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Do the Hurricanes Poua want our support or not

Hurricanes Poua head to the changing rooms after warming up during the round one Super Rugby Aupiki match between Chiefs Manawa and Hurricanes Poua at FMG Stadium Waikato on March 02, 2024 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Rugby, at its best in New Zealand, has always been a uniting force.

It’s taken people of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, incomes, suburbs, towns and islands and brought them together.

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Be they players, fans, administrators, referees or media, they’ve been bonded by a common love for the game and its ability to bring the best out in everyone.

I’ve lived in cities, I’ve lived in towns. I’ve lived in the North Island and I’ve lived in the South Island.

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Everywhere I’ve been, rugby has been at the heart of the community.

I think back, particularly, to the decade I spent in what we now call a Heartland Championship union. A place beyond the professional rugby realm, where the rugby club was the literal lifeblood of the town.

This isn’t misty-eyed nostalgia or idealism, this is the reality of grassroots rugby and its place in society.

When I think about what I love most about rugby, it’s this.

I live in Hurricanes country, where the franchise’s chief executive, Avan Lee, is furiously putting out fires, not necessarily of his own making.

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I won’t go through the haka performed by the franchise’s Super Rugby Aupiki team or translate its meaning.

I won’t dissect the subsequent comments of Hurricanes Poua captain Leilani Perese either.

But I will note that, in media commitments in the last day or two, Lee has said the Hurricanes’ purpose is “to unite and excite’’ and the Poua have not unified anyone.

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Women’s rugby in New Zealand is an interesting one.

I’m not sure New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has done enough to capitalise on the groundswell of support enjoyed by the Black Ferns, on their way to the 2022 Rugby World Cup title.

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It appeared as if the nation was ready to embrace the female game like never before and Super Rugby Aupiki was the result.

For whatever reason, the competition has not flourished. Whatever connection there was between the players and the public appears to have waned.

Governing bodies, from NZR on down, are struggling to pay for an addition to the professional rugby scene that doesn’t generate revenue.

Players wanted to be paid. Some weren’t always eager to play. Others went to rugby league in Australia, without relinquishing their ties to rugby back here.

There was a sense of entitlement about it all.

Now, I’ve argued long and loud that more should be done by administrators to foster female rugby. That if the game is to grow, then women’s rugby is an obvious avenue.

I wanted us to be more inclusive and less focused on everything being about the All Blacks all the time.

That might help create a prosperous national men’s team, but it doesn’t do much for the part of the rugby pyramid that I hold most dear.

I believed a legitimate pathway for female players had to be a priority.

I also think I wasn’t alone there.

The Hurricanes Poua haka, which Lee says will not be performed again, is divisive and insulting. It speaks of a level of privilege and grievance that is out of step with the majority of New Zealand society.

Worst of all, it has the potential to turn people off a competition and players in desperate need of our support.

I’ve lived long enough to see times, notably the Springbok tour of 1981, when rugby divided the nation. I’m saddened to see a group of players attempting to do that again.

 

 

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Jon 1 days ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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