September 06, 2012
Good on Graeme Henry
Opinion: Former All Black coach Graeme Henry has had the guts to say what many of us thought after the All Blacks loss to France in the 2007 World Cup.
Henry reveals in his just released autobiography that thoughts of match fixing had crossed his mind and when he sought an investigation, he was told by the NZRU and IRB that there wasn’t a system for investigating bizarre games and sports betting.
Henry has been condemned by many rugby critics for recounting that incident.
But I’m astounded that they’re furious about his revelations given that Henry’s autobiography is a warts and all account. Had he not shared his true thoughts, his story would be incomplete and insincere.
English referee Wayne Barnes’ gave an incomprehensible performance. He didn’t penalise the French in the second half despite the All Blacks dominating territory by close to 75%.
The two penalties awarded to the All Blacks was the lowest penalty count in test history and France’s try was scored off a huge forward pass.
One of the most influential rugby journalists in the world, Spiros Zavos says that Henry has a strong case. The International Rugby board dismissed Henry’s complaints of match fixing at the time and while Zavos like me doesn’t believe the match was fixed, he certainly believes the game warranted an investigation.
Zavos points out all the anomalies through the years at World Cups like in 1995 when the All Blacks lost the World Cup to South Africa and the bookmakers made a fortune and seemed to know much more than they should have before the game. In 1999 New Zealand referee Paddy O’Brien revealed in his book that “…a fellow assistant ref for the final between France and Australia, the English ref Ed Morrison had hugged the French coach before the game and told him ‘You’ve got to do it for the Northern Hemisphere.”
And in the 2003 World Cup, the IRB considered investigating a referee for suspicious refereeing decisions. So is anyone surprised that Henry thought that the 2007 match had been fixed?
Spiro Zavos makes the point that he hopes Henry’s claims act as a catalyst for the IRB to examine what has happened, I couldn’t agree more.
Bad referees can destroy a country’s soul and spirit; we know that better than anyone! Why should coaches be the only ones who pay the price for a bad day at the office?
Referees must be made accountable too. Barnes should have been suspended after his atrocious refereeing display and again I agree with Spiro Zavos who incidentally is a huge Robbie Deans supporter that it’s time for the IRB to pick up the ball and run with the issues that Henry has raised.