The New Zealand Rugby Union are the biggest pack of arseholes since Woodlands did a mass downtrou after winning the Galbraith Shield last year.
They put the “control” in control freak. If you are a journalist, you’re told which players you can talk to each week (and most rugby journos buy into this bullshit). They micro-manage the details of the game and players to the nth degree to minimise the potential for adverse publicity.
If they can’t manage you, they hang you out to dry (gidday Zac Guildford).
Coaches from Fatboy Hansen down manage coaches, right down to club level. Rep coaches tell premier club coaches what style they want their rep team to play, and club coaches are expected to work to the same style (which must make life shit for John Hart-type coaches in somewhere like Taranaki).
I’ve been in situations where rep coaches show up at club training and say “we’re going to go the same way three times, then swing back and go the other way three times to work our way up the field”.
Gone are the days when a freak like Carlos Spencer or Andrew Mehrtens could change their mind as the ball went into the scrum – now it’s all the call made before the set piece or nothing.
That’s why Benji Marshall failed. He’s a playmaker. Look at the highlights reel from his long career at Wests:
New Zealand rugby doesn’t like playmakers. They like structure.
If you watched Marshall play for the Wests Tigers, you saw his teammates react when he had the ball. If they were in the way, they got out of the way. If they were nowhere near him, they gravitated to him once he started running, looking for the handoff.
He had Wests’ opponents guessing whenever he got the ball. Why the fuck he changed to rugby, and why the fuck he signed with the New Zealand equivalent of an old people’s home is beyond me.
Auckland Rugby Union should have been the most dominant union for the last 30 years. They have all the talent, all the resources, all the opportunities. But they were overtaken by Canterbury and now Waikato.
Watching Auckland play is like watching a slow motion nose pick. Boring, mostly unsuccessful, and disgusting.
I watched a brief series of Marshall’s games for the Blues. When he started to do his playmaker gig, the other players stopped. You could see it running through their thick heads: “Hey! That’s not the Red 67 Otago move!”
In one video, Marshall sees the rush defence and goes lateral. Steven Luatua is deep enough to hit the ball hard. Luatua stops and stares at the little five-eighth breaking the “move” rules. Marshall, with no massive runner running any more, gets minced.
What Benji should have done was play for the Western Force. That would have meant no chance of an All Black jersey. But at least the Force are keen to play footy, and are able to eschew the ridiculous structure that is going to be the death of another Blues’ season.
New Zealand rugby, in its blinkeredness and elitist nature, should never have encouraged Benji across the ditch. He’s not made for rugby, with its structures and strictures.
The Benji experiment should be a wake up call for Auckland, at the very least. Auckland rugby has been successful when free spirits like Waka Nathan, Ron Rangi, Grahame Thorne, Mac Herewini, Kit Fawcett, Carlos Spencer, and others have been given free rein – within the constraints of the ground.
Auckland has not been successful for a very long time. Some will blame the Benji experiment on John Kirwan. But the buck has to stop with the control freak morons at the top, who see marketing opportunities over on field success every time.
How long before we have a Will Carling moment? I suspect never. One day we’ll just wake up and find the rest of the rugby world has passed us by.