“Rules are made to broken” so the saying goes and the NZRFU (with tacit Board approval apparently although that is clearly in doubt) have now broken their own self-imposed ‘Henry clause’ (remember that one?) again by rubber stamping Sonny Bill Williams’ return for the upcoming USA and European Rugby end-of-year tour.
“A good thing” and “makes complete sense ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup” trumpeted all of the mainstream media as they seek to remain within the tightly controlled tent that is the slickly run NZRFU propaganda machine.
What a load of bollocks.
Don’t get us wrong here at Sportsfreak – we love SBW and think he’s a wonderful sportsperson whether it be Rugby League, Boxing or Union, but unfortunately his constant act of being the Tail that’s wagging the NZRFU Dog needs to be treated for what it is – a rather self-absorbed double-play for Gold in London next year and in 2016 in Rio in an effort to raise brand SBW. This will allow him (in the impending twilight of his career) to tap into the rich USA sports endorsement market and set himself up for a nest egg to close out his sporting career along with the odd Celebrity Boxing match.
But that’s not our main problem with this. It’s the damage that all this bending and breaking of the rules is doing to New Zealand Rugby that means that the days where the All Blacks are required to build depth by dipping into the endless well of talent that reside in this country’s main domestic competition (the ITM Cup) are clearly numbered. For example, an injury to Ben or Owen Franks will no doubt mean a “no worries let’s give Carl Hayman a call in Toulon” approach is taken as the RWC looms closer.
The message this is sending to the players that are on the cusp of a black jersey and taking a large hit in the back pocket by choosing to stay in New Zealand to realise their dream (think of Francis Saili or the ever improving Shaun Treeby in SBW’s case) is one of ‘don’t call us we’re not going to call you’. This is ironic after Coach Hansen spat tacks at a number of players ‘for leaving New Zealand too early’ for the big and easy money earlier in the year (remember who did Coach Wales at the 2003 RWC)? when the rule that’s been broken is the only thing that is actually keeping them here? Note that nowadays it’s not only Super Rugby and ITM Cup level players leaving our shores for big money, a club rugby standard front rower can now command a $50K salary plying their trade in Europe or Japan such is the lack of world-wide depth in that position. Make no mistake crisis time is approaching our game at Grassroots level.
Of course the other question that needs to be asked is ‘what on field role will SBW actually play’? Our view is probably very little. Ryan Crotty’s stunning debut at Eden Park last weekend leaves no doubt around our depth in that position and that barring a catastrophe similar to the first-five epidemic that struck New Zealand in 2011, SBW’s role will be part promotional and part bench at best with limited to no involvement when the knockout games come calling (remember the potentially crucial sin bin in the 2011 Semi vs Australia)?
So enough is enough guys – how about some real common-sense on this issue?