When it comes to sporting debate, this week we've seen it all - the good, bad and downright ignorant and disgusting.

If there was ever any doubt over the standing of Sonny Bill Williams as New Zealand's most divisive athlete, this week that was answered.

From the moment I posted on my VeitchyonSport page the first photo of SBW with the BNZ logos taped over on his playing jersey, the reaction was enormous.

There were 6500 posts on the subject. I've not seen debate like it since Team New Zealand blew that 8-1 lead to lose their America's Cup final to Oracle.


Some were calling him for SBW to be sacked and others were appalled by the dispensations given to him over other athletes.

"Here we go again, one rule for SBW and the rest can get stuffed," was one refrain.
There were more questions than answers.

Why BNZ and not AIG?

Why now?

Was this a unilateral decision which had clearly not been approved by either the Blues or New Zealand Rugby?

It seemed everybody was caught with their pants down.

Then there was a posse of people, including a couple of sports journalists (which I found odd) who didn't think it was a story at all.

There were bigger issues to be worried about, they said.


But hand on heart, had you ever heard the term 'conscientious objector' used in relation to rugby before last Sunday?

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd admitted on my NewstalkZB show that it was new to him.
Sure, some of his players had opted out of promoting KFC on personal grounds.

But this is new territory.

NZR told me they weren't aware of any other contracted player having used the conscientious objector clause, which suggests to me there are no others.

So today I thought it would be pertinent to take a closer look at those sportspeople who have divided the New Zealand sporting public.

Sonny Bill Williams: Let's not even debate the top gong, or remind people why the code jumper is so controversial. He wins in a landslide.

Brendon McCullum: Before that 301 and that wondrous 2015 World Cup, Mr McCullum had some significant issues on the PR front. There were allegations he stole the test captaincy, was too brash and was a risk-taker who lacked the patience of a true test captain. He also came complete with tatts, flash haircuts and a bank balance to make most of us cry, courtesy of his annual million dollar cheques from the IPL.
And the there was that third-ball duck at the MCG two years ago which, according to many, was so reckless, it cost us the 2015 World Cup final.

Shaun Johnson: He comes with some of the same traits as McCullum. He looks good on billboards. Girls love him, as do the Warriors promotion team. He has the superstar girlfriend, but can also flatter to deceive. When the Warriors are crap, Johnson is often the man who cops the blame. That might explain why he shut down his social media accounts.

Sir Russell Coutts: Forget the totally flawed Black Heart campaign and the accusations of treachery that followed, after Coutts and Brad Butterworth abandoned ship and left Team New Zealand to Dean Barker and Co to go it alone.
As the years have rolled on, Coutts has become a far more divisive figure. He clearly can't stand the Kiwi yachting media, summed up in one very strange Facebook rant a couple of weeks ago. He also believes the New Zealand public is against him as well. Out of this entire list, Coutts is the most bizarre for me. It's almost like he's brought this animosity from his home nation on himself. God knows how he'll react if Team New Zealand win back the Auld Mug.

Grant Fox: Sorry, Foxy, to even raise your name, but you know the Cantabs just won't let things go. Unfortunately you fall into the category of "never like a JAFA".

Ma'a Nonu: Let's go back to the time before Nonu was New Zealand Player of the Year and a star of 2015 World Cup final. This was the Ma'a Nonu who wore make-up and who muttered lots of nothing every time he was forced to front the media. This was also the Ma'a Nonu who was not exactly a raging success at either the Blues or the Highlanders, and one of the players Mark Hammett wanted gone when he reshuffled the playing decks at the Hurricanes. He is one player I simply never understood.

Jesse Ryder: Let's start with the good stuff. With willow in hand, there is no one more destructive batsman in the country. Now the bad: when he's away from the pitch, he's a ticking time bomb. I often used to say of Jesse that he is one of the few players worth the price of admission on his own. Unfortunately, Jesse has had to battle his own demons and he's found peace away from the pressures and bright lights of international cricket.

Ali Williams: Let me state the obvious: Ali is different. When he knew the media would turn up en masse in Christchurch to ask him about taking on the coach that sacked him, David Nucifora, Ali decided to wear a Spiderman suit. The media did not see the funny side. Ali, to his credit, escaped all the tough questions. Then there was the bizarre media conference before the 2011 World Cup semifinals when 70 international rugby journalists were treated to the Tom and Jerry show, as Ali answered questions for SBW and vice versa.

Carlos Spencer: Poor old Carlos, he was never going to win over everyone with those Toffee Pop abs. There was that fateful night in Christchurch, when he broke southern hearts with a glorious 80m try, rubbing their noses in it by placing the ball down in the corner and then kicking the sideline conversion to deny the Crusaders a bonus point. To this day I don't know what irks Cantabs more, that night, or that intercept pass to Stirling Mortlock which went a long way to costing the All Blacks their 2003 World Cup semifinal in Sydney.

Graham Henry: I can't ignore Ted. Go back to December 2007, when he was reappointed All Blacks coach, and there was no more divisive figure in New Zealand. A bloke named Dave rang my RadioSport Brekky show and promised to support any side playing the All Blacks as long as Henry was in charge. The Cantabs saw this as another Auckland conspiracy, with their Robbie Deans missing out. But in the greatest example of winning burying all pain and angst, even fury, Henry took us on a glorious run which ended in a long-awaited World Cup triumph. How could anybody not love Ted then?