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

Chris Rattue: Forget Konrad Hurrell, Shaun Johnson is the problem

Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.
Shaun Johnson. Photo / Getty Images.

It's the million dollar man who is the major problem at the Warriors, not the half million dollar one.

Konrad Hurrell draws a lot of attention for a reserve grader. The morning cereal almost spluttered into the far wall on reading the Herald on Sunday report stating he earns $500,000 a year at the Warriors.

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Whoever paid that amount for a player whose problems were always as amazing as his potential must have been mixing strange happy pills with something a lot stronger than an energy drink.

But while that's a lot of wasted money and salary cap space, Hurrell is not the central problem at the Warriors.

Shaun Johnson is.

Johnson will always put his hand up to accept blame - I'm waiting for him to admit his key role in global warming.

Once again, we had to read that Johnson would learn, after he gifted the Panthers a try with a ridiculous offload behind his own goal line.

The Panthers played great football - Anthony Griffin's team love to create, and aren't scared to offload. All credit to them and they were very worthy winners. But Penrith got a giant helping hand.

Johnson made tries, and goal kicked superbly in Christchurch. He wasn't the only one to make big mistakes - props Ben Matulino and James Gavet came up with crucial ones. But Johnson's errors are pivotal and infectious.

I hate jumping on Johnson, because he seems like a genuine and humble character and can play the game like no other. He is amazing to watch. But he needs to get his act together right now.

If he can't then coach Andrew McFadden needs to make a huge call, and give Tui Lolohea a chance to prove he has the right first grade stuff as the magical man in the halves. That would also let David Fusitu'a go back to fullback, while Johnson would be an excellent bench strike weapon against tiring opponents.

Ultimately, a raft of Johnson errors - often off the boot - cost the Warriors a decent shot at this game. Johnson, reportedly on $1m a year, is well past the point where he should be learning from idiotic mistakes.

The Warriors need a player who can reliably help point them around the park every week and then provide well judged moments of magic. He can do the latter, but the former seems beyond him. Very, very frustrating.

Steve Tew turns tyrant

A message to Steve Tew: you ain't getting my vote yet, but give us your manifesto and who knows?

The New Zealand Rugby boss has copped a justified bashing for his arrogant dismissal of the fans who oppose the way Super Rugby has been turned into a confusing mess with essential rivalries diluted by ventures to far flung places. A lot of us think Super Rugby is a piece of c!@# compared to what it should be.

Yet as fans demanded an end to expansion, Tew turned tyrant and told them to expect more. But he's not without friends in the public, and even the skeptics (hand up here) know it must be very hard to turn down the impressive instant finance available through global broadcasting deals.

The amazing atmosphere in the Dunedin Hot House for Friday night's thrilling clash between the champion Highlanders and resurgent Crusaders was another vote against the way Super Rugby has spread itself too thin.

We saw what we so often pine for. What a stunning game, and we'd love more of that please. It is possible.

As much as this hurts to say though, because I hate the arrogant administrative style of the rugby Kremlin, maybe Tew is playing a long game that will work one day.

Tew is, to my mind, a superb administrator. It's his policies which are the problem, including how he communicates with the public. But we might be about to see a second and more dramatic phase of his administration.

He has clearly signalled that NZR, or is that SANZAAR, is about to take on the northern hemisphere rugby powers, and demand a change to playing schedules in order to create the so-called global season.

This is like a main-street duel in an old western, although given rugby's history of closed-door administration, the public will be expected to listen hard for bullets whistling around while wandering lost in a nearby desert.

I used to believe that if New Zealand rugby had worked its own market better, if it had respected Super Rugby more, if it had believed it could fill New Zealand stadiums, if it wasn't so stuffed by central control, then the game here could have sustained the game here.

But we're beyond that point, the expanded Super Rugby competition is here to stay, and it's no good harping on about the good old days anymore because they are gone for good. In other words, the hope now shifts to the NZR giving our game back in a roundabout way.

And it's worth fighting for that, as Friday night's showpiece and stirring crowd atmosphere in Dunedin showed.

These are Tew's words which he needs to expand upon.

"Long-term if the foundations are laid we may be able to expand the game in a way that's more sensible from a travel, player workload, cost and time zone point of view, but that's going to take some time," he told Stuff, after the Highlanders' victory.

The trouble is, there's a lack of detail and he is still talking like a bureaucrat gobbling a spread sheet rather than a passionate rugby man describing what makes for a great competition.

What exactly are you planning, Steve Tew? You seem to be offering us hope, perhaps involving more localised regular seasons followed by a Champions League. The problem is, you are asking us to believe via a guessing game.

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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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