OPINION: What a lot of people need to understand is that there is a huge difference between being a fan, and being a supporter.

When you're a fan, you love the winning and the glory of getting in behind a good team.

However, that quickly changes when the results change, or when certain players play badly.

Supporters, however, do just that. They support and encourage their teams regardless of how they're playing or how the results are going. They don't turn on players or coaches after one performance. They don't take to social media and write all sorts of profanities directed towards the team. They just encourage better.


What goes through people's heads when they decide to go on social media and abuse people who are representing their country or their region? On the rare occasion the All Blacks lose, these players aren't trying to play bad and they aren't intentionally letting down their country. After a loss in the All Black jersey, who do you think is hurting the most? The player who has just tried his best for 80mins, or the bloke at home on the couch half-cut on beer, telling his mates how the team should play?

The fact that people feel the need to go online and abuse these players who have far more ability than themselves is beyond me. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say I've never given a player a gobful towards the TV screen. Countless times my bets at the TAB have lost through the actions of a player or team. I might be wild for five seconds and give them a spray, but never enough to troll them online.

People need to realise that their comments on social media go further than just the comments section. A lot of players are frequently on social media and see the hate and abuse directed towards them if they have a bad game. Mothers and fathers see the abuse thrown at their kids. Imagine your child, representing their country and giving it their best, only to be abused online by people they've never met.

I understand it's the reality of the sporting landscape nowadays, but next time you want to abuse someone - stop and think if it's worth it.

I look at a woman like Robyn Barrett who is genuinely the loveliest woman you'll ever meet. She has three sons in the All Blacks, she's in a position most mothers can only dream of. Whilst being immensely proud, she is also aware of the flipside and that is the scrutiny her boys and her family are under. Robyn, like most mothers, has the tendency to worry.

She worries about how these negative comments from the media or the online trolls will affect her boys' well-being, and rightly so. Luckily her boys are three top young men who know that the only support they need is from their teammates, family and friends.

I like to take the mantra of whoever is in the team, and whoever is coaching the team, they're representing my country -so I will get in behind them, regardless of who my favourite players are or who I think should be the coach.

The players and coaches are far better equipped and skilled at doing the job than you or me, so don't take to social media and abuse these guys when all you're good at doing is sitting on the couch.

It's your country after all. The men who play in this team are representing us. Don't abuse, don't belittle and don't get personal. Get in behind them, encourage them, stand by them and be proud of them.

Don't be a fan.

Be a supporter.