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

Chris Rattue: Code-hopping coaches no quick fix

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Sir Graham Henry has gotten involved with the Warriors. Photo / Getty
Sir Graham Henry has gotten involved with the Warriors. Photo / Getty

1) Let's start with Wayne Smith and John Kirwan talking to the All Whites.

I'm all for successful rugby coaches helping other sports. And if John Kirwan wants to join in, that's fine as well.

BUT in the case of the All Whites - WHAT ABOUT RYAN NELSEN? Seriously folks. Remember him? The World Cup hero of 2010. The world class defender and self-made football star who was revered by English Premier League managers. What has New Zealand Football done to involve Nelsen in anything?

If they have, it's a well kept secret. My experience of Nelsen is that he is an utter professional who doesn't suffer anyone he thinks is a fool gladly, or at all. Put it this way: when Nelsen said he would be by the phone, ready to take a call in those magical World Cup days, you could bet your last dollar he would be there and giving his all.

He was absolutely superb to deal with. And put it this way: He was unhappy with something a since-departed Herald columnist wrote a few years ago, and I've found it impossible to get him on the line since.

So maybe he doesn't want to be involved with blooper-ridden New Zealand Football. But has anyone tried? And if not Nelsen, what about his clever World Cup cohort Simon Elliott?

2) Never thought I'd see the day when Graham Henry got involved in league, so how wrong can you be?

Everyone's favourite gun-for-hire is giving Warriors coach Andrew McFadden support for a month. BUT how much can be achieved in such a short space of time? Another former All Black coach John Hart played a huge part in turning the Warriors around, and it took him years. Still, hitching to Henry is a nifty PR ploy or happy coincidence in a time of embarrassment and need. Associating something popular and successful (Henry) with a product (the Warriors) is the oldest advertising trick in the book.

3) All power to Dan Carter and whatever he is achieving in Europe.

If his performances are anything like the headlines, he is doing wonders for the wonderfully named French club Racing 92 who play England's Saracens in Sunday morning's Champions Cup final. BUT, the Crusaders are a decidedly better side without Carter jogging around, as he did last year.

4) It's all very well Hugh McGahan calling for the Sacked Six to remain banned from the Warriors first grade side....

BUT you be the coach dealing with all the pressure and expectation. Yes, Andrew McFadden must establish control at a club which is sick on the meds. But let's be sensible here - losing won't help his authority. And the transgressors have been severely dealt with, being pulled out of test matches. And further still, the players haven't assaulted anyone - they need help and guidance more than anything else.

For my money, McFadden got his selections bang on for the Penrith game this Saturday. Bodene Thompson has been superb - he plays for keeps and offers plenty on attack and defence. And Ben Matulino must be rehabilitated and re-invigorated quickly - he can be among the best props in the game. Those two are vital to the cause and have, correctly, been selected.

But Manu Vatuvei is clearly in a bad head space - I strongly believe the club needs to move on from the Vatuvei era. Konrad Hurrell is one dimensional and a hopeless first grader - he should be released and given the chance to develop in a new environment. Young forwards Sam Lisone and Albert Vete gave other players an opportunity and are paying the almost inevitable price. Lessons learned chaps?

5) In-strife Warrior Bodene Thompson's sister provided an interesting insight into the realities of life as a professional footballer....

BUT she only scratched the surface and there is excellent follow-up reading around. Trisha Cameron's "open letter" on Facebook was refreshingly heartfelt and as she said, it came from a "concerned sister, mother and fan". It was described as rant in some quarters, whereas I thought it was more revealing than 90 per cent of the cliched player interviews which abound.

Her views on fan reaction equalling bullying is open to debate, BUT the line about "the tireless work off field, the extra gym sessions, the dieting, the injuries, the rehab" that players go through was a rare signpost to professional sports truths.

Here are three books which take this much further:

A) Ball Four, by Jim Bouton

Knuckleball pitcher Bouton created this professional sports reality genre. His 1970 American baseball classic, in diary form, is brilliant and can't be topped for insider information and credibility because Bouton bravely shunned anonymity. (There was pill popping going on back then folks.)

B) I Am The Secret Footballer: Lifting the Lid on the Beautiful Game, by The Secret Footballer

The first book by the Guardian columnist who many believe is Dave Kitson, a striker with over 400 appearances for various clubs including a couple of seasons in the English Premier League. Doesn't always paint himself in a very good light, whether he knows it or not. (It includes a particularly interesting spot fixing yarn.)

C) NFL Confidential: True Confessions From the Gutter of Football, by Johnny Anonymous

Released late last year, this American gridiron book is a better read than the Secret Footballer to my mind. The player - sleuths reckon it is a certain David Molk - starts out as a bloke who prefers to be paid as an understudy rather than actually play. A must read for sports fans who don't want to be fooled again. (A couple of anecdotes: Johnny A routinely holds off going to the toilet for long periods in a bizarre effort to meet the weight requirement a coach believes is necessary for his centre position. A coach gets his name wrong.)

- 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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