What a furore we’ve had these weeks over claims from former All Black Lock Andy Haden that the Canterbury Crusaders franchise are operating a racial quota. Anyone would think it was true given the level of offence that has been taken by the general population.
How else can anyone explain the uproar over Haden’s comments? Really, all he did was to state an opinion. And the last time I checked we were living in a democracy. Hitherto, he is entitled to say what he thinks. And, if we are honest most would admit that they believe what Haden has claimed. That there is a quota.
The irony of all of this surely cannot be lost on anyone. That as a nation we are in an uproar over the spectre of racism being cast in our direction, yet there can be no doubt that within New Zealand and also rugby, there is a redneck bigoted element who believes that a team cannot win if they have a high ratio of Polynesian players in their squad.
Surely this is the real issue here. Yes, if there is a racial quota in place at the crusaders as Haden claims, whether it be official or not, that should be dealt with, but of even more importance is the rot that has worked its way to the core of the game that inspires these not so insidious attitudes.
And as columnist Richard Boock pointed out on television last night, we have all heard the comments. And he is absolutely right, too. You know, lines such as there are too many coons in the team. They can’t think under pressure. Never put them in pivotal positions, they haven’t got the brains. The ignorance of such types that come up with such nonsense would be laughable if it were not for the fact that it is highly offensive to not just the people on the receiving end of this drivel but also to any sensible thinking member of society.
One would have thought that there should be a debate on the issue of racism in New
Zealand and if it is indeed there, how we can eradicate this type of despicable attitude from our national psyche, instead of the likes of NZRU Ceo Steve Tew feigning moral outrage when the likes of Haden and Boock come out and make perfectly reasonable points.
Maybe Tew should be more concerned with getting to the bottom of this accusation rather than pretending to be shocked by it. After all, he is at the coalface of the game. Surely he has heard these racist comments from supposed supporters of the game. Or has he and the Rugby Union become so arrogant that they have no notion of the prevailing attitudes within the game?
If so, then it is high time that there was a changing of the guard within the preserve of the white middle class male that is the NZRU. The reality is that until there are more women (not to mention those from other minority groups) on the NZRU board and also women in positions such as Ceo’s of super fourteen franchises, then the attitudes that currently persist with the game will continue to do so. Admittedly, even then the racist element within the game will not disappear completely. But at least it would be a start. Though, do you think that the current mob will ever release their grip on power by letting anyone other than their own into the corridors of power? Not on your Nellie. You only have to look at their response to the appointment of the All Black coaches after the last world cup to see what lengths they will go to protect their own backsides.
With these attitudes towards Polynesian players when these attitudes towards Polynesian players are examined more closely, it soon becomes obvious to any rational, intelligent person that the myths surrounding the Polynesian players and the browning of the game can be debunked.
I mean, has anyone yet bothered to consider that the reason for the Crusaders success has nothing to do with how few Polynesians are in the team and more to do with the culture within the outfit. Not to mention the fact that they have been blessed with a superb coach in Robbie Deans for much of its history. More than likely Deans could have gone out and found fifteen players of Polynesian descent and turned them into a champion team.
After all, handling pressure and thinking under pressure is about believing in what one is trying to achieve. If you are confident in your ability, you will handle the pressure of big match situations thus allowing a player to think more clearly. It has absolutely nothing to do with the colour of a person’s skin. A lot of this comes back to the ability of a coach to help a player put in place goals that help the player see that he can achieve a certain activity in a certain situation.
Then there is the modern lifestyle which it has to be said is not the stuff of Colin Meads carting fence posts up the back hills of the King Country on his shoulder. The players of forty years ago, one suspects, were a mentally harder breed, mainly out of necessity. In the modern professional era it is more a case of going to training for a few hours each day then spending the rest of their time playing golf and playstation.
Not that anyone is suggesting that we go back to the days where players were not allowed to earn from rugby. No one would suggest that the standard of rugby was better back then. How could it be when most players had to work a forty hour week as well. There’s just a suspicion though that some of the old ethos could come in handy. Where top rugby players were forced to think their way through the pressure of everyday jobs. Nowadays, with seventeen year olds going straight from school into professional football, they are losing out on valuable life experience as well as a formal education. That they no longer think under pressure of big match rugby is of no great surprise.
And it is a disease that can invade any member of society, regardless of the colour of their skin.