Monday, 26 January 2009

The unsavoury side of rugby

Now I love the All Blacks. But the love is sometimes tested when a small portion of the team continue to let the rest down by oafish and violent behaviour. Over this summer period of taking it easy, there’s been some alcoholic hi-jinx and with that, a few appearances made in the district courts by All Blacks (Adam Thompson and Sione Lauaki take a bow) of the 2008 squad.

I can tolerate some people’s bad behaviour – or are willing to let them have one chance of redemption. But when the same old faces are making those court appearances time and time again, it’s time to get tough. For the record, two people I don’t believe should ever be seen in an All Black jersey again because their off-field behaviour are:

Sione Lauaki – who has let himself down again with his thuggish behaviour, getting into a domestic incident with his girlfriend where he trashed a motel room. This isn’t the first time Lauaki’s been in the dock for general thuggishness. He was also put through the system before in 2006 for seriously assaulting a security officer and I’ve heard rumours about other times too. The guy is an awful rugby player but also sounds like an awful person. If he’s picked in the All Black squad for 2009, my patience and loyalty with the NZRFU will be sorely tested.

Sitiveni Sivivatu – his name has been bandied around more than once for suspected assault charges on women (including his wife). I wish the All Black coaches could look outside the box and find another winger to represent New Zealand. Domestic violence is a serious problem in this country and it depresses me that this guy seems to be the only winger the All Black selectors think can do the job.

Meanwhile, in the Northern Hemisphere the rugby world has been rocked by the admission that Matt Stevens, a South African born English prop, has a problem with cocaine (to what extent he uses has not been revealed, but he was caught in a routine drug test which means he has now had to fess up). The hammer is set to fall on Stevens’ career with a two year suspension most certainly ending his professional rugby playing days. An insightful article written in last weeks’ Guardian questions this punishment when misdemeanours made by other rugby playing acquaintances are hardly given a hand slap:

“Clubs and provinces all over the world have stood by drink-drivers, players found guilty of assault off the field and those banned for dangerous acts of foul play, such as eye-gouging and stamping on heads. Stevens hurt no one but himself, even if he tarnished the image of his club, his adopted country and the sport itself. To dump him would be as negligent as the player himself has been. He has never been in more need of support, but equally there has to be a deterrent element. A ban until the second month of next season, as long as tests showed the player to be clear of the drug over a period of months, should be supplemented by not being considered for England until the 2011 Six Nations. He would still be able to earn his living, but he would not be seen to have got away with it.”

Two questions to leave you with:
Are the public immune to All Black misdemeanours because there are just so many of them?
Is domestic abuse worse than cocaine abuse?

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