Time for a change

Auckland City Harbour News - - News -

We don’t of­ten get as much plea­sure from New Zealand sport­ing suc­cesses as we did last week­end when the Ki­wis beat the Kan­ga­roos in the world cup rugby league fi­nal.

There is al­ways a spe­cial sat­is­fac­tion in trip­ping up the Aussies be­cause they’re so cocky and such sore losers too – as their coach, Ricky Stu­art, has been demon­strat­ing.

But this win had even more ap­peal be­cause the Kan­ga­roos have half a dozen gen­uine su­per­stars, and there was ev­ery like­li­hood that they would thrash us on Satur­day night.

So to in­flict a 34-20 hid­ing on them was some­thing to savour.

We need to keep it in per­spec­tive though. Rugby league fans may claim that the win au­to­mat­i­cally makes us the world cham­pi­ons un­til the next world cup in 2013. But who’s go­ing to be­lieve we re­ally are the cham­pi­ons if we’re get­ting wal­loped ev­ery time we face the Aussies over the next few years? And, any­way, what does world cham­pion mean when there are only three coun­tries (Eng­land is the third) that take the game se­ri­ously enough to com­pete for the ti­tle?

So let’s not get car­ried away. But also let’s not over­look what we’ve achieved – and how we achieved it. What Nathan Cay­less and his mates man­aged was to top­ple a team of mag­nif­i­cent Aussie foot­ballers. And they did so without the help of five or six of our most tal­ented play­ers.

It was a re­minder that sec­ond­stringers may still be top-class. The line-up of the Ki­wis team was also a re­minder how much we de­pend th­ese days on Maori and Pa­cific Is­land tal­ent for our footie suc­cesses.

It’s good sense to ac­knowl­edge the wise sup­port our coach, Stephen Kear­ney, has had from Wayne Ben­nett who has mas­ter­minded the Bris­bane Bron­cos’ achieve­ments for many years. But those two men de­pended on the magic and the mus­cle of an al­most ex­clu­sively Maori and PI line-up.

And that brings me to a point that Ken La­ban, a most per­cep­tive sports com­men­ta­tor, has been mak­ing for years. He says there’s this great flood of brown tal­ent on our footie fields, but only a trickle at man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion level.

That means, un­for­tu­nately, that Pakeha think­ing too of­ten de­ter­mines the pri­or­i­ties when the guid­ing hand should be­long to Maori and Pa­cific of­fi­cials.

Of course, that’s true through­out Kiwi so­ci­ety. But in sport it’s a par­tic­u­larly dam­ag­ing lim­i­ta­tion. And, as we’ve heard dur­ing re­cent elec­tion cam­paigns, it’s time for a change.

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