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

Chris Rattue: Steve Tew incapable of lifting rugby out of gutter

Rugby's image is in the gutter, and Steve Tew proved hopelessly incapable of lifting it out as he was interviewed-harangued by TV3's Paul Henry.

Henry was at his cutting best, a one-man pack of howling dogs with a bone over the Losi Filipo case. He didn't want much out of Tew, whose role was to sit there via a video link and absorb the outrage.

"Will you tell me now, that I won't have to have a conversation like this with you again," Henry snarled, in one of the most memorable lines delivered by an interviewer on New Zealand television.

It must be many years since anyone spoke to the dictatorial head of New Zealand Rugby like that.

As I've opined before, time should be called on Tew's archaic rugby leadership. The game needs a massive overhaul.

He didn't stand a chance against Henry, but Tew's rugby monolith hardly deserved one.

There is no defence for the way rugby bosses have protected the vicious thug Filipo at the expense of almost everything else, including their own reputations.

Hopefully the young man's life will be turned around over time. But there is still time to be done.

Rugby has been rocked by recent scandals. The most visible parts of New Zealand's national game are operating in parallel worlds: the winning wondrous All Blacks and everything else.

Apart from the horrible over-branding, the All Blacks are a joy to watch, led by the strangely charismatic Steve Hansen. They have lifted the game to new heights aided by the new lows being set by Australia and South Africa. Hansen might sound like a voice from the past, but he is enlightened and approachable especially compared to those who employ him.

Elsewhere, rugby has a giant hole in the soul. The major competitions are confusing, boring and generally poorly attended and followed. The administration is conceited and remote. The Filipo and Chiefs strippergate cases have exposed a heartless attitude towards those who are victims of player misbehaviour and or violence. Rugby players always get off. Some of the branch office minions act like the fawning gatekeepers of a sacred society.

Listen: Steve Tew talks to Crowd Goes Wild breakfast:

Rugby's sense of entitlement and the favours bestowed on the country's dominant game have infuriated a lot of people for many years. Somehow, rightly or wrongly, the Filipo case seems to be an icon of rugby privilege and arrogance. There are finer details worthy of debate, but the overall situation is pretty damn clear.

The teenage Filipo's assault on four people was absolute sickening. What followed was just as sickening: a discharge without conviction and Wellington rugby bringing him into the playing fold as if nothing had happened.

One quote in all of this stands out to me. A Filipo victim, the 22-year-old Hayden Williams, says he confronted the player after seeing him in the street shortly after the court case.

"Losi was laughing at me and kept saying he'd been through court. I felt like he was laughing that he'd been through court and got off," said the incredulous Williams.

That's how a lot of us feel. We are being laughed at, mocked. The court system itself is a charade.

The right results in the Filipo case are gradually being achieved, including the
termination of his Wellington contract. But this has only occurred through a magnificent public outcry. Henry even had to dis Tew for not fronting his show before he did appear only to be dissed again. Tew then made an on-the-spot decision to contact the Filipo victims himself, but only under pressure from Henry. There has been an unbelievable lack of obvious care for the victims.

Phrases from the rugby hierarchy such as "don't condone his actions" and "extremely disappointed" sound like insincere jargon. Actions speak louder than words.

I've been a court reporter and courts can be soul and judgement destroying places. (One of my predecessors threw her notes in the air exclaiming she couldn't face the daily task recording man's inhumanity to man anymore). Judges do face tough decisions, but this wasn't one of them. The severity of Filipo's assault demanded a conviction, no matter the effect on his career or life. We all know that.

Listen: Steve Tew talks to Larry Williams on Newstalk ZB:

In saying that, Judge Bruce Davidson deserves to have his work assessed over all of his cases, not just one. I don't know his record. But I do know Tew's and his middle class white guy administration has lost touch with the people.

Tew may be unfairly branded over the Filipo case, as he was in the dark until this week.

But there should have been automatic reporting protocols in place. He should have known. He also lacked the initial willingness to front publicly, to express outrage, and show any desperate compassion towards the victims who have suffered horrible consequences. Tew talked about "processes", like he was acquiring a business.

Tew has had a long run in charge and many successes, but rugby needs a new direction, a new heart. He needs to go. But what's the bet we will be having this conversation again.


Staggering news (number one)
Serena Williams is coming to the ASB Auckland tennis classic. Well done to the organisers. What an amazing coup. Can't wait. She's just about our biggest sports get, although nothing is likely to beat Tiger Woods playing in the New Zealand Open during his prime.

Staggering news (number two)
Sam Allardyce has lost his job as England football manager after one game, following comments he made in a sting operation by a newspaper. Why on earth, having attained the job of his dreams, would he touch anything involving silly side deals that contravene the game's rules? It's hard to think of anything in sport which has made less sense unless top level football is so rotten that the people involved regard such meetings as the norm.


It's time to unleash Damian McKenzie on world rugby. The All Blacks are already well ahead of the pack, but the little man is so good he could be a game changer. Hopefully, Steve Hansen will include him on the bench for Sunday morning's test against Argentina. It will be interesting to see how they use the brilliant playmaker.

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