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Page history last edited by Tom van Bodegraven 12 years, 4 months ago
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“The enemies you make by taking a decided stand generally have more respect for you than the friends you make by being on the fence” --Author unknown


Written by Graeme Burnard. This piece was first published on our MPC Blog in February 2006. It attracted a record number of comments (13). All 13 comments from the MPC Blog have been included. It was also published in the Autumn (April 2006) issue of the PNZ magazine.




Yes, I know rules are put in place for a reason and most reasons are very valid and in sport in particular rules are necessary to make the game fair, even and honest. It is when rules are made that make no sense that I get hot under the collar. Petanque in New Zealand is becoming so rule orientated that it is becoming a laughing stock amongst some of its members. I discovered a rule this last weekend during a tournament which beggars belief, but before I mention that, let me set the scene for why I am so opposed to stupid rules.


I have always been a strong opponent of the no smoking rule. I no longer smoke, but when I did, I really enjoyed having a ciggie and throwing a boule. A ridiculous situation occurred when the rule was first introduced in Wellington and I was still a smoker. I was playing at Park Ave in a WPA tournament and we were reminded that we were not allowed to smoke on the piste. It had been raining very hard the day before and the grass around the piste was very wet and we were not allowed to stand on it. I asked ( on behalf of the smokers) if we were not allowed to smoke on the piste or stand on the grass, then where could we smoke, and we were told to go inside the clubhouse and have one. I just shook my head in disbelief. The reason initially given that smoking was banned on the piste, was to improve the image of the game. BOLLOCKS! If that was the case, why was nothing done about the dress code. Surely the image of someone wearing gumboots on the piste was more “harmful” to the image than someone holding a cigarette. We were then told that because SPARC invested so much money into the sport it would not be right to have people smoking on the piste. BOLLOCKS AGAIN. I don’t think Sparc officials are going to self combust if they see someone smoking on a Petanque Piste. Why should a piste be any different to a bowling green or a golf course where smoking is common place. Oh how bloody precious we are getting.


Talking about being precious. At the Kapiti tournament this weekend a NZ representative was heard asking a couple of men who were standing off piste, to move because they were a distraction. This was a person who until they became an NZ rep, made more noise (on and off the piste) than most others. It concerns me that we, the great unwashed, are not showing enough respect to the selected few who want to ” be precious”. Two years ago, when we won the plate at the national triples in Putaruru, we were told off for making a noise because we were disturbing the “big” final four piste away. It was wrong of us to celebrate our win and it was wrong of our spectators to clap so I would like to take this moment to apologise. We will do our best to never show any emotion again. God forbid that we would be seen enjoying ourselves. To that end and to make it easier on the “selected few” I am in the process of inventing a piece of equipment which I hope will soon be standard issue to those NZ rep players who choose to be precious.


This machine will have blinkers on the side so there will be no distraction from next door terrains. There will be an ear plug inserter, so when someone nearby starts talking, an arm will appear from the side of the machine and automatically insert ear plugs into your ears. Because you would now not be able to hear your team members give instructions from the other end, there will be a pocket for a set of semaphore flags and code book. I am also working on an optional extra for a deluxe model. I am trying to work in an option to allow you to have a sneaky smoke from an unseen orifice. So far, both test runs have resulted in me setting fire to my G string so I still have more work to do on that. I think ALL “selected” players who choose to be precious should wear some identification so that we know that there are eggshells about and we need to tread carefully. How about a team balaclava!!


Anyway, the whole reason for putting pen to paper was about a rule I discovered whilst playing in then Kapiti Open Doubles last weekend and I have to confess that I cheated during the tournament. Not only did I cheat, I knowingly cheated, and not only did I knowingly cheat, I enjoyed cheating knowingly. It is so bad, I can’t bring myself to mention it, but I have to because I wouldn’t be able to face my conscience ever again. I…….., I………, I………(come on Graeme, be brave), I……… WET MY RAG!!! There, I’ve said it!!. Oh, the relief!!!!

Yes, I wet my rag. Oh my God. I gave myself an advantage over the other 47 teams. It worked too. We went from 27th to 26th place. Now, I understand it is illegal to wet ones rag as it gives one an unfair advantage over the opposition. Excuse me? Isn’t that about as silly as banning sunglasses, hats with a brim, sleeveless shirts, crutchless underwear. Wouldn’t they all give you some advantage over someone who was wearing no hat, overalls and woollen long johns and it’s 30 degrees.


I actually used my rag to put around my neck to cool off. Having suffered in the last 12 years from Legionnaires Disease, a heart attack and a mild stroke (and I am not yet 50) I get tired easily and feel the heat and now some tosser is going to tell me I cannot wet my rag to cool off. Apparently the rule actually relates to wetting your boule, but I cannot see how that can give you an advantage. What scientific studies have been done to ascertain this and wouldn’t the boule blow dry itself as it sailed through the air on its way to a perfect carreau so any advantage would soon disappear?. I understand one player in last years Trans Tasman had his wet rag taken of him. I mean, really, have you ever heard of anything so stupid. Now, what would happen if it is raining and all the rags get wet. Does everyone then get disqualified or would it only be illegal to have a “dry” rag. I think PNZ need to call a special meeting to discuss this as I am sure it has not been considered as a possibility. Bowlers have a product called Grippo which they can use on their hands to give them better control of the bowl. So, why do we need to be so “precious”
Can I suggest PNZ form a “We don’t want to be tossers” sub committee so when some stupid rule is invented or adopted from overseas, the committee can look at it logically before making it public. Maybe this committee should be made up of people not on the national executive so a practical and intelligent decision can be made. I know nothing is going to change, and I will keep whinging but then, that’s what great about living in a country like ours. Whingers, Tossers and Precious People can all live in harmony together. Can’t we? Oh, yes and finally, to the couple who were seen SMILING on the piste on Sunday. You were being watched!!!

Graeme Burnard, Masterton.



posted by Tom van Bodegraven @ 4:04 PM


At 10:25 AM, Tom van Bodegraven said...

Well, Graeme has written quite a long piece, but I too have come across this wet or damp cloth/rag rule before. It would be good if one of our NZ arbiters could give an opinion on this. __Is it true that "one player in last years Trans Tasman (2005) had his wet rag taken of him" surely NOT. I hope this rag rule is all a misunderstanding, a "phantom rule" brought about through Chinese whispers.

At 11:23 AM, Anonymous said...

I think this is a chinese whispers affair... Article 16: ...It is forbidden to moisten the boules or the jack. So I suspect this could be where the "wet rag" rule has originated from. However I know of a few, shall we say "national reps" who love to lick their fingers before playing their boule. Surely this action is just as akin to using a "wet rag" as they are in effect "moistening" the boule through their actions. Are certain players from north of the Bombays now going to be told off for doing this?__-Margret

At 2:23 PM, Tom van Bodegraven said...

Thanks for that Margret._Article 16: ...It is forbidden to moisten the boules or the jack. In the light of Margrets contribution It is now conceivable that a "wet rag" was indeed taken from a player during the Trans Tasman match of 2005. Wet or damp rag comes in contact with boule thus contravening Article16 - so simple. Am I now going mad! Is it because we are a "new" Petanque country that we seem to have so much trouble (after some 15 years) with a set of simple rules. Are we here in NZ of a lesser intellect, or is this sort of nonsense going on all over? The no smoking rule is the best rule ever. It is not right to judge this smoking restriction during tournaments as wrong or stupid because of one awkward "wet grass" incident.

At 7:54 PM, Adrian Buehler said... (Adrian is from Tokyo - Japan)

Interesting discussion going on, please let me join in with a few comments. "Article 16: ...It is forbidden to moisten the boules or the jack. " is considered a problematic rule in my neck of the woods, too. In its wording, I think the rule is clear: don't moisten the boules or jack. And that implies that a player can not touch the boules with a wet rag... can not lick his fingers before gripping the boule... In theory so far so good, but in tournament reality this rule is hard to apply strictly by the word. People sweat, some do more and some do less. The sweaty ones always have that natural advantage of applying just that right amount of moist to the boule to create that perfect friction. But if a player tries to accomplish that effect with a wet rag, then I think he/she is in conflict with Article 16. And on the humorous side, this may be a reason why this game is dominated by many slightly overweight and sweating players (ducking for cover ;). The real dilemma I have with Article 16 is when playing in wet weather conditions. If the tournament committee decides on playing on there are many instances where players in mid-game start washing the boules by intentionally throwing them into a puddle of rain water, or even worse, bring a bucket filled with water to the terrain. In my opinion, Article 16 also prevents a player from doing this. The Player's hands and boules and rag most likely are wet by now, but it should not be allowed to wet them further by bathing boules and hands in water. Maybe that's just my expirience, but I feel that it is easier to play with fully wet hands than just partly wet ones. I'd be interested to hear your opinion.

At 10:21 PM, Tom van Bodegraven said...

Great to get some input from Japan. From my observations it seems some players prefer their hands to be completely dry. Rubbing the open playing hand on the hip or in the fine dust are common. Others breath into their playing hand just before transferring the boule into it. I firmly believe that neither (wet or dry) is a plus or minus - it is simply preference. I agree with the essence of what Graeme Burnard wrote. If a rule makes absolutely no sense and can not be justified through common sense or science, it should be removed. The people who have made contributions to this discussion have brought up many examples of the absurdity of Art. 16. I do not know how and when this Article 16 came about, but I feel the people responsible should be charged with bringing the game into disrepute. Maybe a submission should be tabled at the forthcoming PNZ AGM for the removal of Art. 16 from our NZ playing rules. This little country of ours has an international reputation for thinking outside the square and making things happen. In the meantime it is best not to mention this rule to prospective players or members - it will put them off for sure - it is so embarrassing!.

At 1:11 PM, Andy Gilbert said...

Received from Andy Gilbert (Nation/International Petanque Arbiter ) and reproduced here with his permission. Many thanks Andy._Hi Tom._Sorry Tom, the rule is quite clear. A player is NOT permitted to use a moistened rag to clean his/her boules. There is a rationale behind it. Using cricket as an example you will be aware that cricketers apply moisture or polish to one side of the ball between deliveries. The reason for this is to create an imbalance, aerodynamically, between the 2 halves of the ball which allows the bowler to create unusual characteristics to the delivery. If a Petanque boule is moistened IT IS BELIEVED that the top players can also impart unusual characteristics in their delivery which gives them an unfair advantage over lesser players and is also outside the spirit of the game. Now I hear a number of players who will cry 'what about when it rains etc.' My reply (and the FIPJP view he situation in the same manner) is that when it is raining both teams have wet rags and there is no element of unfair advantage or cheating. Is it possible to gain an unfair advantage with a wet rag? I offer the following for your thoughts. As you mentioned there was a recent incident at the Trans Tasman. Unfortunately I was the official at that infamous game. Acting on direct instructions from the international arbiter, Andre Deramond, to enforce the 'wet rag rule' throughout the tourney I called the Tahiti team captain for using a wet rag and asked her to take it away from the terrain. With ill grace she tossed it to the side. The other team members also made a hasty effort to change rags before I inspected them. I assume they were all using moistened rags Two or three ends later I noticed each of the Tahiti team sitting in one spot, adjacent to a hoarding, prior to playing a shot. Between ends I went to the spot and discovered that a member of the Tahiti supporters or management team had discreetly placed a moistened rag behind the hoarding and was continuing to moisten it at regular intervals. Each member of the Tahiti team was continuing to moisten their boules with this concealed wet rag. So it appears that the Tahiti team believed a moistened rag gave them an advantage. Before I could call in the senior arbiter to make a further ruling a New Zealand player on the sideline created a further and more serious situation and the senior arbiter stepped in to deal that incident._I'm disappointed that Graeme would go to print about 'rules, bloody rules' without knowing what the rules are. The arbiters in NZ have been trained by one of the worlds leading arbiters, Mike Pegg of the UK. 4 of the NZ arbiters (Barbara, Fiona, Trevor and Myself) traveled to Australia at their own expense to get their training from the best trainer in the world. The rules the arbiters enforce come direct from the FIPJP. So if a local player doesn't agree with the interpretation, that's tough! It's a personal opinion but I know of no other games where there are rules in place and players continue to ignore them through ignorance or pigheadedness. Worse still, when a player is advised of the rules the player often reacts adversely with a comment that 'it is only a game'. I agree that it is only a game. But it is a game with rules that make it a level playing field for all players. I sometimes wonder if Kiwi players are ready to accept the need for arbiters yet. We have 3 or 4 very competent arbiters available to us in NZ. I am particularly impressed with Barbara's umpiring consistency on the terrain. In saying that, I feel I could add a further comment on the Kiwi players attitude to Arbiters in general. I'd say that 95% of tourney players in NZ accept the arbiters decisions with good grace. Even if they were not aware of a particular rule or interpretation, they will accept that the arbiter is only doing their job. The other 5% of players are not encouraging new arbiters to take up the job by their attitude to Arbiters. Ignoring the above mentioned incident (Trans Tasman)I have witnessed a number of other occasions when the arbiter's decisions have been argued with. Arguing that goes considerably beyond mere debate. I have seen senior Petanque identities running down the arbiters efforts from the sidelines when the senior individual concerned was quite incorrect in his interpretation and the arbiter was in fact perfectly correct in their ruling. I challenge all kiwi players to look at the rules thoroughly. While you have this refresher, note that there is also a rule that specifically enjoins all players and officials to respect the arbiter /decisions or penalties can be imposed. Finally. I guess this is a kind tough love item to make the NZ Petanque standards rise. If there are players out there who want to play in PNZ sanctioned tournaments. You have several choices. _1-Learn the rules and play to them._2-Don't learn the rules but be prepared to be called by an arbiter. 3 Don't play in tournaments. I really don‚t care what happens or which rules are ignored on a club Sunday. That is down to each individual club/member. BUT When it gets down to competition play. Know the rules, play to the rules.That's a rather long winded reply but I hope it answers the question, Tom. I've cc'd a copy of this to Trevor and Barbara. They may have a comment to Add. -Andy Gilbert

At 10:09 PM, Tom van Bodegraven said...

In fairness I must say that the NZPA arbiter Andy Gilbert is in a difficult position here. It is not up to him to criticise official rules. His job is to make sure people play by the rules. However, I do feel that Andy has not (for me anyway) given a sound reason why the ruling "A player is NOT permitted to use a moistened rag to clean his/her boules." makes any sense. Maybe it is my scientific mind, but I can not see how a wet or damp Petanque boule can take on "unusual characteristics" (over a dry boule) whilst moving though the air for no more than 10 metres and at a speed of only 10 to 20 Kmh. You say: "If a Petanque boule is moistened IT IS BELIEVED that the top players can impart unusual characteristics in their delivery ." This in my view is only a hypothesis which would have to be proven in a test setting. Besides, top players have many technical capabilities. If we did away with the rule, all the potential occasions for conflict would disappear. Licking of fingers, breading moister-laden air into the hand - this happens all the time and impossible to police. Questions of when a rag is damp or wet would no longer be of any concern. This is good for players and arbiters. Just imagine if the same kind of rule was brought into the game of Cricket (no more wetting of ball on one or both sides of the seam) this would be truly absurd. I am sure the status quos will prevail, but is is good that inquiring minds can discuss it here.

At 7:23 PM, Andy said...

Another comment on the issue is to remind the players that the arbitres only apply the rules,in their entirety,as they are laid down by the FIPJP. We don't have views on the individual rules. We apply them across the board with what we hope is consistentcy with any other Petanque tourney in the world._Thanks_Andy Gilbert

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous said...

Re Graeme's comment on the 'precious few. I draw a comparison with highly strung racecourses and showdogs etc who can also be a little demanding and temperamental. In those situations vets are often called in to separate the primadonnas from their balls. It's only a thought,.................. I'm only joking......... Boules, i meant to say boules......... Oh never mind.

At 7:15 PM, Anonymous said...

Just an experience I'd like to relate on this `wetting the rag' rule._I disagree with the rule interpretation (not definitive) given by Andy._During the World Championships 2006 Final, one of the Belgian players grabbed a bottle of water, wet his rag, and rung it out over the terrain, in front of the crowd, opposition, on National TV.. and two arbitres. Who watched him, and took no action._While I disagree with the interpretation given by the NZ Arbitres I will of course always now abide by this interpretation and I have weaned myself off playing with a wet rag._Most of the reasons given for a supposed advantage are ridiculous and unfounded. _I know myself, and I've spoken to many players who play with a wet rag, and the perceived benefit is only the contact between the ball and the hand is `cleaner' if the hand is slightly damp. Remember the rag is damp, not wet. Any moisture applied to the ball will evaporate before it is played anyway._Many players at the Oceania wanted and did use a damp rag where they could. Rotorua is a terrain where it is more comfortable to use a damp rag, because the pumice surface smooths or `sands' the balls and hands over a days play. This makes the ball feel more slippery in the hand when its dry. _The incident at the Worlds final showed me that the player concerned and the officials there, all believed it was within the rules._regards_Michael E

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous said...

I am pleased that my thoughts on the rules have instigated some good discussion and in reply to Andy's comments about me not knowing what the rules are:_You have missed the point Andy. I dont have a problem with rules. I have a problem with STUPID rules, and I don't care if the FIPJP, the CIA, the SPCA or the BNZ make it a rule. If it doesn't make sense then why do we have to adopt it for our own tournamnets and all the clap trap technical stuff that is quoted is not going to convince me that somebody dampening a metal ball that is going to be thrown through the air, is going to give them an unfair advantage.And, you can hardly compare a cricket ball with a petanque ball._Common sense does not seem to prevail._Graeme Burnard

At 8:30 PM, Tom van Bodegraven said...

I also would never argue with a decision by an arbiters, and would always obey any ruling - no question. With regards to this discussion though, one would have to ask, why such great liberties can be taken with interpreting a Petanque rule. These are not subtle nuances of arbiter temperament, these are extreme positions. We should not blame arbiters, arbiters don't make the rules - certainly not unworkable rules. This really is a mater for FIPJP. Whether this discussion here could be the catalyst ..... Oh, my God , I am dreaming :-)

At 9:06 PM, Anonymous said...

I actually think this vagueness or ability to interpret rules quite differently is not that unusual in sport. Rugby certainly has alot of ability to interpret the rules._And I think this is quite a good thing. Because it gives the sports authorities the ability to interpret certain aspects of the rules that may suit local membership._The French Federation bring in local rules for their national championships for example. They use 50cm coloured plastic circles in place of drawing a circle on the terrain. They have a yellow and red card discipline system. None of this is in the FIPJP rules, but applied by the local federation._When I first saw the FIPJP rules, perhaps 7 years ago, they were headed as the rules for the FIPJP World Championships. I found many local players in France believe that's what the FIPJP rules still are for._In Britain they play to the BPA rulebook. In NZ some years ago we also had a PNZ rulebook. It may still be in print._It would be nice if the arbitres sat with a few PNZ administrators and a typical cross section of NZ club players and discussed some of the finer rule points that are able to be interpreted differently. Then we could have a set of New Zealand rules that are by and large identical to the international rules, but some clear and maybe uniquely pragmatic Kiwi interpretations. _This seems to me what Graeme is suggesting - if the rule is stupid then we (or PNZ) do have the right to change it. We're not beholden to FIPJP as to how the game is played in this country._- Michael E

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