Richard Loe 's Opinion

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Loe: Weepu club debacle devalues the game

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Piri Weepu. Photo / Getty Images
Piri Weepu. Photo / Getty Images

Piri Weepu's second journey to Wellington to play club rugby for Wainuiomata last weekend is a case of having your cake and eating it too.

Okay, we have read that he is homesick and Auckland's rugby governors have permitted him to make the trip home on compassionate grounds because his kids have been sick.

There are several points to be made here:Piri wouldn't be in this position of having to play club rugby to improve his fitness if he had avoided going to the pie shop every day over Christmas.He is either playing rugby in Auckland or he isn't.

He apparently can get away with playing for Wainuiomata because he has not yet registered with the club he was assigned to when he moved to Auckland - Te Papapa-Mt Wellington.

He isn't registered with them yet because he hasn't even been there.Okay, his kids have been crook - but he isn't seeing his kids when he is running round the field with Wainuiomata.

He could, for argument's sake, see them during the week and do his job in Auckland.

The whole thing sends another signal that club rugby has become the lowest of the low in New Zealand.

Professional rugby is all well and good but club rugby is where people and players are involved for fun. Meeting All Blacks and senior players in club rugby ranks is a real boost.

I remember when Sonny Bill Williams played for Belfast when he came down to the Crusaders.

They were hanging out of trees, standing on chairs and craning their necks to get a look at him.

We have to recognise that the way the game is structured counts against club rugby and even provincial rugby these days.

Sure, you might sign an All Black to a province but the union concerned have to pay a large fee to get him and then you might only see him for one or two games a season.

That's why Sonny Bill drew few takers when he was shopped around recently, looking for a province.

My understanding is that no one wanted him for the above reasons - and that only Counties Manukau showed any interest. So both Williams and Weepu could end up "stateless", without a province to play for (or not play for).

But when someone like Weepu gets a chance to play club rugby, he should grab it with both hands, particularly if it is in a new city.

It's all about the community; the community of rugby and the fastest way to get to know that community is often to play for the local footy team.

Piri's got bigger fish to fry, of course, and he can't be blamed for that.

But, as I say, you feel a bit for the local club that he isn't playing for and you wonder about his sense of community.

He is off contract for the Blues at the end of the season and, if you were the coach of the Blues, would you want him?

He left Wellington because the union and the franchise didn't want him - or didn't want him on his terms. So I'd be worried about where he plays next year if I was him.

However, there's another element here - giving something back.

Greg Somerville, the former Canterbury, Crusaders, Gloucester, Rebels and All Black prop, retired last year but I hear he is now helping out one of the smaller clubs in North Harbour.

He doesn't have to do that - but it's fun and it is also about community and giving something back.

There's a life after rugby and that is lived in a community.

While Piri Weepu is unlikely to live that life in Te Papapa-Mt Wellington, he probably should also figure that the rugby community is a big one, that people know what you're up to through all sorts of modern communications, and there's an old saying - if you're good to people on the way up, they are good to you on the way down.

- Herald on Sunday

Richard Loe

Richard Loe is a former All Black and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Richard Wyllie Loe was a renowned All Black forward prop who plied his trade for the New Zealand national team between 1987 and 1995. Loe was well known by fans and team mates alike as an ‘enforcer’ on the pitch, a player who balanced his abilities with the ball with a tough-tackling prowess and a penchant for physicality. During an outstanding career Richard Loe represented his country of birth in no less than three World Cups, assisting the All Blacks to a famous victory in 1987. Along with fellow team mate and captain Sean Fitzpatrick, Loe formed one of the most formidable forward lines ever to lead the All Blacks. Despite his sometimes overly physical dominance on the pitch, Loe is regarded by former team mates as being an exceptional character and professional. Following retirement from rugby Loe became a sport columnist for the New Zealand Herald, a position he still holds today.

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