Chris Rattue on sport

The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: After a dull summer, I'm ready for rugby

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Age hasn't diminished enthusiasm for sport, but it has made me choosy. The rugby season kicked off - rather quietly - over the weekend, and not before time because I'm ready and waiting for action to get enthused over, to feel the drama that will evolve in the World Cup year.

Enough of the hiatus and phoney wars.

Summer has become a time to turn off sport on the goggle box, which isn't a bad thing.

The highlight has been the Ashes cricket series, by a long chalk. Magnificent sport. Absolutely magnificent. There hasn't been much else, apart from a few thrilling English Premier League soccer games and Australian Open tennis upsets.

Middle-aged, and with thousands of sport-watching hours on the clock, there is no longer time to waste on one-day cricket, although all plaudits to Pakistan who are doing exceedingly well on their tour of our country.

Denied home games, clouded by a betting scandal and without a few leading players, they whipped us in the test series and then bounced back in the one-day series on Saturday.

This tour reinforces that we are an inferior cricket nation with soft and over-rated characters in the national side.

Ross Taylor is the heir-apparent to Daniel Vettori, whose lengthy job description ran to sacking himself as captain. Taylor has an air of calm. He seems like a nice bloke who wants to exude cool.

His statements are so heavy with composure that they sound overly composed. The Black Caps confidently chew so much gum that I end up chewing through mine.

Taylor would be more convincing if he looked desperate and begged us to hang on during the rough times.

The plan by new coach John Wright to get New Zealand batsmen into English county sides is a fine strategy. Wright is right. Hopefully the players get opportunities.

If, over time, this does not produce world-class top-order batsmen, then cricket in this country is knackered.

I'd certainly need something better than Kim Clijsters versus Li Na in an Australian Open final to miss dinner with friends. A tournament without Serena Williams is like golf without Tiger Woods.

The men's competition (with the final yet to be played at the time of writing) still has major credibility, though.

An old debate about prizemoney has been raging.

For my money, women tennis players should get equal prize money - there is something enticing and unique about the way tennis runs tournaments for both sexes and does so with respect.

Women play fewer sets because, presumably, people in the know have deduced that this produces the highest quality women's tennis.

There have been magnificent days past using the three-set system.

Paying equal prizemoney is a positive statement in a divided, polarised world. Rather than kick the women's game when it is down, tennis should hang on and plan for better times.

But there is a serious problem with women's tennis at the moment - it lacks class and charisma. The few personalities the game does have - the Williams sisters - are erratic and distracted.

The other leading women would have been also rans in the great days of Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Martina Hingis, Monica Seles and the incomparable Steffi Graf.

Characters? Real characters? Well here's one. Billie Jean King, from long ago.

I've heard vague rumours that tennis leaders wonder if they should split the tournaments, leaving the women exposed to commercial truths.

As for Sonny Bill Williams and Sky Television, there are many things that will get 30 of my dollars before a phantom boxing bout does.

Charging $30 for that low-grade stoush is the most humorous act in this country since John Clarke lived here.

Sonny Bill is pretending he's a contender.

The only decent fighters are hungry fighters and Sonny Bill should get out of the ring before his handlers and ego push him into a contest with a proper boxer and he ends up with the dangerous sort of stars in his eyes.

Sonny Bill will never be hungry and isn't even committed to the sport at which he is outstanding - league.

Rugby has arrived with Super Rugby trial games being played over the weekend, and the season can't come soon enough, even if the Super competition is a wonky business.

The national obsession will be a fascinating soap opera this year, as World Cup mania kicks in. A fear, though, is that we will become a one-trick society.

There are enough good signs to suggest the Warriors will challenge for the NRL title and play some of the best football in the competition. They need to do both, or be swamped by union this year.

Some of us used to bemoan the early starts for rugby and league. Not any more.

Union and league might encroach on cricket, but cricket doesn't deserve any better.

The cricket World Cup is as pointless as world tournaments get, a tired and contrived form of a game played in a lottery format.

Summer is not over, but let the real games begin.

- NZ Herald

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