Oh, come on, everybody…let's stop the mealy-mouthed stuff. Sanzaar politics? No, election politics. All Blacks heartbroken at being away from their kids? Give me a break.
New Zealand Rugby's decision to support any All Black father not wanting to miss out on their newborn is understandable – but also a poke in the ribs of an inflexible Government, seemingly designed to make them feel guilty for losing the Rugby Championship staging to Australia.
Jacinda Ardern's Government fouled the bed on this one. It's hardly the end of the world but her smiling assurance that the loss of the tournament was down to Sanzaar politics had, unusually for her, a note of expediency and disingenuousness about it.
The Government's insistence on having training bubbles of no more than 25 players seemed mad-headed. For a country so keen on rugby, our leaders seem to know stuff-all about it. How any international team was supposed to prepare in bubbles of 15 (originally) and then 25 defies logic.
Ah, I hear you say, but rugby is simply having the same anti-Covid-19 rules applied to it as the rest of us. So why did our leader not say so – instead of the "Sanzaar politics" red herring? She is banking on the same overwhelming support for our Covid-19 management carrying over into this.
It's a strange miss. Rugby is a classic electioneering tactic. The country is keen to be free of the grip of Covid-19, yes – but is also tiring of lockdown. Making it easy for the Rugby Championship to be held here would surely have been a sound, pre-election gambit that some kind of return to "normal" is possible in time; a political bone thrown to a largely sports-mad nation.
Successive PMs have embraced rugby. John Key almost qualified as a jock-sniffer as he hung round the All Blacks. Way back, I remember two other PMs – Rob Muldoon and David Lange – walking slowly past a full Eden Park grandstand pre-test, as if they always discussed matters of national importance while strolling in front of 50,000 people; both pretending they cared about rugby.
The patrons weren't dumb – they knew precisely what was going on, roundly booing both of them in a rare show of electoral consensus.
And don't give me the hooey that the Rugby Championship would have eased our economic ills. But, a reward for a long-suffering electorate and a sign that some warmth may, in time, return after The Big Chill? Hard to think of anything better – even if played in empty stadiums (but in front of huge TV audiences).
As for NZ Rugby, the decision to support players who opt out of the Rugby Championship because of time away from their family is the sort of thing employers have to say these days.
But…come on. These are professional sportsmen. Their existence is partly based on the premise they will have to be away from families at inconvenient moments; at the height of their careers, their allegiance is to the team – and the fans.
Our cricketers are away for weeks at a time. In days of yore, All Black tours took months. I remember a Herald photographer returning from one, heading home to greet his toddler daughter – who backed away from him, unsure about the stranger in front of her.
The story so appalled me that, when I next went on tour, I asked the same photographer to take a large head-and-shoulders pic of me. It was fixed to the fridge, so my own daughter could kiss it every night before bed so she didn't forget me.
So, okay, I understand such partings – but professional sportspeople join a wider, more demanding family when they sign on the dotted line, including fans and sponsors.
NZ Rugby also made out like swelling the All Black ranks to 46 players (from 35) for the championship as a result of having to be based in Australia was some kind of imposition.
In 2018, the All Black selectors chose 51 players to go to Japan and Europe, a tour that was a kind of All Black trial and academy. Among those who went but who have not moved close to selection since are first-five Brett Cameron, loosies Dillon Hunt and Gareth Evans, prop Reuben O'Neill, halfbacks Mitchell Drummond, Bryn Hall and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, plus midfield back Matt Proctor.
All selecting 46 players will likely mean is more like that – and maybe even one or two who join the rare ranks of those selected but who never played (and therefore are not actually All Blacks).
The Rugby Championship is still a long way from happening. The powers-that-be have to work out how to cater for undercooked Springboks whose rugby season hasn't even started. The Pumas' coach and several players have already tested positive for Covid-19.
NZ Rugby's Plan B sounds more interesting. If the Rugby Championship doesn't come off, there are plans for the Boks to stage an old-fashioned tour here, playing provincial and/or franchise sides to build up for tests.
Give us that. Super Rugby Aotearoa's intensity, All Blacks in the Mitre 10 Cup and a touring Springbok side? It's like the old days. That'll do – and if it doesn't happen, please don't blame "Sanzaar politics".