Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Kiwis, and Warriors, need proper centres

No one would doubt Simon Mannering's physical commitment. Photo / Greg Bowker
No one would doubt Simon Mannering's physical commitment. Photo / Greg Bowker

There's this strange, recurring nightmare that keeps popping up in which New Zealand league teams charge around with blokes named Simon Mannering and Lewis Brown in the centres.

Is this a weird and crazy dream? No, folks, it's reality.

Both the Warriors and Kiwis have developed a bizarre habit of picking these two forwards in the centres.

Stephen Kearney was at it again as the Kiwis capitulated against England in the Four Nations match at Hull, where Benji Marshall's side relinquished their title with a whimper.

No one would doubt Mannering and Brown's physical commitment, as shown when Mannering chased down an English runaway towards the end of the match. But they just don't have the finesse required for first-grade or test centres, or not in relation to what is building around them for both country and club.

New Warriors coach Brian McClennan should abandon this policy. New Zealand needs to develop proper centres. Continually using Mannering and Brown is a tired, fallback position blocking the development of genuine prospects.

As the 28-6 scoreline suggests, England were well worth the victory which won them a place in the Four Nations final against Australia, but they didn't have to play all that well to win by a large margin.

After the hoopla of the Rugby World Cup, and coming at the end of another long NRL season, a Four Nations in Britain sets the pulse declining, but the tournament has had terrific support from the faithful over there.

Hopefully, England will beat Australia in the final. League supporters in the pocket of England where the game has a stranglehold are among the warmest and most enthusiastic you will find in all of sport. English league has struggled for international success in the past three or four decades and those loyal and genuine fans deserve a rare trophy.

Commentary combo needs change

A final plea at the end of the league season: Sky must review the decision to pair Stephen McIvor and Daryl Halligan as the premier commentary team. McIvor, who replaced dumped Aussie Jason Costigan, is a smooth, veteran studio or sideline operator, a consummate professional. But McIvor isn't a lead commentator: his commentary is unconvincing, as if he is trying to mimic the expert callers without the authority to pull it off. He doesn't bring out the best in Halligan, a decent analyst even though he trips over his words with gusto.

Halligan was much better with a bigger personality such as Costigan to bounce off and has lost his mojo alongside McIvor. For all of his hyperbole, which needed to be toned down, Costigan was the better and more natural caller.

I was always sceptical about the new Sky commentary team and remain thoroughly unconvinced.

New Zealand league is on the verge of massive progress, especially in Auckland, but the game needs a quality TV commentary team to match and even enhance what lies ahead. Finding the right combo is difficult because sports commentary is a difficult art and league is not exactly chock-full of candidates on this side of the Tasman. But Sky should keep searching ... and even consider drafting in an Aussie again. The sport's ratings, and thus Sky's own ratings, have much to gain.

Woods aura gone

The Australian Golf Open further indicates the old Tiger Woods is gone and he ain't coming back. For every advance Woods makes in his comeback from controversy, there are inevitable steps backwards.

Having led after two rounds, he slipped badly after three.

This sort of form will not be good enough to win him another major, let alone the four or five he requires and desires to equal or better the Jack Nicklaus record.

Woods was among the most extraordinary of sporting geniuses in his prime, but those levels are attainable for very few, and even then only for a limited time. Woods has not only lost his No 1 game, but also the aura.

Golf is full of rising stars, seasoned professionals and a few classy veterans who no longer fear his name and game. Deep down, Woods himself probably has too many doubts. He can still play amazing shots, but not enough really good ones.

Guildford needs help

All Black Zac Guildford apparently has a serious problem with booze. The latest incident involves what has been alleged was a naked, drunken assault in Rarotonga.

Without diminishing due regard for any victims of his behaviour, Guildford himself could be powerless in this case. I don't have the right to diagnose Guildford, but would suggest the possibility he is that complicated mix of genetics and environmental influences commonly known as an addict.

Like many others with drinking issues, Guildford will need many crashes before he might realise how deep the problem goes. And it is difficult for any 22-year-old to reach significant conclusions around drinking that can change the course of a life.

Guildford could be one of those people who, on having the first drink, finds it impossible to stop. After that, anything is possible, including dreadful antisocial behaviour. This doesn't excuse bad behaviour, but it might help explain why a young man with so much to behave for is unable to do so.

The weekend incident certainly shows that the All Black press conference in September, where Guildford mumbled that he would undertake a self-improvement programme to correct excessive drinking after breaking team guidelines, was a waste of time. That PR exercise revealed the All Blacks had no inkling of how serious Guildford's drinking problems are.

Guildford isn't a bad man, but he may be a sick man who needs to get well and should be treated as such.

Who knows - Rarotonga could be a turning point for the better.

Guildford will have to pay for any crimes, and rightly so, but I wish him and any others in similar situations well on their journeys. Peopleare there to help, especially when you reach the point of knowing you need help.

Peter Roebuck will be missed

Cricket has lost a superb writer with the sudden passing of Peter Roebuck at the age of 55. At the time of writing, there is high speculation over his death in South Africa where he was covering the Australian tour. More will be revealed, but the former English professional penned among the best cricket columns in modern times.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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