Tony Veitch: Is All Blacks domination bad for rugby?

By Tony Veitch

The All Blacks celebrate a try. Photo / Getty
The All Blacks celebrate a try. Photo / Getty

It has been the sporting debate of the week: is All Blacks domination good for world rugby? I remember when the Bledisloe Cup was edge-of-your-seat stuff. I spent a lot of my life in Australia, so when John Eales broke our hearts in 2000, my phone went nuts.

"You bunch of chokers," my Aussie mates crowed. Now in 2016, not a peep. No texts, no voicemail jibes promising revenge. They have given up.

Back to my question: is All Blacks domination a bad thing? After years of complaining about the rules of rugby, the lack of actual game time and the mind-numbing scrum resets, rugby has never looked better.

I spoke to All Blacks analyst Alistair Rogers this week and wanted to know if I was just being overly-excited, as always, by suggesting the All Blacks of 2016 have taken rugby to a higher level than the World Cup winning side of 2015. His answer: yes.

Rugby may not be perfect for all sorts of reasons - the nagging lack of a global season, tours both hemispheres struggle to get up for, the sad decline of Australian rugby - but I would argue the footy itself has never been better, never been more fun to watch.

That's not just because the All Blacks have a ridiculous winning record, it's because they have a ridiculous ability to make rugby a thing of beauty.

Warriors woes

Allow me to script a Warriors season, not through fiction but fact experienced over the past five years.

Opening act: the Warriors start the season slowly. History says they generally lose game one. The opening five or six rounds are a mix of hope and despair. By this stage, pundits have primed their artillery and taken aim, usually at Shaun Johnson or Manu Vatuvei, or both. The fans have already started voting with their feet as crowds diminish.

Then comes the mid-season Origin revival - hopes rekindled and passion reinjected into a team so often accused of being soft.

But here's the part of the story that gets really interesting and why the Warriors simply don't make the finals. They fall apart.

Check out the table below. From 2012, their win-loss record in the last 10 games is atrocious. Then add in their abysmal away record, as well as the fact other teams are in desperation mode to make the top eight and, for some, an all-important top-four spot.

Over the past five years, the Warriors have won just five matches across the Tasman in the last 10 rounds of a season. Five. That's it.

This club can talk all they want about culture and solidity in the coaching ranks but the reality is they can't win when it counts and that's why this club will continue to own the tag of underachievers.

Honesty in words and sport

Eric Murray and Hamish Bond came to NZME Towers on Wednesday. It was fascinating to watch these two champion blokes win over a sometime-cynical crowd with their honesty and refreshing candour.

It was symbolic of what separates the Olympics from other sporting competitions in the world. Seeing Kiwis, up close and personal, with gold around their necks is special.

While listening to the boys, I managed to get a copy of their book and went straight to the juicy stuff, chapter 14 - the bust up with former coach Dick Tonks - which is a great read. But chapter 15 left me gobsmacked. It reminded me of Graham Henry's book and when he mentioned those infamous words "match fixing" in reference to the 2007 quarter-final loss to France. Back then, I knew that would be a big story. Wednesday was no different.

Here was Murray telling the story of how having a family had broken some unwritten rule around rowing always coming first. This was 2011, for God's sake. Bond was even asked to dump Murray for a more "committed" team-mate. He admits he thought about it.

To their credit, Rowing New Zealand chief Simon Peterson has stood behind his men and their version of events. Eric's wife Jackie still believes the sport is archaic in its thinking.

Compare that with the All Blacks, who say family always comes first. Conrad Smith left camp a day out from a test for the birth of his child. It was a not even a debate for the coaches, even if it was for some talkback callers.

So while we celebrate our Olympic success - our record medal haul and the sacrifices our athletes have made - I hope Murray's story is now a thing of the past. It's just sport, after all.

Questions:

● Do you think there's much chance the Brazilians will get their way and Ryan Lochte will head back to Rio to face court and tell the truth about what really happened?

● Would Fiji gold medal-winning sevens coach Ben Ryan be a good fit as an assistant at the Blues?

● Is anyone else missing the Olympics?

● Did anyone really have an issue with Rory McIlroy's change of heart when it came to not playing golf at the Olympics? Good on him. He got it wrong and owned up.

Warriors last 10 games
2016 season (with 2 games still to play): 3 wins 5 losses (pts for 153 / pts against 183)
2015: 2 wins 8 losses (PF 104 / PA 288)
2014: 5 wins 5 losses (PF 264 / PA 196)
2013: 5 wins 5 losses (PF 211 / PA 212)
2012: 2 wins 8 losses (PF 176 / PA 285)

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