Chris Rattue 's Opinion

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

Chris Rattue: Senor Henry betrays the AB spirit

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Sir Graham Henry. Photo / Getty Images
Sir Graham Henry. Photo / Getty Images

The rise and rise of Sir Graham Henry as an Argentine rugby coach has gone down a path that has ended up a long way from last year's night of overblown All Black glory and national celebration at the Garden of Eden.

All the mind-numbing anthems, the haka nonsense, the hand-on-heart rubbish, the "better people make better All Blacks" rhetoric, the legends, the legacy, blah, blah, blah.

News that the World Cup-winning coach is donning the Argentine tracksuit and may even sit in their coaching box for Saturday's test in Wellington also goes against the central ideas expressed when he was hired by Argentina in May.

A subsequent change to Henry's employment status after being hired by the Super 15 Blues, namely the voiding of his two-year New Zealand Rugby Union contract, has freed him up to become a Puma, lock, stock and barrel.

In the process, he has dumped big time on Steve Hansen, his World Cup lieutenant, although the odds are that the All Blacks' response will - hopefully - have an extra dash of fury.

Henry the "technical adviser" has taken a job that enables him to instantly use what he gained through leading the All Blacks to try to bring them down. Indecent haste is the phrase that springs to mind - and can you imagine the outcry if he had jumped into the Australian or South African camp?

In the context of modern sport - a cynical business of free-running career paths - Henry's defection to the opposition isn't a hanging offence, but it still doesn't come close to matching the All Black spirit he professed to represent.

News reports of the job with Argentina in May said Henry would not coach against the All Blacks on match day, that he was being hired in an advisory or mentoring fashion.

Henry was quoted in Britain's Daily Mail thus: "... There are some boundaries. And I will work within those boundaries. I have a lot of respect for New Zealand rugby and the All Blacks. They are part of me and I will not upset people who I respect."

So what has changed, in his heart, since then?

Argentina are far better than a developing rugby nation - for evidence of that, just ask New Zealand's nemesis, France. No one should buy into the idea that Argentina is an inconsequential rugby outcrop - they can be tough opponents, especially at home.

Henry likes to portray himself as a sort of rugby ambassador, and even "the little guy from New Zealand" as he described himself to the Daily Mail. Elements of this may be true. His love for the game is evident and longstanding, he isn't very tall and comes from New Zealand.

But the Henry many of us have witnessed over the years is a ruthless bloke and he's not averse to following the big money. This doesn't make him unique among leading coaches - Sir Alex Ferguson isn't famous for winning humanitarian awards. But let's just drop the BS and fairytales when evaluating the man or the modern game itself.

The New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive, Steve Tew, says the All Blacks have moved on under Hansen, so are not worried about the potential leaking of intellectual property to opponents. Nonsense.

There isn't any way of completely protecting knowledge in professional sport, which involves transient coaches and players. But a man with a genuine All Black heart to match the one he professed to possess would have happily imposed a restraint-of-trade clause on himself.

Of course Henry has secrets to use and inside knowledge about most of the players in Hansen's squad, and even Hansen himself. Of course this will give the Argies an inside track. And don't try to give us any hogwash about developing international rugby.

None of us should really be under any illusions about what international sport has become - the spirit of a national crusade last year was as much a case of suspended reality and marketing than anything else. Four million potential customers - including a load of tax- and ratepayers - were conveniently branded as four million fans. Sport is big business.

Normal service has resumed. Sir Graham has made a career move in which he can use personal and tactical information accumulated from his long All Black career to help New Zealand's opponents. It's about as simple as that.

Pistorius a bad sport

Double amputee Oscar Pistorius is a bad sport. He demanded we accept his blades in the Olympics, then slammed the blades used by an opponent who beat him in the Paralympics.

Whatever the technicalities, his timing and attitude were appalling. But that's okay. Paralympians aren't there to be patronised. They're not perfect, whatever perfect may mean. The Pistorius story is still inspirational and important. In some ways, his outburst has helped drag the Paralympics further into the real world rather than leaving it as a sideshow.

For that matter, I still find legendary and disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong inspirational. Yes, he's a cheat and deserves to cop a beating. He is disgraced, and will live in infamy, including for refusing to admit to his offences. But his life story has helped many people who are dealing with cancer. Life isn't a black-and-white matter.

Warriors take note

Alleged English premier soccer heavyweights Liverpool have apologised to their supporters for failing to perform in the transfer market. The Warriors should take note, and send a letter of apology to all of their season ticket holders for a disgraceful second half to the season.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- 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.

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