Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Move north would lift Carter and Blues

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Dan Carter needs a new challenge and we've got the perfect job for him here in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images
Dan Carter needs a new challenge and we've got the perfect job for him here in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images

Dan Carter needs a new challenge and we've got the perfect job for him here in Auckland.

Carter should have moved north to spearhead a new era at the Blues. He was close to coming, apparently, before his black and red heart intervened.

Carter looks vaguely bored at the Crusaders. He's been there, done that. He lacks the energy that Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett bring to the Chiefs and Hurricanes.

Carter's inconsistency is part of the problem for the Crusaders, who under Todd Blackadder seem to think an impressive team sheet will do the job.

Their team sheet is so impressive, and their loose forwards Kieran Read and Richie McCaw so tough and committed, that this almost works. But devoid of Read and discernible attacking tactics, they thoroughly deserved to lose the Super 15 semifinal against the more adventurous Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Crusaders need a shake-up after four years without a title. Their amazing 2011 season was fired by emotion, and enhanced by the unique dimension that Sonny Bill Williams brought to the attack. But normal service under Blackadder has resumed.

With the team they have, the Crusaders will still win more games than they lose. But by their own amazing standards, they are treading water just like their famous first five-eighths. Players such as Owen Franks and Robbie Fruean have gone backwards. Israel Dagg is not reaching his remarkable potential. All Black reject and cause celebre Andy Ellis was sluggish in Hamilton.

Carter's understudy is Tom Taylor, a classic Canterbury rugby story and ace goalkicker who could develop into something special if given the chance. Young and enthusiastic, he can drive the Crusaders into a new era.

The Blues, meanwhile, need direction and structure, something Carter would offer them in spades. Three years of Carter would not only help lay the platform, but give new coach John Kirwan a proven winner in a central control position. Carter may not be the most dominating of characters, but coming as he does from the Crusaders factory, he would help the mad Auckland mob understand the standards needed to create champion teams. In turn, the cold winds of change would re-energise the best No10 this country has ever produced, and one of the best in rugby history.

If this was true professional sport and Auckland allowed to use its economic advantages, the Blues could swoop for Carter, the way Manchester United are pursuing the Arsenal star Robin van Persie. Stuck as we are with the Kremlin-style boredom of New Zealand rugby, this won't happen. But it is a win-win idea.

* The count goes up and up. Post the 2007 World Cup, we were led to believe that Graham Henry convinced his friends at the New Zealand Rugby Union that he should retain the All Black coaching job by finding about 20 unawarded penalties during the infamous quarter-final loss to France.

Five years on, the latest Henry book reveals he found a ridiculous 40 penalties that should have gone the All Blacks' way. Why stop there, folks - who can crack the 100 mark?

* Further to the 2007 quarter-final ... All Black coach Steve Hansen has covered himself in glory with his even-handed reaction to the Henry book that included the bizarre revelation that Henry wanted to push for an inquiry to uncover whether match-fixing was involved. Referee Wayne Barnes, a lawyer, should look very closely at that claim, which is an outrageous slur on his character.

As anyone who has watched the quarter-final knows, there were a couple of bad decisions against the All Blacks but these things happen in virtually every rugby game. While Luke McAlister deserved to be penalised for taking out a French chaser, it was a marginal call and not worthy of a yellow card. There was a huge forward pass to Freddie Michalak for the controversial try. One crucial French hand in a ruck near their goal-line went unpunished.

But Henry's match-fixing insinuations and claims of 40 unawarded penalties are absolute nonsense, a pathetic smokescreen. The All Blacks were not even camped on attack the way Henry and his cronies like to make out. Winning a territorial battle does not automatically mean winning a game.

The All Blacks actually lacked cohesion and were blatantly disorganised. Ali Williams had a tremendous lineout game but many teammates failed to show up with performances worthy of the situation. We could go on and on about what the All Black coaches and selectors got wrong, but I really can't be bothered any more. They are human, tried their best, but fell short against stirring French resistance. As Hansen admitted, the All Blacks did err and he was grateful that the Henry-led trio were given another chance by the NZRU. Well said, Steve Hansen, who has come across as well balanced and even droll since assuming the top job.

The much publicised Henry comments are book excerpts, so do need to be taken in context. But match fixing is reprehensible and a fraud, and should not be attached in any way to anyone's character unless there is evidence to back it up. I've never heard any suggestion of match fixing in rugby and Henry offers no evidence past his own observations of the match. Rugby has been unfairly damaged and even if all of us know beyond any doubt that Wayne Barnes is as clean as a whistle, mud sticks.

As for the arrogant, condescending Henry, he's confirmed his reputation in my eyes.

* Warriors coach Brian McClennan is on a brave and correct track, promoting players from within the club's system to NRL first grade. It's a policy that could turn the Warriors into the super club they always should have been. But McClennan won't deliver on this promise if he continues with unconventional Hail Mary moves like making Manu Vatuvei the captain, as he did against Manly. The wing is no place for a captain, who needs to be closer to the referee to exert influence, halt the game sometimes, and for points of clarification - as Simon Mannering often does.

Making an error-prone wing the captain is doubly foolhardy. There has also been disquiet over the Warriors' travel schedule, which saw them land in Perth just the night before the game.

The Auckland club has a few advantages in recruitment, but also disadvantages in that the young players miss out on aspects of the Aussie schools of hard knocks. At the moment, the Warriors fold the way schoolboy stars do when they come up against men. Making the erratic, badly placed Vatuvei the captain sent out strange signals.

As for Manly, what a comeback. The way they clung on and then swooped at the end was fantastic, and provided yet more wonderful NRL entertainment even if this was another bitter blow for Warriors fans.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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