By Aiden McLaughlin
Scrolling through the Stuff and New Zealand Herald websites today, I found the following headlines in their rugby sections from the last week:
‘All Black great sent off for nasty elbow blow’
‘All Blacks great Ben Smith hopes Super split with South Africa isn’t final’
‘All Blacks star to make long-awaited injury return’
‘Ex-All Blacks captain Richie McCaw considers legal action over CBD scam’
‘New captain for Blues as All Blacks star out injured’
‘All Black’s party house in suburban Dunedin revealed’
Now, to be clear, this is a sample of the rugby headlines for the week. There are other rugby headlines that mention the All Blacks and there are many others that don’t. But as I was having a look, those two words caught my eyes – a lot. I guess that’s the point, right? The All Blacks sell. Organisations like this know it, New Zealand Rugby know it, the players know it and a certain entity called Silver Lake know it to the tune of a potential $465m stake in New Zealand rugby’s commercial rights.
There’s been a PR battle this week around the Silver Lake deal. On one side, the New Zealand Rugby Players Association have made it known that they have concerns over any potential 15% shareholding held by the private equity group. On the other, New Zealand Rugby have been getting the message out that without this money, they can’t invest in many areas of the game that are crying out for funding.
Former All Black Sir John Kirwan suggested on the radio that the players should trust New Zealand Rugby.
Former All Black captain Sean Fitzpartick said on tv he supports the Silver Lake deal.
Former. All. Blacks. Who better to try and win the PR battle? Well, what about current All Blacks? The New Zealand Rugby Players Association letter that we got to see this week has a few of those in Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles and Aaron Smith (I appreciate that non All Blacks were also involved with the letter).
On Wednesday, we discovered that the six players from the Highlanders had broken team protocols and were therefore not considered for selection for tonight’s game against the Crusaders. One, Josh Ioane, is an All Black. To be blunt, the Highlanders tried to give out as little information as possible on the matter and that’s when it started to blow up. Stuff ran an article on Thursday outlining further details on the incident and on Thursday evening, All Black Ardie Savea had his right of reply on Twitter; former all Black Nehe Milner-Skudder also replied with some thoughts on Ardie’s timeline. Stuff’s Paul Cully has had his right of reply this afternoon.
So, where does this leave us? The words ‘All Blacks’ are used a LOT by media organisations, to generate interest and get people reading. New Zealand Rugby and the New Zealand Rugby Players Association have been using former and current All Blacks to get their points across. Although six Highlanders broke protocols during the week, the focus was on the All Black that was involved, Josh Ioane (I fully acknowledge that the incident took place at his house). All Blacks (primarily Ardie Savea) have had their right of reply on social media, with the irony being that they have given more oxygen to a story that could have been done and dusted Wednesday night. I wonder what Silver Lake make of it all?
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