Chris Rattue 's Opinion

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

Chris Rattue: Vincent proof we're as flawed as the rest

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Match-fixing scandal should finally bury the absurd notion we’re above such things.

Former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Former New Zealand cricketer Lou Vincent. Photo / Brett Phibbs

It took a ratbag cricketer to get us across the line but we're finally there as a nation, free to see ourselves as level-pegging with the remainder of this planet.

There's a heck of a lot to love about our country - compared to many options, living in New Zealand is a seriously lucky break. But we're real people like the rest of the world, with all the blacks and whites and greys that are involved. And this ain't a bad time to stop telling fairytales about ourselves - the kooky theories of a utopia full of superior citizens can be shown the door once and for all.

We've got racism, bigotry, violence on our streets, violence in our homes. We've got people who pollute the waterways, others who cover our food in pesticides. We don't defend our children against those who make money out of selling bad food.

There are dodgy cops, dodgy politicians, and city officials who can't say no when big money knocks on the planners' door. The country is run by pollsters and lobbyists and PR merchants just like everywhere else in the supposedly free world.

The rich are getting richer, and the poor get blamed for things beyond their control. Trickle down means trickle up. We lock sick people up in jail. Some of our footballers are thugs.

We're a self-obsessed, money-hungry breed who happily disengage from social welfare traditions. We have our share of rip-off merchants. We have some very troubled citizens.

And now, in Lou Vincent, we've got a self-admitted cheat from the ranks of professional sport. It is an appalling business, and the match-fixing Vincent deserves jail time to go with his deserved life ban from cricket.

No doubt the great and the good will cry Kiwis ain't like that - politicians love to promulgate that theory in order to find favour with the masses. But Vincent's twisted ideals at least partly reflect our society. He didn't turn up from deep space - he emerged from out of us. That complicated mix of nature and nurture spits out citizens of all types. So long as you don't buy into the false New Zealand dream, Vincent's sad crimes are not the national shock some pretend them to be.

Let's not forget the good stuff

One immediate consequence of Vincent's crimes has been the life ban taking attention away from a rare overseas series win in the Caribbean. Brendon McCullum is making an excellent job of test captain, and Mike Hesson is doing likewise as a coach who - unlike others we could name - prefers to stay in the background. After a very tough opening 11 months they are probably in credit - given the history of New Zealand cricket - with a team that is still young. They are also doing it with nine players, given the continuing woes with the openers. Here's a wacky idea. Bring back Daniel Vettori and Jesse Ryder ... as openers. Vettori is getting long in the tooth but the all rounder was a very organised batsman. An hour of Ryder in top form would be worth all the other openers together. This pair could do no worse than the ones we've tried, and could be a lot better. Desperate situations call for desperate measures.

Highlanders a collective success

Having doubted them all season, I would love the Highlanders to win the Super 15 title. They are truly a sum performing way above the parts, probably more than any other in rugby for a long time although the Chiefs scored high in that regard in winning two titles.

The southerners are driven by three world-class backs - all homegrown if you accept Malakai Fekitoa was unproven at this level before arriving in Dunedin - surrounded by mainly journeymen. Jamie Joseph, his fellow coaches, Ben Smith and co have shown strength of character and a fair degree of smarts.

Blues' error is Fekitoa's gain

Why didn't the Blues spot rising All Black centre Malakai Fekitoa for the extreme talent he has turned out to be? The strongest explanation/rumour I've heard is this: training ground observations persuaded coach John Kirwan and his fellow coaches that Fekitoa did not have the mental toughness required. Fekitoa felt his reactions to things that went wrong were being misinterpreted. Whatever, it has worked out for the best. If Fekitoa had stayed in Auckland, there are no guarantees he would be the player he is. As for Kirwan, no coach gets all recruitment/retention decisions right and most have a serious blooper or two.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

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.

Read more by Chris Rattue

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