Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: Pull head out of scrum and say sorry

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NZRU must apologise to Maori players for its past racist selection tendencies. Picture / Rod Emmerson
NZRU must apologise to Maori players for its past racist selection tendencies. Picture / Rod Emmerson

Here goes. On behalf of whoever would like to join this movement, I apologise to the Maori people and the rugby players involved for the disgraceful injustice visited upon them a few moons ago.

The New Zealand Rugby Union may continue to refuse to apologise for the racist selection policies between 1928 and 1960, when they selected three white-only All Black touring teams to protect their precious footy matches by appeasing South Africa's apartheid system.

That doesn't mean the rest of us can't make it clear we would like to do whatever is necessary to try to right a terrible wrong committed by the rugby union, and our society as a whole.

This apology is not a gimmick, or another way of bashing an NZRU administration for which I have little respect.

The apology is heartfelt and sincere, and something I have called on the rugby union to do previously.

The issue has been raised again, through the publication of a new book on the history of Maori rugby.

The book's author, Malcolm Mulholland, may be stunned by the NZRU's ignorance in refusing to apologise, but those of us who have had to deal with this secret society would see its response as par for the course.

A stain remains on the country as a whole after we allowed ourselves to be pushed around by the racist South African policies. This crime against rational thinking and behaviour has never been addressed properly.

Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples has weighed in by labelling the NZRU arrogant for refusing to apologise to former Maori players and their families who were excluded from the tours.

People who should know have told me that the overlooked Maori players had their prospects in other years damaged because the selectors knew they could not travel to South Africa.

The damage, of course, went much further than that because Maori were being treated as second-class citizens.

The effects, overt and subconscious, must have been horrendous.

We as a nation should have stuck up not only for our people, but for what was right. The NZRU's current position is inexplicable.

The NZRU Maori Board chairman Wayne Peters claimed that, in the centenary year of Maori rugby, the union decided it was better to focus on celebrations rather than political issues from the past that will never occur today.

How can anyone truly celebrate the history of Maori rugby if attempts are not made to right such a huge wrong? To celebrate the game without the apology is to demean Maori even further, to treat them as fools.

And what exactly is a political issue? Politicking is the scoring of points in the name of keeping or gaining power, as opposed to genuine policymaking. The Maori rugby debacle is not political.

(Racist South Africa used to blame politics - in other words those dastardly communists - for criticism of, and attacks on, the apartheid system.)

The weird part of the NZRU stance is it is not saying that an apology is not in order, but the time is not right.

It is disappointing (though not surprising, in a sport of megalomaniac administration and sycophantic rank and file) that there are no dissenting voices from within rugby.

Yet surely there are influential people in the game who can pull their head out of the scrum and declare an apology is warranted now.

The NZRU must listen to Dr Sharples, who says an apology would be a small but appropriate gesture.

He is an academic and politician of high regard and long standing, who represents our democratically elected government. His views are not to be brushed off by an arrogant rugby union.


What's hot and what's not in sport

HOT

* The Feelers. The Christchurch band has been dumped in a World Cup advertising song controversy, but they've always struck me as a good and talented bunch of lads and what's wrong with using an overseas song - I'm sure there's plenty of room left for our national obsessiveness leading up to and during the tournament.

* Lyndon Bray. The Sanzar refereeing boss is remarkably open and uncomplicated for a rugby union honcho. He takes action, is accessible to the press, and gives plausible answers in a language everyone can understand. Hope I haven't put the mockers on him.

* South Sydney Rabbitohs. The long time underdogs might finally have an NRL title-challenging team. Get ready for a lot of Russell Crowe stories.

* The Waratahs. How on Earth did that useless mob end up on top of the Super 14 table? Is this a weird dream? Quick, wake us all up and put and end to the nightmare. Credit where it's due, but the Waratahs won't stay there for long.

* David Tua. So he didn't knock out Friday Ahunanya. There is more to boxing than mega punching, although last Wednesday's fight did lack a bit of spark.

* Tiger Woods. If not hot, he's definitely lukewarm and rising. All that ridiculous vitriol about matters that are of little concern to anyone else has died down. The Masters will be absolutely fascinating.

NOT

* More Tiger Wood stories. Boooooooring ...

* Friday Ahunanya's trainer/manager. Luis Tapia was taking the mickey claiming his man beat David Tua. Friday boxed clever, but only in terms of survival rather than pursuing victory.

* The league video referee at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday. Steve Matai knocked the ball on with one hand, and missed forcing it with the other. Only a blind fool - (ie Manly coach Des Hasler) - would claim it was a legitimate try. And if there is something in the league rule book that says Matai did score a try, they should rip up the book and start again.

* Des "Unhinged" Hasler. Talk about blinkered self-interest ... he even gives Manly a bad name, which takes some doing.

* Jonathan Kaplan. The world's No 1 rugby referee might be on a serious slide judging by his appalling effort in Wellington.

* Al Baxter. Has any rugby prop ever tried harder to look scary and failed so dismally?

* Michael Schumacher. The F1 legend is having a very ordinary comeback. Might be time to dust off the old stockcar playbook and start bumping all those cars ahead of him out of the way.

- NZ Herald

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