Chris Rattue on sport
The latest sport analysis and comment from Herald columnist Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue: People come and people go...



Tiger Woods

The man is on the comeback trail. Fantastic.

Golf and sport isn't the same without Woods and there was finally an atmosphere of normal transmission resuming at Augusta, without the entrails of a scandal being splattered all over his moves.

Despite glimpses of his best form, Woods faces an uphill battle in his quest to overtake Jack Nicklaus as the most successful golfer at the majors. It's doubtful Woods will ever regain his old playing peak, for the simple reason that he set such an extraordinary standard when he had life on a string and was at a physical peak.

The intimidation factor has also been reduced. A crop of skilled and fearless golfers have emerged ready to shoot it out with the maestro.

But an excellent Masters was all the better for having baggage-free Woods on the leader board.

The Woods sex/infidelity scandal was a worldwide adrenaline rush, fuelled by media ratings and celebrity obsession but dressed up as a crusade about morals.

Did Woods really deserve such a battering? Was it really any of our business? Did his Kiwi caddy Steve Williams deserve to get the sack, as one famous American sportswriter suggested? Was Williams also somehow guilty of something, as people seemed to imply? Is there any healthy purpose in conducting these feeding frenzies around celebrities?

The most laughable thing about the scandal is this: big business in the form of sponsors abandoned Woods, fearing image damage. What a joke. The world's boardroom ethics make Tiger's bedroom antics look like the work of a pussycat.

Richie McCaw

The rugby colossus is close to a return from injury. Frightening, considering the Crusaders' dominant form without him. I thought the effects of the earthquake, the emotional and travel toll, would nobble their Super title chances.

But the Crusaders look stronger than ever, to the point of being unstoppable. They are a remarkable organisation - the best run sports outfit in this country ... ever. They could win the World Cup on their own.


Stephen McIvor

A subjective business and McIvor isn't my cup of tea as our number one league commentator. When he mimicked the Aussie league commentators by prattling on about "our great game" during the Warriors-Roosters match on Saturday, enough was enough.

Commentary quality is vital to sports-watching. McIvor has long been the chirpy studio guy devoid of original thought about league. That was his place.

The hyperbolic Aussie Jason Costigan and his world of mudcrabs, custodians and halftime oranges may have gone down like a concrete Steeden (that's a Costigan football) with many viewers but at least he had a style of his own. Sky didn't exactly search far and wide for a replacement after dumping Costigan. They didn't go far past their own lunchroom. Even Daryl Halligan, an excellent analyst for my money although with an unusual bovver boy style, sounds flat in the new commentary regime. It would be interesting to know what the consensus is about McIvor.

Ian Foster

How the heck has he survived so long at the Chiefs? Possible answer - Foster is in the in crowd at the New Zealand Rugby Union.

The Chiefs' claims over the years that they are building a dynasty is a joke. Even the din has gone out of the alleged dynasty - Waikato Stadium is a dead zone. The only table the Chiefs ever top is the one for excuse-making - they've had an injury crisis going on since about 1998.

I know, I know - these are the ravings of an uncaring Aucklander. But if the locals are so happy, why all the empty seats at Waikato Stadium, the best rugby ground in the country. Staggering too, the lack of dissension out of Waikato or Bay of Plenty. That's New Zealand rugby for you though - parochialism and forthrightness is pulped by the almighty machine. Almost everything is decided behind closed doors, no one speaks out of turn and the public cops it. Yawn.

League waterboys

I'm not surprised "assistant coach" Ruben Wiki has got into trouble for making contact with a player during the Warriors-Roosters match at Mt Smart Stadium. Something like this was always likely because those add-ons in fluoro shirts are far too involved in NRL games. They are not waterboys at all. They are out there, taking an active part, telling players where to line up etc. They even get in the way sometimes. It's an eyesore and adds to the impression that players are just robots. I hate it. League isn't 13 versus 13 anymore. It's more like a 15 versus 15, or 14 versus 15, or 13 versus 14 ...


John Lang

The South Sydney league coach has been handed a blockbusting squad but he's not producing the goods. Lang is among the most likeable characters I have met in sport. He finally shed his bridesmaid image from Cronulla days with a premiership at Penrith.

But the game has passed the veteran by. Souths' capitulation to a battered Wests Tigers team might be the "enough is enough" moment in Lang's career at the Rabbitohs.

Mark Hammett

Some coaches and teams just don't mix. This is not to say that Hammett hasn't got a future in coaching - but he's been a disaster at the Hurricanes.

This could be an interesting test of the New Zealand Rugby Union's acumen. After all, they employ the Super coaches. The Foster experience at the Chiefs suggests the NZRU sacrifices individual franchises for what they see as beneficial overall. If Hammett is in the in crowd, he'll get a reprieve. If this was genuine professional sport though, he'd be sent packing barring a turnaround.

Ivan Cleary

This may seem a bit harsh considering the two latest wins but the Warriors are still unconvincing. Cleary and co deserve applause for climbing away from a disastrous three-loss start. The best effort so far was the tough win over the Sharks.

But Saturday's match against the Roosters was a mess with errors galore from both sides. Cleary has to produce a genuine title-chasing team this year, not almost rans. The Warriors are still off the pace set by teams such as St George Illawarra and Melbourne.


Benji Marshall

The best footballer I've seen with a magic that works time and time again. Could watch him all day and the next day. A combination of Carlos Spencer, the Indian rubber man and Darren Lockyer with a will to win that always gives him one last trick to play - he makes the Wests Tigers compulsory viewing. Marshall is up with the old Manchester United legend Eric Cantona when it comes to unique and effective wizardry.

Sonny Bill Williams

Okay, so this column has banged on about the Bulldogs disgrace and the ridiculous boxing career ... but still, SBW is a joy to watch. And hey, he's broken the staid rugby mould.

He still looks dodgy when not on the front foot - at Twickenham he strayed and threw his old league-style shoulder charges. But SBW is a true phenomenon in the way he plays and in his public appeal. There's an extra spring in the couch when you sit down to watch a game he's in.

Israel Dagg might have his All Black stocks raised by SBW's presence. Dagg looks suited to trailing SBW, in search of those legendary offloads.

- NZ Herald

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