Somehow, rugby's single greatest breach of integrity became its greatest source of entertainment.

The discovery of a listening device in the All Blacks' team room at their Sydney hotel in August has become both a jolly big laugh and, given what was said after the Bledisloe Cup test at Eden Park, the plot for a soap opera.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika has cast himself as both chief joke teller and the aggrieved, wrongfully accused victim in all of this. And, to be fair, he's played both parts well.

What he's been able to do is make everyone forget the deadly serious nature of what Spygate is all about. A quick reminder of the facts: there is an ongoing police investigation into how the device ended up in the hotel.


In the build-up to the test at Eden Park the Wallabies, who remained in Sydney until later in the week, stayed at the same hotel in which the bug had been found.

When All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was able to accurately predict some of Australia's selections ahead of them announcing their team, Cheika said: "Well, the bug's obviously not working any more so he must have had someone there watching it [training]. I don't know, he must have known somehow. The bug's gone. We stayed at Double Bay and did a bit of a broom around and couldn't find any."

Then, after the game, he revealed that he had been harbouring a simmering anger about the whole bugging incident, claiming that the All Blacks had accused the Wallabies of planting it there. That made for great headlines, easy stories for media outlets to jump on and for three other things to happen.

It firstly took the focus away from the All Blacks' tier one world record 18th consecutive win; it gave Cheika the chance to portray himself as the wrongfully accused when no such thing ever happened and, thirdly, it once again diminished the seriousness of the bug being found as he suggested the timing of the revelation was all about destabilising the Wallabies, rather than exposing questions about the credibility of the game and the breach of integrity.

Cheika has implied, too, that there was collusion between the NZRU and the Herald in breaking the story, which is categorically not true.

It's not, however, that the NZRU can say they haven't trivialised the seriousness of the incident either. They took five days to take the matter to the police, yet World Rugby's guidelines on protocol around potential integrity breaches are accessible and clear.

Besides, the NZRU hired an integrity manager last year who presumably must have been aware of the incident and the right way to handle it? By taking as long as they did, they opened themselves to the sorts of accusations Cheika has made.

So, between the two countries, the most serious off-field incident in the history of the Southern Hemisphere's professional life has been reduced to farce.

That may explain why, 10 weeks on, the police don't appear to have found much of an appetite to come up with any answers as to who is behind the planting of the device.