The other day Graham Henry flew into New Zealand in his temporary role as a coaching advisor to the Pumas. You would have thought that Mike Tyson had just arrived at the airport. It’s a wonder that immigration let Graham into the country. The media and some of the public were determined to portray Graham as a traitor.
The true scandal lies in ourselves. All Black blood runs through Graham’s veins. He is as patriotic a man as I know. It doesn’t matter if it is the Blacks Caps or a Kiwi opera singer, Graham will be in the front row waving the flag. How sad, then, that a portion of our country should accuse our World Cup winning coach of sporting treason.
Such an opinion is as petty as it is ill–informed. Let’s get a few facts sorted out before we start calling people names. Graham is contracted to the NZRU and they sanctioned his work with Argentina. The NZRU wants the Rugby Championship to work as a sporting and commercial venture and so they are rightly supportive of the new team.
That doesn’t mean Graham is handing over state secrets. A part of his contract stipulates that he has no direct onfield coaching involvement with the Argentinian players. Graham is mentoring Argentina’s coaches, sharing ideas, expanding horizons.
It is a hugely beneficial project for rugby as a whole. Don’t we want to promote a global game or are we too afraid of protecting our own turf? The NZRU should be congratulated for its educational openness although it would have been helpful if someone from the union could have put the record straight when Graham was under attack.
It’s not realistic to expect the current All Black set-up to come out and speak up for Graham. As an international coach you will use anything to give the team an edge. But the NZRU could have pointed out what a positive initiative Graham is involved with.
Argentina will have watched tapes of the All Blacks and picked up tendencies and patterns in their play and come up with a plan. Graham would have played a role in that. But he wouldn’t be giving away information on the internal workings of the New Zealand team. He is respectful and protective of the All Blacks inner sanctum.
Nevertheless, how hypocritical it would be of New Zealand to moralise about intellectual property rights. I didn’t hear too many voices of protest when Graham, myself and Steve Hansen returned from the UK. What about the intellectual property we brought back?
Indeed the All Blacks toured Wales shortly after Steve’s return in 2004. The Welsh did not rise up in protest and come down from the hills. Just the opposite. Steve was hugely welcomed by both the people and the players. Wales had no issue with Steve, so why are we so uptight about Graham?
New Zealand loves to catastrophise. I don’t know if that is a real verb, but it very well describes our country’s occasional need to present minor happenings as apocalyptic events. Richie’s foot and Dan’s groin were both harbingers of world’s end during the World Cup – ‘A nation holds its breath’. But New Zealand holds its breath so often, it is a wonder we are not permanently purple in the face.
We can be much bigger than that. Let’s sit back, relax and applaud Sir Graham Henry’s involvement with Argentina. Education is a wonderful thing.