watching her son play a game at the elite level that was a strange novelty when he was a child.

"He had certainly heard of it but we don't even get fully-fledged games (on television) here," she said. "You would just see them jumping and running around some times without really knowing what was going on."

But Peterson is not surprised by how quickly her son has adapted. Having raised Pyke and his older brother and sister alone after being divorced from their father Ian when Mike was four (Ian Pyke died last year), she saw him thrive playing ice hockey, soccer and basketball as a junior before he settled on rugby.

"He's just a really good athlete and he's always done very well," she says of Pyke, who made his debut for Canada at full-back aged 19.

Canadian friend Matt Goodwin set in motion his unusual transition from rugby to AFL. Living in Melbourne, Goodwin was inevitably immersed in the local game and decided the athletic Pyke would be a natural. So he tracked down contact details for Quinlan and sent him an email.

"Basically it said he knew this guy who would be worth taking a look at," says Quinlan. "The thing that caught my eye was that he was 200-plus centimetres and 105 kilos. So I got in contact (with Goodwin) to see if he was legitimate athlete, looked at some footage and then I spoke to Mike."

Quinlan contacted the Swans because of their reputation for developing left-field recruits.

The Swans were impressed both by Pyke's physique and that he was already a mature, elite athlete. A program was put in place to fine-tune his skills.

"It's pretty amazing," says Brett Allison, the Swans assistant who has overseen Pyke's development. "When we first saw him (last August) I though he might have been pushing for a game at the back end of the season … but he's picked up the game really fast."


In the first Heineken Cup semi-final of the weekend, played in Dublin on Saturday, Leinster stunned rugby fans the world over conquering arch-nemesis and defending HEC-champs Munster in front of a record crowd at Croke Park.

Five years ago it would have been unthinkable sacrilege that they'd ever allow rugby to be played at Croke Park, but now the Irish are going insane for rugby in a way I've never seen in my lifetime:

Record crowd at Croke

Saturday 02nd May 2009

82,208: World record crowd witness Leinster win

The Heineken Cup has reclaimed the world record for a club crowd after 82,208 fans turned up at Croke Park to see Leinster beat Munster 25-6 and reach their first final.

Sources: Here and here.


Rags to riches Hollywood stuff for Mine That Bird.

Bought for $9,500 and comes to the race after a gruelling 2700 km roadtrip in a stall and steals the Kentucky Derby to win going away by seven lengths after uncorking one of the deadliest finishes I have ever seen in a major classic.

Not sure if he's the real deal (he was the Canadian 2yo champion last year) or won simply 'cos he's a superior mudder. Doesn't matter - he's the Derby champion, and the 2nd-longest shot to ever win.

Check out the aerial replay starting at 9:30 where horse and jockey Calvin Borel go from last to first squeezing along the rail in a few incredible hoof beats.

On Saturday night, Filipino national hero Manny Pacquiao obliterated Ricky Hatton in Las Vegas to win IBO and Ring Magazine World Light Welterweight Titles and retain his crown as the world's best "pound-for-pound" boxer.

The look on Hatton's face when he was down-and-out was seriously scary. Just glad he got up and was able to walk out under his own strength. Pretty much the dictionary definition of getting "laid out," Hatton looked like a carpet being unfurled onto that mat.

And yesterday (Sunday) saw for me an epic 2nd semi-final in the Heineken Cup, with Cardiff Blues stealing a pair of tries in tghe last pair of minutes, with spectacular sideline conversions from Ben "Hobbit" Blair to snatch an unlikely draw again Leicester Tigers. Alas, it being a playoff game, two extra-periods were added, without scoring, so the game went to a penalty shootout - the first time I have ever seen a rugby contest decided in such a cruel manner:

Utterly remarkable. Leicester Tigers will face Leinster in the final of the Heineken Cup after resisting one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the game to win on a place-kick penalty shoot-out after grinding out a 26-26 draw in 100 minutes of play at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

A game as brilliant as this one should not have been ended by such ludicrous means, but it did add a fittingly dramatic coda to the legend that this contest is sure to become - it was a jaw-dropper from start to sorry end.

Poor Martyn Williams.

The dramatic penalty shoot-out here:

And lastly, for the time-being, the All Blacks have unveiled a new kit. Presumably the shitty silver thing introduced during the RWC 2007 debacle will be discarded to the dustin of really bad ideas.

A new all-white All Blacks jersey was unveiled to be used as a second kit to complement the traditional, famous black apparel. The white jersey includes a white collar and New Zealand’s national symbol, the silver fern, on the left breast in black. As well, for the first time ever, both the black and white strips will feature a fern pattern across the front of the jersey fabric, enhancing the New Zealand look and feel of the most famous rugby jersey in the world. The All Blacks will wear the white jersey with their traditional black shorts and black socks with white stripes.

The white jersey will only be worn, as required, when the All Blacks are playing outside of New Zealand, in line with the IRB’s revised policy of the away team needing to change jerseys in the event of a clash. It will be worn for the first time against France in Marseille this November during the All Blacks’ end of year tour.


Bonus... uh-oh!


Double-Bonus: Dan Quinn cuts a promo: