Year in Review: The Country's Executive Producer Rowena Duncum wrote this opinion piece in defence of workmate Sam "Lashes" Casey, after his night out with All Black Jordie Barrett made headline news.
My workmate Lashes is a character. A legend in his own lunchbox after giving one of the best/worst inspirational speeches in the Highlanders locker room following their first ever Super Rugby title victory in 2015.
Today he - known to the wider world as Sam Casey - made headlines again, after he and All Black Jordie Barrett unwittingly mistook an unlocked Dunedin student flat for that of his mate's across the road.
A simple, genuine mistake; which, if the amount of messages I received before 9am this morning are to be believed, many people can relate to.
When I first heard the story, I laughed so hard I had tears running down my face. Literal tears. I'll even admit to feeling a tiny bit jealous - I mean, it truly has got to be one of the great tales, to entertain punters and be dined out on for years to come. There was nothing malicious or sinister in it.
Then three things happened.
I began to consider the potential damage if it was in any way misconstrued. There's a reason 'sensationalism' and 'media' often go hand in hand. It's something that makes me sick to my stomach and (when I come across it) ashamed to be a journalism major. My fears were somewhat confirmed when the headline-grabbing article likened this incident to the one involving Norm Hewitt in 1999. Poor and lazy journalism, that.
Next, someone mentioned the poor girls were probably terrified. I initially brushed this off, but we don't know exactly how this played out and what conclusions they jumped to while half asleep, in the middle of the night, before the truth emerged. So that was enough to stop the crying-laughter. In the light of day, surrounded by friends in a warm clubrooms, I still thought it was hilarious.
To round it off, I had an unnerving experience myself - being woken myself at 3am this morning by an unknown man knocking on our front door. Half asleep, assuming it would be my (probably inebriated) Irish flatmate and instead finding a large bald stranger on the front porch, had me contemplating calling the cops myself. 'This is how those girls must've felt,' whipped through my head. By some cruel twist of fate, my flatmate had turned back to face the mailbox and his white hat reflected the street light's glimmer, giving his already large prop's head an even larger, bald appearance. The relief when he turned around was palpable.
But back to our story and its newsworthiness. If this had happened to two ordinary blokes, would it still have made the news? Potentially. A brief piece. A sentence or two. Maybe even in an 'oddspot' column. A case of residential mistaken identity. All's well that ends well.
In no circumstance would it be front page news.
So, should the fact that one of them is handy with an oval ball mean this is national headline news?
I do understand that once you represent your country, you apparently kiss away your personal privacy. Simply because whatever you do that's ever so slightly outside the norm - is deemed 'of public interest.'
But is it really 'public interest'? Where do we draw the line now?
Does a story like this alter my life in any way? Not that I can tell. Should I care? Not really. Is it my business? Unequivocally not. Is my life suddenly richer for knowing this tale? I can't say it does.
Are we just all becoming bloody nosy and confusing non-news gossipy type stories with actual news, to get clicks?
I fear so.
But that seems to be the nature of the modern world. We blur the line between news and entertainment.
Grow up and be an All Black kids ... just don't hold out any hope for a normal life, or the opportunity to make a genuine, human mistake.