Roger Federer meets our mate Rog

Roger Federer poses with NP trainer Roger Gooch at the Cincinnati Masters.

Roger Federer poses with NP trainer Roger Gooch at the Cincinnati Masters.

His prowess on the tennis court may be fading but 17-times Grand Slam winner Roger Federer has future in public office should he want it.

“Federer is just amazing, just his whole demeanour, how polite he is to everyone. He probably reminds you of someone who could go down as politician. He could easily be the president of Switzerland,” says New Plymouth sports therapist Roger Gooch who met the Swiss master several times during the northern hemisphere summer.

“It’s probably because Federer’s an elder statesman now, but you can only take him how you find him and I couldn’t have been more impressed with an individual who is probably one of the most famous people in the world,” says Gooch who was working with South African No 1 and world No 20 Kevin Anderson – a regular training partner of Federer’s.

Rubbing shoulders with the likes of Federer, Rafa Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic, all of whom use the top-five ranked service player as a training partner, was just one perk of being hired to assist with Anderson’s training and recuperation in the run up to the French Open, Wimbledon and later the US Open.

Gooch had previously worked with Anderson’s then coach former New Zealand Davis Cup player GD Jones and it was the Aucklander who called hoping to sign the 50-year-old up to help the 2.03m tall (6ft 8in) right-handed player manage his recovery from elbow surgery after his regular therapist became unavailable.

“I’d worked with Roger quite a lot when I played and later when I was coaching my sister Sacha so when we needed someone for six weeks taking in the French Open and Wimbledon, Roger was the first and most obvious choice,” explains Jones.

“He has a very unique set of skills including massage therapy, strength and conditioning, and diagnostic and rehabilitation expertise. He’d also had a lot of experience with higher level sportspeople so when you combine that with his skillset, he was an easy person to recommend.”

For his part Gooch who had earlier knocked back a full time position with Joneses, was a little surprised to be offered such an enticing opportunity.

“I’d turned them down previously because I had a young family and was moving to New Plymouth (from Auckland). Typical of Aucklanders they thought I was crazy moving to a Hicksville town like New Plymouth but it was my home town obviously,” he says with a wry grin.

Gooch a Spotswood College alumni who has setup a practice is in New Plymouth, remained on good terms with Joneses offering advice from afar and recommending therapists they could use, so when Anderson’s trainer needed to take a break GD approached him once more.

“This time it was with Kevin, ranked 38 in the world at the time, and in the main draw at the Grand Slams they were inviting me to and little did I know but in the time we were together he was going to move to a high of 19 after his success at the French Open and Wimbledon,” says Gooch.

Anderson made it to the fourth round or the last 16 at Roland Garros, while he went out a round earlier at Wimbledon.

His results in Europe resulted in Gooch being offered a further six weeks in North America culminating in the US Open and this time partner Carol and 10-year-old son Ollie were invited to the New York leg of the tour.

“To be in Times Square and go to one of the Broadway shows with the family was an amazing experience and to be working at the US Open at the same time was certainly a dream I wouldn’t have ever thought that would be possible,” remembers Gooch.

But it was more than the allure of working at some of the world’s major tennis tournaments and the obvious tourist trappings that attracted the former central league footballer.

His programme which included 12 days in Paris before the French Open, the Queens tournament prior to Wimbledon and a solid build up to Flushing Meadows gave the co-writer of the NZ College of Massage’s sports diploma curriculum plenty of time to work with Anderson and to observe other trainers’ processes in action.

“There’s a lot of down time in tennis. You could be waiting five hours for your player to get on court and I spent a lot of time in the gym observing some of the renowned strength and conditioning trainers on the circuit like Serena Williams’ and Andy Murray’s trainers.

“I even got to see top golfer Rory Mcllroy train because his fiance (former World N0 1) Caroline Wozniacki is on the tour.

“The thing is you can get clinical experience but then you can get field experience and this was too big an opportunity to turn down in that regard.”

And Gooch should know his impressive CV includes time working alongside All Blacks at the Auckland Blues in the late 90s, attending the 2000 Paralympics in Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics as part of New Zealand health teams.

He’s was also sports therapist to former world champion and Olympic silver medallist kayaker Ben Fouhy and seven-times New Zealand Ironman champion Jo Lawn.

Gooch, who’d be the first to admit he’s no tennis expert, is circumspect about the fifth-seeded Anderson’s chances at the Heineken Open where he’s been reunited with his original trainer and is now under a new coach.

“Kevin has got the ability … but the Auckland field is really strong for a second tier tournament so if he makes the semis it will have been really successful.

“The thing is, it’s early season and he should be over his injuries and it’s really all about the Australian Open and if he makes the last 16 of that it will have been a successful period.”

One thing the 27-year-old South African can be sure of is that Gooch, who he helped open the doors to the work trip of a lifetime, will be rooting for him.

Roger Gooch Fact file:

  • 1996 graduated from NZ College of Massage
  • 1997 establishes Bodysmart practice
  • 1999 the Blues massage therapist
  • 2000 Sydney Paralympics health team member
  • 2001-07 head of NZ College of Massage 2000hr sports therapy diploma
  • 2004 Athens Olympics health team member
  • 2009 moves practice to New Plymouth

Sit down, please — it’s the Datsuns

the datsunsIt  can’t be often that a rock band asks fans to take a seat in the middle  of a gig, but that’s exactly what the Datsuns did at their show at the Mayfair in New Plymouth.

In  a new take on audience participation, bassist and lead vocalist Dolf de  Borst beckoned fans to the floor during Helping Hands off the  Cambridge rockers’ latest album Death Rattle Boogie.

And  then as the slow-burner reached a typical Datsuns-esque crescendo they  rose as one heaving mass, setting the tone for the rest of the night.

It  can’t be easy carrying the “next big thing” tag around with you for a  decade, but the Datsuns haven’t suffered too much emotional harm on the  evidence of this show.

Pulled  together from around the globe for their first nationwide tour since  2009, the regular gigging is working for the four-piece. The playing is  tight, aggressive, and the performance energetic despite the rigours of  the road.

Lead  guitarist Christian Livingstone’s nimble fretwork is there to be  admired, but the sound is more psychedelic and heavy on the sonics of  the group working as one, rather than a platform for the virtuoso guitar  playing that ruins so much heavy rock.

And while Death Rattle Boogie was  the focus, there was a liberal selection of hip-swagger boogie and  fist-pumping anthems from band’s four previous albums to keep those in  the mosh and beyond happy.

PS: Any reservations about the sound quality at the Mayfair can quietly be put to bed – it was just dandy.

Wilson Dixon finds plenty of ammunition in NP

wilson dixonNo-one’s safe from Wilson Dixon’s acerbic humour, and a stroll around New Plymouth has given the guitar-strumming comic of “Cripple Creek, Colorado” plenty of ammunition.

Bateman’s “More Than Just a Bakery” catchphrase finds itself in the firing line early on at a packed Mayfair Festival Club.

“I went over there to see,” says Dixon (aka Aucklander Jesse Griffin), “. . . and guess what? It’s just a bakery.”

But the best serve is saved for a group of late arrivals with a table reserved in the front row.

In typically laconic style, Dixon politely ushers the stragglers to their seats before asking: “Is there anything I can get you?”

There follows a delicious pause before he delivers the killer line to raucous applause.

“Like a watch . . . or perhaps in your case a calendar.”

Dixon’s keen observational eye, sense of irony and wordplay underpin his 60-minute stand up set which is interspersed with his trademark twisted country and western yarns.

A highlight for most, the songs which are all sung to the same tune, tell bitter-sweet tales for the most part about our host’s dysfunctional family.

“Love Don’t Live Here Anymore – You do!” is dedicated to ex-wife Maureen who has run off with the neighbour.

While “Never”, inspired by the mistakes of Uncle Cletus includes the sage advice, “Never ride a horse without your pants on, the initial sense of freedom ain’t worth the pain.”

Although a touch obvious in places, Dixon’s clever routine offered a generous serving of chuckles and more than enough belly laughs to keep this punter happy.

Little Boots: Nocture — album review

Little boots nocturesEnglish electro-pop producer/DJ Little Boots’ (aka Victoria Hesketh) sophomore album, is said to be a celebration of 90s house and 70s disco with more than a dash of electronica throw in for good measure, and for the most part Nocturne delivers on this promise. After 2009’s much-hyped Hands failed to propel Hesketh to pop stardom we find her in a more introspective mood here, but this album is not the least bit dark. Hesketh’s trademark bittersweet vocals are set in sound beds, that courtesy of producer Tim Goldsworthy, can at one moment evoke Kraftwerk (“Motorway”) or the Kate Bush the next (“All For You”) while retaining their unique edge. Other standout tracks include the disco-infused “Beat Beat”, the soaring “Crescendo” and dance-floor stomper “Satellites”.

The Intouchables — film review

the intouchablesWhen Senegalese immigrant Driss (Omar Sy) interviews for a job as caregiver to wealthy Parisian tetraplegic Philippe (Francois Cluzet) the last thing he wants is to get hired, but when he lands the position it sets the scene for this odd-couple comedic drama co-directed by Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache. Based on a true story, The Intouchables was a huge hit in France and it enjoys a gentle humour and neat pacing. Injured in a paragliding accident and still mourning his wife, Philippe hires the charismatic Driss because he shows him no pity, unlike his staff and relatives. And the ex-con has soon souped  up Philippe’s wheelchair, hired him hookers and encouraged him to date again, while he learns the value of work.  Heart warming, but easy on the schmaltz.

Bully — review

bullyFrom the opening scene, in which the father of 17-year-old Tyler Long tearfully tells the story of his son’s suicide, it’s clear Lee Hirsch’s disturbing fly-on-the-wall documentary on bullying in US high schools will not be a comfortable ride.  Told over a school year, Hirsch follows five families affected by bullying, two who have experienced a suicide. The majority of this superbly shot film focuses on Alex, a bright, funny but awkward youth from Sioux City, who is tormented on the school bus to the point the filmmakers feel they have to intervene.  A telling expose on the indifference of school officials, police and the breakdown of communication within families, Bully also captures the groundswell of a movement to fight back and speak out against bullying.  This film should be compulsory viewing in New Zealand schools.

Eavesdrop: Pins & Needles — review

eavesdropAuckland drum and bass producer Dave “Eavesdrop” Wood brings a wealth of experience and a swag of connections to his slick, self-assured debut album Pins & Needles. A gigging DJ for more than 10 years, Eavesdrop turned heads with his 2011 collaboration with Soulyric on the Air On Fire EP and the noted vocalist appears here on the standout track “Our Reflections”, a neatly layered example of the smooth liquid or liquid-funk sub-genre of d&b favoured by Eavesdrop. Other collaborations include Keisha, whose vocals soar across “Clear Water”, the first single, while J Dubs adds a hip-hop flavour to “The Cat Burglar”, but the most interesting contribution, on assured debut sure to find friends among fans of the genre worldwide, comes via the strings of Yoomia on “Violin Blossom”.