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

Chris Rattue: Rugby forensics a winner with fans


Ground spectators might be turned off by video refereeing, but the biggest audience - in living rooms - is turned on by football forensics, from what I can make out.

This week's Herald story suggesting the Canterbury crowd was annoyed at the TMO breaks during the Crusaders' victory over the Highlanders would have sent a chill through anyone who has watched night football down that way.

You don't buy a coffee to drink at winter footy in places like Christchurch and Dunedin. You buy one to keep the hands warm. Pies don't just come out of warmers - they are the warmers. On a cold night, any delays will get a frosty reception.

My own worst winter experience was at the Addington Showgrounds when it was still a dilapidated league ground. A southerly ripped through that day like Ben Tameifuna charging through a field of daisies. And that was at an afternoon game. The previous week, half of a Queensland rugby team were hospitalised with hypothermia in Christchurch.

On another occasion, I witnessed Warriors players struggling to chow on their post-game tucker because their hands were so cold.

But even in toasty warm places, the TMO bizzo is not much fun for ground spectators, because the fine detail is lost when viewing a big screen from a distance. It's a different story for the massive home audience, where Miss Marple meets the DSIR to sort whether tries have been scored.

It's actually great fun. In contrast to when the video refs began operating, the delays feel integral to the drama. I was initially annoyed but don't find them intrusive at all any more, although a few go on too long.

A good TMO investigation with the people's court - the commentators - in full swing can be better than a lot of the other action. It also provides repeat viewings at many angles of remarkable try-scoring plays and defensive saves, which are way more interesting than yet another hit up or ruck. Indeed, a fair bit of after-match discussion centres on those TMO decisions - they have become integral to the sports, particularly so in league.

Yes, the odd investigation might be trimmed, but then again, the referees have every right to take this slowly, because every Tom, Dick and Harry jumps on the case when they are wrong. There are quite a few occasions where, having seen more takes than Oliver Stone, a new angle suddenly shows the true story, as in one of the Kiwis' disallowed tries against Australia on Friday.

We even get good, repeat looks at some of the naughty bits, tut tut.

Bottom line - despite problems and misfires, the TMO has raised the accuracy of decisions in a way that is unachievable otherwise in league and rugby, and that's a must in professional sport. Rugby and league could work harder at making the experience better at the ground, although costs would be prohibitive in matching the armchair experience. To be blunt, the ground spectators - which is many of us at least now and then - will just have to suck it up.

Lemanis' farewell

The drum-beats say it is time to farewell Andrej Lemanis, the Breakers' basketball coach who is to take charge of the Australian team.

It goes without saying that Lemanis has done a fabulous job, having guided the Breakers to three consecutive titles in the roller-coaster world of the financially challenged ANBL. Lemanis has orchestrated a wee revolution in Auckland, where many people say the best sports night-out these days is at the basketball. I know of young kids who have become basketball fans because of the Breakers - an amazing turn in what used to be a dedicated football-code town.

Well done, Mr Lemanis - you have been a respectful, respected and never-to-be-forgotten contributor to New Zealand sport.

Let Savea play

Here's how I'll play the Julian Savea disaster. I won't comment on what should happen to him long term until after the court case and we find out what actually happened in relation to his domestic assault charge. He hasn't entered a plea yet.

Up until the verdict, Savea should be free to play for the Hurricanes, if he's up to the job. I've got no idea what proper purpose was served by the show trial in Wellington, where Savea fronted up with a vague confession.

This is an old-fashioned view, but the first port of public call should be the courthouse.

- 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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