| Tavita |
THIS weekend’s top rugby match features the unbeatable All Blacks against the unwinnable Pumas in Argentina.
Oh dear! There are times when you have to feel sorry for New Zealand rugby writers.
There’s an awful lot of empty white paper over there to be filled up day-in, day-out.
It’s rough on the average scribe trying to earn a living from the national game.
Most papers offer a few pages, featuring the usual round of sports. But where on the planet can you find a daily like the New Zealand Herald with a minimum daily 21 itemised topics, eight specialist experts, plus results, fixture lists, tables, stats, photos, videos, rankings, features and a dream team all about rugby union?
Tough going for the aforesaid average scribe.
And, up to this week, looking just about as tough as it gets.
After all, next year’s Rugby World Cup seems rapidly approaching a foregone conclusion.
According to all forecasts, the All Blacks will easily wrap up this year’s Rugby Championship in Argentina this weekend.
They’ve now gone 36 games without a home loss. They haven’t lost anywhere for 24 games.
In fact, they are so good at the moment that New Zealand rugby writers have been having a major problem.
What on earth is there left to write about?
At such moments a very special type of player is needed.
A Keith Murdoch, sent home in the seventies for clobbering a Welshman in a Cardiff bar.
A Zach Guildford jumping around naked on barstool in Rarotonga.
Someone to fill the column yards for page after page, quote after quote.
Someone to create some sort of interest in the game against Argentina tomorrow,
And, then, praise to the God of All Kiwi Rugby Writers, they got one – Aaron Cruden.
This is the current occupant of the critical fly half position in the current All Blacks line-up.
At 25 years old, a former Palmerston North Boys High School student and Massey University graduate, he is now the first choice replacement for the incomparable Dan Carter.
He made his name for the Hurricanes in the Super 15’s and was named IRB World Junior Player of the Year in 2009.
Since then he’s made almost 50 appearances for the Chiefs and scored almost 500 points.
Since his first international appearance four years ago, he’s scored over 50 points for the All Blacks.
In match after match, he’s received rave reviews.
Until this week.
He was spotted raving away with teammates at a Ponsonby bar in Auckland late last Saturday night.
Like most people going to a bar, it appears that he was drinking.
The problem, though, was that, he wasn’t like most people going to a bar.
He was due to join the All Black flight to Argentina on Sunday morning.
Reports put him with other team-mates having a few “quiet ones” till about 1am.
The man said he saw them drinking in a booth with friends at about 11.30pm.
“They were just sitting in a booth having a quiet one with mates.”
Witnesses are divided about whether the quiet ones got louder after a while or about the exact time they all decided to take off home.
One fellow said he saw the other players leave before the bar closed, but he couldn’t swear that Cruden was with them.
Someone else claimed he saw Cruden at another bar down the road which closes at 3am.
The only dead certainty.
When the All Blacks plane left on Sunday morning for Santiago, Cruden wasn’t on it.
Every rugby reporter breathed a sigh of relief. Every editor went to the nearest bar to knock back a noisy one.
Cruden issued a statement.
“I am deeply embarrassed by this lack of judgment and have never been more disappointed in myself. I have not only let myself down but, most importantly, I have let my team down.
“I carry the burden of shame and disappoint-ment and I am deeply apologetic to my team, to my family and also the New Zealand public.
“I have been working really hard over the past few years at gaining respect on the field and off it. I am devastated I have dropped my own high personal standards, as well as the standards set by New Zealand Rugby.”
Cruden appears likely to face a New Zealand Rugby Union disciplinary hearing. It could cost him thousands of dollars.
All Black officials say he’s going to have to live with it for the rest of his life. The rest of us have had to live with it for the rest of the Kiwi reporting week.
As every reporter in Godzone cheered, “At last, we’ve got a story, mate!”