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

Chris Rattue: Baby Blues match against French team a $40 rip off

The game wasn't very old when it became apparent that one team was way too good for the other. Photo / Brett Phibbs
The game wasn't very old when it became apparent that one team was way too good for the other. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It's wonderful to hear that members of the Baby Blues used the French game to work on their pick and go, or whatever. Frankly, I don't care. As far as international contests go, it was a dud.

There was a good crowd at North Harbour Stadium on Tuesday night, but the atmosphere was about as electric as a gas barbecue. The game wasn't very old when it became apparent that one team was way too good for the other.

This isn't a sin of course. One of my favourite rugby memories is the Auckland v Lions clash of 1977. The hard drive, which has a few soft patches these days, recalls one incident in particular, involving the replacement Auckland prop Greg Denholm.

He'd been called upon midway through the contest in place of Steve Watt, the meticulous goalkicking frontrower. Auckland were under siege, a Lions forward gave Denholm a bit of a nudge while he lay on the ground, so he climbed up the offending leg and swatted the transgressor. In other words, the game meant something.

The Lions were in sparkling form that day, and won well. They beat a good side, who had put their best foot forward.

But that' s not what happened on Tuesday night. Auckland (old habits die hard - I still like to think of them as Auckland) put out a dud team. Key blokes including the captain and the next best thing were rested. Non-playing All Blacks were off in a camp somewhere. The technical adviser was coaching Sri Lanka (that's not a joke). About 10,000 people turned up, which is very encouraging. But they were watching a hoax.

This used to be the greatest province in world rugby with a reputation to die for. We used to play for keeps here. By and large, ticket prices in New Zealand are pretty good value by world standards. Season ticket deals with the Blues and Warriors are great value. But $40-odd to watch that game on Tuesday night felt like a rip-off.

The all-powerful, World Cup-obsessed NZRU and everyone else concerned should have a decent think about this. When the Lions come in four years time, we want to be represented by a proper team. Otherwise, don't call it Auckland or the Blues.

Ackland departure sad lossThe impending departure of Warriors junior coach John Ackland is a sad day for Auckland league. Ackland, quite rightly, felt insulted by his treatment at the club when they refused his February request for a contract extension. They added injury to the insult by publicly downplaying, even dissing, his tremendous success as the junior coach by suggesting he hadn't produced the right sort of players. He has been used as a scapegoat while new coach Matt Elliott appears obsessed with recruiting overseas.

And yet ... try these for size. The Penrith-bound Elijah Taylor from Northland has done a fine job at lock in recent weeks, outperforming Todd Lowrie who was recruited from the Storm. Players who have come through the club have been to the forefront of the resurgence. The Warriors have just re-signed some young players. And how about the new Manly fullback Peta Hiku, who is making a tremendous fist of covering for Brett Stewart and was one of the Sea Eagles' best at Mt Smart Stadium. Hiku is a former Warriors junior. Why does the club chase Sam Tomkins from England, when they had Hiku on hand? And why would the club make such a public display of s@#$$ per cent^& in its own nest?

Ackland re-established local faith in the Warriors because he has faith in the local talent. Good overseas signings are always welcome and add to the magic of sport: Steve Price and Micheal Luck will always hold a special place and the sky is the limit when Feleti Mateo is on his game. But this is an Auckland club, not an Australian one.

Elliott thinks he knows better, but I doubt that he does. Maybe he saw Ackland as a threat. Maybe he is surrounding himself with yes men. There is irony in the way the club decided to officially confirm Ackland's departure. No doubt, they saw it as PR savvy to do so on the back of three wins and amid news that they have contracted young players. But those circumstances only show that the development philosophy works.

Elliott clearly has total control of the club, and with the responsibility on his shoulders, he has a right to make changes. But for now, it appears that at the point where the Warriors had established an identity that reflected where they are based, a vital bond has been broken. Somewhere down the track, the Warriors will pay heavily for that. And if it turns into an Aussie stronghold, count me out.

- 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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