Dark days for New Zealand fans
My workmate in Perth often makes jokes about my homeland, New Zealand. His favourite is “when you go to New Zealand you wind your clock forward four hours… then back 40 years.”
I chuckle at this with some level of annoyance. I can happily reminisce about the land of the long white cloud, with its slightly backward lifestyle and laid-back attitude.
In many ways New Zealand is very progressive.
The first country to allow woman to vote, it also had a female prime minister in consecutive terms, from two different parties.
In terms of racial matters, the colonisation of the country seemed relatively progressive in relation to how the colonialists treated the indigenous people of other countries they had conquered.
I was proud of the fact that we were a rather liberal country, especially when viewed in relation to our big brother Australia.
However, I am sad to say that this 40-year gap has embarrassed me for the first time. In a short period, with the help of social media and talkback radio, New Zealand has regressed to the dark ages.
The recent racial outburst, in regards to Pat Lam’s Polynesian descent being responsible for the poor performance of the Auckland Blues, can only be described as cowardly, childish and disgusting.
Not all of these comments have been said in malice. Some could have been tongue in cheek.
But the fact that anyone could think, or joke, that his being Polynesian is the reason for their poor form is absurd.
Bear in mind this is the man many thought should have succeeded Graham Henry for the All Blacks coaching job only a few months ago.
This sort of racial vilification has no place in sport.
It conjures thoughts of the dark old days of boxing in America when a black athlete could be glorified and considered the greatest fighter in the world, yet was not allowed to eat in a restaurant with white people.
Perhaps these rednecks have not looked further afield to see how black coaches have succeeded and are revered as great minds of the game.
The perfect example is Mike Tomlin, an African American in his mid 30s.
He has won a Super Bowl and coached in two, been named coach of the year and holds a stellar 68 percent winning percentage. All this in a five-year career.
In four of the last five seasons one of the coaches in the Super Bowl has been African-American, with Tomlin appearing twice.
You would declare this a great career, right?
Well, let us look at how Pat Lam has performed as a coach.
If I remember correctly Pat was given his coaching gig at the end of 2009.
Since this time Auckland rugby, across both the National Provincial Championship and Super Rugby, has a record of 32 wins and 24 losses, with a winning percentage of 57 percent.
Do you know who had a similar winning record and is currently a national hero in two different countries?
While coaching Wales he had a record of 20 wins and 13 losses, equating to a winning percentage of 60 percent.
He lost a Lions series and lost a World Cup while coaching the All Blacks.
Before an Auckland supporter now jumps on here and states that Wales is a minnow in European and world rugby I wish to point something out.
Since 1998 the Auckland Blues have finished in the top four of the Super Rugby ladder three times. Do you know who was coaching one of those teams?
Pat Lam, last year!
Since 1998 – that’s 14 years – the Blues have only finished above mid-table three times.
That means that Pat Lam has coached one third of the seasons which one could possibly be described as successes in the last 14 years.
This illusion that the Blues are supposed to be world beaters and a dominant force in New Zealand rugby harks back to the days when they had the entire All Blacks forward pack and a majority of the backline.
This was after the 1995 World Cup loss to South Africa. It’s been 14 years now – let it go.
Here are their final ladder positions since 1998.
Super 12: 9th, 6th, 11th, 6th, 1st, 5th and 7th (in only two out of seven seasons did they finish in the top half of the competition).
Super 14: 8th, 4th, 6th, 9th and 7th (in two out of five seasons they’ve finished in the top half of the competition).
Super Rugby: 4th.
I somehow do not see the problem being Pat Lam.
Yes, they are performing poorly this year. But is this all his fault?
I was very critical of Mark Hammet for ejecting Nonu and Weepu. However it seems that he has pulled an old medieval trick by hurling their carcasses over the wall to infect someone else’s castle.
Since jettisoning these two the Hurricanes have looked like a respectable side and appear to be playing with more vigour.
In contrast Nonu was busy shopping himself to Japanese clubs during the pre-season, rather than playing. Piri Weepu is pretty large for what is essentially a land mammal.
These are supposed to be your leaders; good luck to anyone.
So perhaps it is not Lam who needs to be blamed.
Perhaps some of the players have post-World Cup hangovers, which cannot be cured by his style of coaching. I dare say no one could fix it.
Lam has been let down by his players; he has been successful before and will continue to be no matter where he goes.
Maybe the Auckland and New Zealand public should realise this before we ship another one of our quality coaches overseas.