Steve "Teflon" Tew, the New Zealand Rugby boss, has floated beautifully through the Super Rugby crisis.

He's even positioned himself quite nicely as a sort-of hero-of-the-hour listening to the fans, gee whiz, as rugby tries to save itself from itself.

The man has his qualities, had significant successes, isn't a failure. Not by a long stretch. He will go down as one of the most significant New Zealand sports administrators ever, even if some of us aren't keen on many of his policies. He's a sticker all right, but some things need to stick to him.

The mob running Super Rugby, to use the word running very loosely, have had to concede what most people knew before SANZAAR introduced a shambolic 18 team competition.


It was a ridiculous dud from the outset, one of the many reasons being that the points table was a riddle in a haystack. This creeping expansion was certain to stretch Australia first and then South Africa beyond breaking point, and they are broken all right, with fans disappearing in droves.

SANZAAR is responsible, but who and what is SANZAAR? When it comes to SANZAAR, decisions come floating out the sky. Is there a headquarters? Have you got any idea who Andy Marinos - their chief executive - is, or what he does all day?

This you can be sure of though. When something goes drastically wrong, when something goes belly up like a bunker full of hand grenades, no one is to blame. Pinning responsibility is like trying to see through fog by throwing a brick at it.

Tew's stance on how SANZAAR got into this latest mess over Super Rugby made it sound like South Africa forced the ludicrous expansion upon everyone by demanding a sixth team. Right. We get the picture. It's just about all their fault, and certainly not really ours. Nice line, if you can get away with it.

What should really concern rugby fans is the lack of criticism or effective opposition around what occurred. The Super Rugby expansion nonsense exposed why the New Zealand Rugby dictatorship - which has had its successes it has to be said - can also be so damaging.

Debate, free speech, isn't a nice luxury which gives the media stuff to play with. It's actually critical to gaining a healthy perspective. At the moment, about the best we can hope for from the luminaries is run metres and tackle counts.

Something that we treasure about our democracy is actively discouraged in the national game, with an inference that follow-the-leader is about loyalty and what is good for rugby.

You had to giggle a little as Tew spoke about how the NZR had listened to the fans in the lead up to SANZAAR's decision to cut the number of teams from 18 to 15. Where were the howls of protest and eagerly listening leaders when the game was presented with an absolute turkey in the first place?

That's one of the reasons why I love the way Sonny Bill Williams and his manager Khoder Nasser have challenged the norm in collar-gate, because any sort of dissent from within is good right now, for the sheer sake of it. That's how bad the situation has become.

A healthy rugby scene would have seen people, led by those whose opinions might count in the halls of power, mount proper and intelligent arguments and force NZR to use its inherent veto power to scupper an 18-team format in the first place.

But everyone within New Zealand rugby is too scared to say anything with force, while the few powerful voices of past generations have slipped into the background, cast as anachronisms maybe.

The Super Rugby stuff up is a wonderful reminder, as to why turning an entire sport into fawning minions can be so damaging.


Crazy question: have the America's Cup teams pushed the foil war to a point where the boats may actually start crashing into each other? Could Bermuda turn into the Big Bash?


Bernie Gurr, the new Parramatta chief executive, is promoting a great idea for the NRL. He wants the league players' salaries made public. This would put significant substance into the fan debates and arguments around player recruitment etc.

Revealing player wages is bog standard behaviour in some places. A work colleague who is a mad ice hockey fan showed me a site with extensive payment and salary cap details for the north American league.

Gurr - the former Sydney Roosters boss who has worked in senior business jobs in the States - told interviewer Peter Sterling he didn't see any privacy issue problems over time.

At the moment, arguments around recruitment are based on player ability, which is fair enough. But only to a point, because you may regard a player at $500,000 a year as a complete waste of space, whereas they would be valuable at $100,000 a year under the salary cap.

Take Warriors veteran Manu Vatuvei for instance. As an icon of a battling club often devoid of long term strategies, he is almost certainly being paid far too much as a wing and sucking up money that should be ploughed into high quality centres.

Very good wings can come and go, as the brilliantly run Melbourne Storm have shown. Once their value goes over a certain mark, it's time to move them on and keep putting the money in more productive places. But if Vatuvei had agreed to stay on a relatively cheap deal, you could argue it is money justifiably spent.

Player recruitment and retention is a jigsaw which is impossible to put together properly without having the full picture. Great call Bernie Gurr.