Jeremy Wells

Jeremy Wells on cricket

Jeremy Wells: Whiff of celebrity irresistible to troublemakers

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Situations are magnified at domestic level where a player like Ryder is far more likely to come into contact with munters than if he's in the sheltered New Zealand cricket team environment. Photo / NZPA
Situations are magnified at domestic level where a player like Ryder is far more likely to come into contact with munters than if he's in the sheltered New Zealand cricket team environment. Photo / NZPA

The incident a few weeks back involving Jesse Ryder, a carpet layer and builder outside Aikman's Bar in Christchurch raised a number of questions for me. As a former gay heartthrob and hero of the young with a penchant for a party I have found myself in many unique situations over the years.

There was the time when I was accosted by a van load of marijuana smokers while dining at an upmarket eatery in Masterton. Granted I was complicit by entering the van, but when we ended up at an undisclosed garage somewhere out of town and people started playing with small arms I was left wondering whether I'd made the right decision. Luckily I got out of there unmolested thanks to a Swiss army knife and a healthy dose of cunning, but things could have been dire.

Of course there was the incident on Election night 2008 in Gore when a group I was socialising with were assaulted in a Mobil station in the middle of town at 2.30am.

On that occasion we were saved, somewhat embarrassingly, by one of my associates' mothers who swept into the station and picked us up in her V8 Commodore and whisked us to the relative safety of our motel. Unfortunately we were followed back to the motel, where again I employed a Swiss army knife and the old switcharoo to help us to safety.

Over the course of my 16-year C grade celebrity tenure (1997-) I've seen many late night situations which, unless handled delicately, could have easily turned ugly. The main ingredient was often alcohol. But any kind of fame, be it real or perceived, seems to act as a magnet for members of society keen to make a name for themselves among their peers for one reason or another.

I remember the day Ryder placed himself into exile from our national team. He'd been out having a drink in Napier post-game with Doug Bracewell and a member of the public decided to express his feelings about something regarding the New Zealand cricket team. I'm not sure what was said or who was making the stronger point, but the upshot from the encounter was Jesse (or someone close to him) thought the best way to deal with public pressure was to stop playing international cricket.

Ideally, they thought, he would step out of the spotlight until he was better equipped to cope with the stresses that our representative players are subjected to.

But what his minders and bosses failed to realise is that the damage had already been done. It wasn't the level of cricket which was to blame, it was the situations that famous travelling cricketers face which was the threat.

Moreover, these situations are magnified at domestic level where a player like Ryder (still as well known as he was a year ago playing for New Zealand) is far more likely to come into contact with munters than if he's in the sheltered New Zealand cricket team environment. Would he have been allegedly accosted if he was playing test cricket for New Zealand? Impossible to say. Although we do know he probably wouldn't have come into contact with his two assailants in Christchurch that night. But that's timing - a separate issue entirely.

Luckily it looks like we'll see him playing again in the future. Does anyone else see the irony that a player who backs out of the spotlight to sort out his life ends up unwittingly nearly losing his life and leading more headlines than any of his other off-field incidents combined?

So what's my point? There isn't one really. Well, actually there is. Ryder needs to be batting at No 5 for New Zealand as soon as possible. It's now become a matter of life and death.

- NZ Herald

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