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

Chris Rattue: Naholo paying price for World Cup gamble

Waisake Naholo suffered a broken leg in the first game of the Super Rugby season. Photo / Getty
Waisake Naholo suffered a broken leg in the first game of the Super Rugby season. Photo / Getty

Claims that traditional Fijian healing got Waisake Naholo to the World Cup were a load of old boots.

The rising wonder wing got there on a tide of nonsense, and now his career is marooned again thanks to another fracture to the same leg.

The Highlanders' hopes of retaining their Super Rugby title have received a massive blow with Naholo being ruled out for another two months after the latest injury, suffered in the opening 2016 Super Rugby clash against the Blues. To my mind, it means they are no chance to lift the trophy this year.

The barnstorming wing should not have gone to the World Cup. He was a fringe selection at the base camp of a test career - his long term prospects were what mattered.

An out of match-shape test rookie wasn't needed for the campaign. A brilliant alternative in Charles Piutau was waiting in the wings. Naholo should have been allowed to recuperate properly, to give the bone absolute maximum time to heal.

Any risks just weren't worth it.

Okay, this is a layman speaking, but I'd wager there was always a risk that Naholo could suffer more damage to the same area because he was rushed back to soon, even if this is not exactly the same break.

I'm a great believer in the potential and effectiveness of so-called alternative/traditional medicines and the power of positive thinking in aiding recovery for some conditions. But the idea that a bunch of leaves can fix or speed up the fixing of a broken bone is laughable.

People in high places may have said the right things, raised their eyes, and thought there's no harm in going along with Naholo's trip to the mystical side. Maybe it was seen as culturally important, which is something to consider, and Naholo needed supporting.

But Naholo was in no mental condition to play at the World Cup, as we found out. He scored one great try, then bombed. That he has suffered the same type of injury to the same leg so soon leads a layman to believe there is a link. Put it this way: it's a holistic theory that holds up better than the one about speed leaves.

Maybe there is so much guff spilled about the power of the black jersey that fawning over flora was an easy step to make. The bottom line is this: the boring old western medicine time scale for Naholo's return was too tight. He should not have gone to the World Cup.

Significantly, he's not going to Fiji for treatment this time although I've yet to read an explanation as to why he's opted to stay at home. Hopefully, his career has not been irreparably damaged.

Broadcasting war

So Shaun Johnson has been "caught up in a broadcasting war" and the Warriors star can't speak freely to whichever TV network waves a microphone in his face. He's not been "caught up" at all of course. He has chosen to sign for Sky TV, just as others have taken money from warring Aussie networks Fox and Nine.

By world standards, southern hemisphere league (and rugby) players aren't all that well paid. You can't really blame them for grabbing what they can while their bodies hold up to the onslaught.

Quite frankly, who cares if Johnson and co. aren't available to all. Because when is the last time you heard a player interview and didn't think "there goes another five minutes of my life that I can't get back".

It got to the point a long time ago where the mute button is getting a pounding. There may be the odd exception among the current players, but sitting through so many duds to find a gem just isn't an option. And there's plenty of great reading and TV documentaries to enjoy instead.

Some random recommendations...

-An ESPN documentary on the 1985 Chicago Bears, one of the greatest teams in history and full of big personalities. (Towards the end, it includes some cautionary and sad revelations about concussion). It is part of the 30 for 30 series, and one of the best.

-This Is the One: Sir Alex Ferguson: The Uncut Story of a Football Genius is an outstanding read from the highly respected Guardian football writer Daniel Taylor. It's a few years old but worth seeking out, a delightful journey based around press conferences revealing the complexities of a genuine sports genius during the low of one season, and the high of the next. (It gives a decent insight into sports journalism along the way).

-NFL Confidential, written by an anonymous American footballer, is next on my list and is highly recommended by those who have read it. It is apparently full of anecdotes that are an antidote to all of those meaningless quotes from footballers.

- NZ Herald

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