Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Nonu's moral compass goes haywire

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It was easy to get caught up in Decision 2012.

The drawn-out saga over where Ma'a Nonu will be playing next season gripped the nation. Speculation on where Nonu's head was at in his decision-making went from weekly, to daily, to hourly.

The strangest part of it all was there shouldn't have been a decision to make.

Nonu had a year left to run on his contract with the Blues; one would have thought, therefore, that the dreadlocked one would remain in Auckland. It should have been that simple, but despite signing a contract with the NZRU committing himself to play for the Blues if he stayed in New Zealand next year, Nonu managed to wriggle out of the agreement.

It begs the question: What is the point of multi-year deals if you can simply decide to end them when you get a more appealing offer?

Nonu would have had more difficulty trying to get out of a Vodafone contract than he did an employment agreement with the NZRU.

In allowing Nonu to tear up his contract and redraw another one, the NZRU have not only left the Blues in serious trouble for next year, they've also set a significant precedent that could compromise future negotiations with players.

But one would like to think most players have a more accurate moral GPS than Nonu.

Professionalism has changed the principles of loyalty in sport. We've come to accept players will switch clubs for the sake of their families, furthering career options and we can even kind of accept when they do it for the bucks. But there is still a code about how you go about it.

There was not the same outpouring of disdain that Nonu is experiencing when Tony Woodcock announced he was marching off to the Highlanders next season.

After a decade at the Blues, he had become too comfortable and needed to reinvigorate himself with a new challenge. The fans understood, the media understood and even John Kirwan, understanding bloke that he is, gave the prop some props for making the call.

Decision 2012 is a little harder to digest. In the increasingly commercial world of sport, we - by that I mean the fans, the consumers of sport - need to believe in the ideal of a handshake agreement.

Kirwan came away from a meeting with the midfielder three weeks ago believing he had a verbal commitment from Nonu that he would stay at the Blues. It appears somewhere in between Argentina and home, Nonu decided to renege on that agreement.

In the meantime, Kirwan had made decisions on his squad based on the thinking that he had Nonu's services next season.

Even Nonu has difficulty explaining his decision, offering little more than the standard line about it being the best call for his family (incidentally, I've yet to meet a family whose ideal scenario would be to move from Wellington to Japan to Auckland to Dunedin in the space of 12 months, but each to their own).

Nonu, a veteran of 72 tests, had the chance to play a leading role in the Blues' backline and mentor some of the younger players. His move south can be taken as an indication that he is much happier to play the role of follower than leader.



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- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has over a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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