(Wrote this a little while back, but then the cricket got amazing…)
I do actually quite like Steve Hansen, but unfortunately he drove off a cliff in his own team bus recently in the Sevu Reece affair as soon as he made those spectacularly wrong comments on the perpetrator-gender balance within domestic violence crimes in New Zealand (note that word: ‘crime’; lest we ever trivialise that cowardly action).
Chris Rattue is correct- sports people and coaches sometimes utter ill-conceived, off the cuff remarks in interviews, but what was said to Jim Kayes on Radio Sport (and later hastily and partly retracted by Hansen), sadly went beyond a slip of the tongue. Because Steve Hansen gave an initial response that sounded prepared. It was, at best, ill-judged nonsense. At absolute best. As one radio punter opined: ‘Get a grip Shag, the All Blacks aren’t a rehabilitation service.’
In fact, the whole saga reinforces how out of touch and self-serving NZR continue to be- at levels that are almost beyond belief. I’m very much beginning to wonder if they actually give two hoots about how they are perceived by us nowadays.
The indisputable that has arisen from this mess is that admitting to beating your partner up and leaving them bruised all over will not preclude a player from likely representing the All Blacks at a World Cup. Yep, the All Blacks, who likely have one of the biggest auras and fabled legacies among all famous sports teams on the planet. Now we can add an at-the-speed-of-light legacy for forgiving violence on innocents. And remember that Reece had a contract with the Irish club Connacht that was promptly shredded, never mind the fact he was ludicrously discharged without conviction. Wow, one up for the wife-beaters.
There’s always misguided apologists around of course, and there were a few that contacted Miles Davis’ show from 5-6pm on that same day to argue that men get beaten up too. Yes, true, but what’s the price of fish, again? To Davis’ credit he did highlight the holes in their argument.
If NZR had even the tiniest modicum of social-conscience or awareness, they would have taken a sensible, appeasing option; suspending Reece’s selection for at least over a year, and then only being dependent on a bond of impeccable conduct, plus mandatory counselling for his rancid behaviour this time round.
Did NZR change channels on the TV remote when there were all those well-known Kiwis telling us in no uncertain terms, ‘It’s Not Ok’ around domestic violence. Apparently it is ok for NZR though when there’s no small matter of a third consecutive Rugby World Cup to win.
A lot of this deplorable domestic violence stuff began, as my family and my old man has often said, in the days of the 6 o’clock swill. Those days were the height of when men were men and women stayed in the kitchen. And then sometimes got shown who was boss by a strong fist after the pub closed. What is concerning is there could be some around who wouldn’t argue against a return to those days.
Whatever the pros and cons are, clearing the moral decks for Reece to potentially bask in an All Blacks World Cup sunlight indirectly provides legitimacy to the perpetrators of domestic violence, and conversely tells victims they don’t really count for much in our society. But hey, Rugby always will win out in the end, no matter what ‘shit’ it has to overcome. And when ‘Bill’ comes back to Wellington for the third time in a row, who will ever remember the hue and cry about young Sevu?
It’s true I’m not privy to the exact details of what happened; it’s also right that people have a second chance- in fact I have been the recipient of that myself in the past. But I think it’s way too soon for Sevu Reece, rugby in this country, victims of domestic violence and the public in general that he should already be an All Black. He should have served a bit more penance first.
And NZR should have made sure of that. They need a change in their policy to ensure the players who are putting their product at risk of disrepute and with it potential sponsors’ dollars- that part will no doubt strike a chord- are made to sit out for a decent length of time and not be ‘rewarded’ with very possibly the privilege of going to a World Cup for their misdemeanours.
What was that time-honoured homily again? ‘Good wife-beaters make good All Blacks?’ Actually, I might have got that one a bit skew-whiff. Apologies to all concerned, and Graham Henry.
-Paul Montague: firstname.lastname@example.org