Barry Soper: New Zealand Rugby Union out of touch

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says rugby has learnt from their mistakes, and yet the mistakes keep happening. Photo / File
New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says rugby has learnt from their mistakes, and yet the mistakes keep happening. Photo / File

After a few days of reflection and lot of reading it's hard not to reach the conclusion that the New Zealand Rugby Union's a bunch of boorish, middle-aged men who're out of touch with the public who support the game with a passion.

They've been caught out again, just weeks after the Chiefs rugby players' disgraceful behaviour with a stripper at their end of season boozy function.

How many times have you heard rugby's godfather Steve Tew say they've learnt from their mistakes, and yet the mistakes keep on repeating themselves. Given all they've claimed to have learnt, they should be exemplars of good behaviour and doing what is right.

The media may come in for a lot of haranguing, it's blamed for most things. But the latest outburst of disgraceful behaviour wouldn't have been known about if it wasn't for the media, and Lose Filipo would be still running around the paddock with the Wellington Lions team.

For a judge to say Filipo's vicious attack on two young couples waiting for a ride home from downtown Wellington in the early hours of the morning had a starting point of 18 months in prison, and then to discharge him without conviction, was almost as disgraceful as the act itself.

For Tew to say young men like Filipo are better off with rugby in their lives, may be right at one level, but totally ignores the fact that one of the young men he knocked unconscious and then stomped on his head will never have that option. He was a promising rugby player but will never be able to play the game again.

And it beggars belief that the sentencing Judge Bruce Davidson said, as justification for discharging Filipo, that a career in professional sport shouldn't be seen as anything less than one in law or medicine. Does that mean lawyers and doctors can offend with impunity? And besides, one would surely expect a sporting career has a more limited shelf life.

On a political level sport and politics not only mix, they're inseparable, John Key's seen to that, particularly when it comes to rugby. The PM said he'd hate to think it's the case that rugby players get special treatment, adding that in his experience judges aren't out of touch.

The facts in the Filipo case speak for themselves but surely it's time for the politicians to grow some balls and put in place a system, like a Tribunal, where the aggrieved, like the four who were bashed in this case, can make an inexpensive case for a review of a judge's decision. There's international precedence.

So far those who are able to challenge this manifestly inadequate sentence, the police and Crown Law, have remained silent.

And as the Rugby Union reflects on how little its learnt, how about some women on the board!

- Newstalk ZB

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