Tony Veitch: Why did Cruden saga feel uneasy?

By Tony Veitch

Aaron Cruden. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Aaron Cruden. Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz

Anyone else confused by the Aaron Cruden deal with French rugby club Montpellier?

This is how it usually works: player deal announced, player fronts media, talks up his wonderous times with the All Blacks and waxes lyrical about a new life and adventures in the richest rugby universe of them all, France.

Instead the Cruden deal left more questions than answers. There was the low rent iPhone camera recording which had more than a subtle dig at the media which apparently got the facts wrong around the inner workings of the deal.

So, I ask again: why did this whole affair have an unnecessary, uneasy feel about it?
It's good news after all. No scandal here, just an All Black plying his trade on the open market.

Yet, no one from New Zealand Rugby or All Black coaching panel were talking. There are all sorts of conspiracy theories doing the rounds.

But maybe this can be traced back to a Chiefs organisation that may feel it is now rugby target No 1 for the mainstream media, post Stripper Gate and the latest incident involving junior Chiefs and parking attendants.

I hope the Chiefs' management are big enough not to take relations between them, the media and the fans, into some sort of seige mode where every message is carefully controlled from within headquarters.

Cruden should be applauded for signing the deal of a lifetime. There's no doubt that he didn't want to be the "bench guy" behind a burgeoning Beauden Barrett.

So where was the media conference, where were the All Black coaches thanking Cruden for his significant services to All Black rugby?

From the moment this story broke, something just seemed off, which is disappointing for a guy like Cruden who is as grounded and likeable as they come.

T20 has become THE game:

This is going to offend plenty of you, but when it comes to cricket, there is no debate what the big dance is anymore.

T20 is not just a revelation, it's now an uncontrollable monster.

A few months back Heath Mills of the Players Association put out a very frank and open warning: test cricket was bleeding cash and T20 was the cash cow propping it up.

The usual responses came back: "T20 is meaningless", say those professing to never watch this most undignified form of the game.

Then along came Big Bash Six.

To steal a tennis term, this was game, set and match: T20 defeating the test game and the ODIs in straight sets in under three hours without raising a sweat.

The numbers out of Australia are mind blowing. Average crowds are now 30,000, females make up 42% of the fans, and of those 20% have never attended a sporting event before.

T20 is no longer a cricketing contest, it's a pure entertainment package.

It was frightening for "we'' traditionalists who pine for the test game to flick between the Boxing Day test and a cavernous MCG, devoid of colour and energy and theatre, and switch to the BBL with the crowds going nuts.

Before you say, "that's just the small minded, short attention spans of the Aussies'', the two T20 internationals between the Black Caps and Bangladesh painted a similar picture.

Sure, they were played at a boutique ground, but the crowds were far superior to the tests and ODIs. If you were to ask any stadium administrator what form of cricket they would take first, the answer would be T20.

At a time when filling stadiums is almost becoming the impossible dream, we can't ignore what works.

You may not like T20. You may not like the manipulated boundaries, the miked-up players, the pyrotechnics. But there are a truck load of non-sporting types who do.
If I was a sporting administrator, I would be heading to Oz to unlock the treasure trove that is the BBL.

Key questions:

* Is Warriors' assistant coach Andrew McFadden right to say the Nines has become an unwanted distraction to clubs getting ready for the big dance in March?

* Sevens organisers are promising 15,000 fans a day for the Wellington event. Can we call that a success?

* Can the media stop saying that every top ranked player that loses in week one of the Australian Open, has "bombed" out? That tagline was everywhere after Novak Djokovic lost in five sets to Dennis Istomin. If you actually watched that match, Djokovic played pretty well. The problem was his opponent played the match of his life.

* I was stoked to get so much positive feedback on my column last week balancing the criticism directed at ASB Classic tournament director Karl Budge, after a number of top seeds lost early. Note, Djokovic out round two. Was he a bad signing?

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