Coach right to axe playmaker but further punishment would be too much, considering what’s gone before.
Tempting as it is to scream Free Aaron Cruden in the name of giving a bloke a break, it's difficult not to go along with All Black coach Steve Hansen's temporary sacking of the little playmaker.
Back in the day, drunken disasters were par for the course in many sports, to a point they weren't considered disasters. There are doozies, most unreported, including from the annals of New Zealand cricket where a famous figure's night on the sauce helped wreck one of the finest run chases in test history. Teammates were furious, and some still are apparently.
Time moves on, yes, but by world standards Cruden's failure to check in is more humorous than horrendous although the All Black spin doctors will be having kittens. Players like Cruden make it hard to stay on message, plugging the line that the black jersey is part Holy Grail, part Superman outfit.
Cruden didn't bet on the opposition, bash anyone, steal anything, go dog fighting or - come to think of it - slaughter a protected seal. His major achievement was to s*&^ in his own nest and publicly dishonour the All Blacks' credo.
Given another setting, like a few days out from a World Cup game, a similarly errant All Black would have been forgiven, as a couple were in 2011. But Hansen might have remembered what happened across the ditch, where loose cannons helped bring down Robbie Deans.
And fair play to Hansen, because the All Blacks coach is a man at the top of his game. The results speak for themselves. His relationship with the players, an ability to be both a trusted friend and tough boss, appears at a level never seen before in the All Blacks. It's difficult to challenge anything he does at the moment. An online poll heavily supported his decision and probably still would have if he had opted to parade Cruden around Hamilton while jabbing him with a hot poker. Winning All Blacks coaches garner a fair degree of licence.
What an exciting few days for All Black followers though. Some got the chance to spot their heroes at a Royal Oak bar and we all got to learn what an All Black spends on an average night out, although Cruden must have spent a lot more than Brodie Retallick et al. Then came the real adrenalin rush, the opportunity to make reported sightings of Cruden's magical mystery tour.
The firewater can be life-changing stuff. One minute you are tucking into a good ol' Canterbury roast in front of a fire. A few hours later, you are fired and roasted while preparing to join a long list of public figures to make those cringe-inducing, grovelling apologies that tick a box in the dummies' guide to making a comeback.
Cruden had a clean slate up until then and the NZRU should leave him alone. Getting sacked from an All Blacks squad is severe enough punishment. The threat of a further disciplinary hearing and fines is going overboard. We all make mistakes, and Cruden is already paying a heavy price. He's given Beauden Barrett a chance and for those of us keen to see Barrett in the No 10 jersey, Buenos Aires and Johannesburg in particular have new meaning.
Cruden has not delivered as he might at No 10. Incredible performances are mixed with those much less so. But my pick is that Cruden will hop past Barrett again. A boozy stuff up will get trumped by World Cup considerations and Cruden is not a serial offender. The selectors ranked him above Barrett, who is such a weapon off the bench that he's created a powerful position in its own right.
One day replays are revealing
Sky TV's pop up sports channels rock. The latest one replays old World Cup cricket games, as a taster and advert for next year's tournament in New Zealand. The replays confirm that one day standards have gone through the roof.
Heeney doco worth a watch
A great documentary on the New Zealand boxer Tom Heeney popped up on Maori TV this week. The channel's scheduling appears to pull programmes out of a hat but it is always worth checking for a gem. Heeney, from Poverty Bay, fought Gene Tunney at Yankee Stadium for the world heavyweight title in 1928 and led one heck of a life. The doco, by Heeney's biographer Lydia Monin, contained wonderful archive footage and was a cracker. A few years old, it is highly recommended and worth tracking down.