Like it or not, winning and losing in sport isn't the most important thing - growing the code is, as difficult as it may be for many to swallow that.

Sure, in the preamble to the start of every season individuals and teams set goals on whether they will make the last 16, eight, four or go all the way to title glory.

Depending on what franchise, coaches, players and fans' expectations are, it's often sacrilegious to pull up shy of the target, never mind not be in the running halfway through the competition.

Frustrated followers who have rationally made allowances over successive seasons for often legitimate excuses - such as injection of young blood, exodus of key players resulting in a rebuilding exercise and hard-luck cases of injuries - understandably lose patience when success remains elusive.


The numbers filing through turnstiles drop dramatically and franchises, administrators and clubs start fidgeting and fretting.

Hey, if there are no expectations, there's bound to be no disappointments so end of story, right?

Yes, that's plausible but it goes totally against the grain of human existence.

It's pointless fighting an innate desire to escape to an imaginary world via curiosity and exploration.

That's why the New Zealand Warriors, Blues, Mitre 10 campaigners Auckland and Hawke's Bay Magpies, Taylor Corporation Hawks, Thirsty Whale Hawke's Bay United, Hastings Boys' High School First XV team, the Central Under-18 women's hockey team and Napier Boys' High School junior basketball team, to name a few, establish mission statements each year.

HBHS rugby, Central U18 women's hockey and NBHS basketballers accomplished their missions on account of believing that anything is possible if you put your mind and soul to it.

It's not a given, of course, but the alternative is scary - a mundane life of mediocrity because it's better to have tried and failed than not know what your potential is.

For that reason those who haven't acquired that state often want to know what made the conquerors tick or what the unsuccessful will do differently to overcome adversity.

But my preoccupation is with why protagonists who espouse character-building structures and offer a platform for life-changing values on the foundation of success suddenly lose their composure when confronted with explaining failures?

The bigger the code the more temperamental coaches and captains are likely to be in dealing with the media - ultimately the fans - when things go awry.

Losing a game is heartbreaking but misplacing one's sense of excellence or worth is a calamity when the margin between grinning and whingeing can be minuscule.

"I love the winning. I can take the losing but most of all I love to play," former tennis great Boris Becker was once quoted as saying.

Amen. It's something Cronulla Sharks coach Shane Flanagan and his Manly Sea Eagles counterpart, Trent Barrett, could learn after their teams lost in the first round of NRL playoffs at the weekend.

A "filthy Flanno" and "belligerent Barrett", between them, listed nine mistakes match officials made that allegedly cost them the game and a collective $50,000 fine.

Such arguments should be tabled only if officials can offer a list of players who have committed howlers in a particular game, so as to put the officiating in context.

Put another way, whingeing about officials is just a red herring to cover up for a team's shortcomings.

I have had cases of coaches, captains and teams who have asked for publicity in the build-up to competitions but the second their campaign strayed from the desired script they have switched off their lines of communication.

The hallmark of any team isn't in their ability to front up only when they're winning but especially when the chips are down. An award for anyone who can say they underachieved because of so-and-so reasons.

Sore losers who fail to deliver should hand over the mantle of team spokesperson by default because they aren't doing justice to the collective, the fans or, more importantly, the code.

You can also have awkward moments like All Whites coach Anthony Hudson, in the middle of a televised media scrum, asking a reporter to email or call him later for more details only to find the agitated reporter snap back that he had done that earlier but the Englishman hadn't responded.

At the premier secondary schoolboys' soccer tourney in Napier last week, Rathkeale College coach Steve Coleman couldn't "see a problem" when contacted for details on what transpired after the ref sent off three opposition Mt Albert Grammar players and halted play "in the interest of player safety".

Tourney controller Greg Kettle told media both teams had breached protocol, including Rathkeale whose team manager had strayed on to the field during play.

Why are these adults involved with any sport at all, let alone a school one?

Last week, I had the pleasure of dealing with the Silver Ferns and England Roses in the second test of the Taini Jamison Trophy series in Napier.

Kerry Manders, Netball New Zealand head of communications and marketing, and her team played ball to the end.

Profile on Grace Rasmussen before the first test in Porirua, please? "No problem," replied Manders.

In a last-minute request, can we please have a player for interview on arrival at Hawke's Bay Airport in Napier?

"Who do you want?" she simply asked before delivering shooting ace Maria Tutaia.

Tutaia and Rasmussen were great ambassadors of their sport and, dare I say it, extremely humble.

Ditto bus-bound, weary England who hooked me up with an affable and adroit goal keep, Geva Mentor, who the NRL boys can learn from on how not to give match officials a reason to ping them as players.

It's no wonder the PG Arena was humming as six-fold, rope-controlled fans circled the Ferns and Roses after the final whistle for selfies and autographs.