From the Sidelines: Tail wags dog...

Former Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby has unfairly borne the brunt of the blame for her team’s...
Former Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby has unfairly borne the brunt of the blame for her team’s failure at this year’s Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. Photo: Getty Images
Are our athletes so precious now they have to call in the players association every time they get a bit of critical feedback?

Those of us of a certain vintage will recall some less than motivational half-time "encouragement" which cannot be repeated in polite company, or any other type for that matter.

We would hesitate to suggest a return to the table-thumping expletive-laced spectacles of the past. But flicking off an email to a trainer complaining about someone’s fitness is not cause for a Spanish Inquisition.

Black Sticks coach Mark Hager might want to make sure there is just one entry in the address bar next time, but is it so wrong for a coach — and a good one at that — to expect his players to be fit?

Who knows whether more will emerge from Hockey New Zealand’s review but it seems to us we are perhaps witnessing a generational divide.

The coddled mob who went through the school and academy systems being told how great they were are suddenly having to prove it. Reality is not always waiting at the end with a ribbon for everyone.

Southby tossed aside ...

Former Silver Ferns coach Janine Southby has kept a dignified silence since resigning following the disappointing Commonwealth Games campaign which saw the national side finish outside the medals.

We hope she will find her voice because it seems she has had to bear the weight of failure on her own.

Apparently those fumbled passes and botched attempts at goal had everything to do with the so-called weak culture she drove and nothing to do with the bumbling efforts of some distracted players.

Netball New Zealand have been skulking around in the background happy to offer up Southby. They have successfully avoided questions about why they allowed so many ANZ Championship teams to field an import at goal shoot for years at the expense of local players.

They have not properly explained their sudden reversal on Laura Langman’s eligibility either, or whether star shooter Maria Folau was focused given the hurtful and homophobic comments her husband Israel Folau was busy tweeting at the time.

And what about the captain, Katrina Grant? Surely she is partly responsible for driving the culture. Or do we all still feel sorry for her because Jenny-May Clarkson made her cry in a post match interview

.... when she was arguably improving

Southby’s appointment felt premature. She was barely mentioned in dispatches when the job came up three years ago. Everybody assumed Noeline Taurua would get the gig but she was overlooked.

Southby took a while to settle into the role and perhaps gave the players too much leeway. But she had inherited a side in transition and that is never easy.

Arguably she was a much better coach when she stepped down than when she was appointed. She worked hard to develop a culture based on accountability and self-responsibility. Normally that would be lauded instead of used as evidence of anemic leadership.

Southby certainly was not soft while at the Steel. She levered her assistant coach Natalie Avellino out of the role when that relationship broke down in 2013. The previous year they had been co-coaches.

Southby made other difficult decisions, including dropping her sister in-law Jodi Brown.

But the question is: does the fact no-one has gone into bat for Southby say more about her leadership or a lack of responsibility shown by the players and Netball New Zealand?

Twenty20 doubleheaders miss the point

Wasn’t the whole point of twenty20 cricket about repackaging a time-consuming game into something which takes just a little longer than the average movie?

New Zealand Cricket is to be commended for coming up with ways to promote the women’s game. But, by staging men’s and women’s T20 games on the same day, the national body is asking cricket fans to spend all day at the venue.

Judging by the sparse crowds at domestic one-day games during the past few seasons, asking people to occupy the stands for much longer than three hours is a tough sell.

Not good enough

Now no-one wants to kick a horse while it is down, though we must admit things have been rosier at New Zealand Football.And this is not the biggest issue the organisation currently faces.

When the New Zealand under-16 boys team was announced earlier this week, one could not help but notice there was not one player from the South Island selected.

Not one. No young whipper-snapper out of Christchurch or from Queenstown.

All came from the North Island, many involved with the Phoenix. Obviously, with the greater population in the North Island, the lads from up that way are going to dominate the team.

But is there not one player from the South Island deemed good enough to make the team? Hard to agree with that. Didn’t King’s High School win the national junior schools football tournament last year?


No doubt all of those who made the national under-16 football team came from academies and have been training hard all season. All year-round, actually, for footballers and those from other codes. Getting up to those magical 10,000 touches a player supposedly needs to become a top player.

The jury still remains out about academies. Does it make a blind bit of difference to a player?

Or are they better off just going and playing for their club and learning the trade that way?

Like everything, you can use examples for both sides of the argument.

Ben Smith was in the Otago academy but then reportedly dropped out and went on to greatness.

But plenty of have come through the academy system and gone on to play for their country.Basically, academies work for some players and not for others.

The trick is finding that out before the players enter them.

Southern woe

The South Island or Southern Football League has finished and overall was not a great result from the teams in the south.

The most glaring statistic was that out of the possible 45 points the three southern teams — Dunedin Technical, Queenstown Rovers and Southland United — could have taken off the Mainland sides, the teams grabbed, wait for it, just nine points.

Not great and a wake-up call for the game in the south.

Is nine teams too many for the Otago Daily Times southern premiership? Are there more than 100 top footballers able to play the game in the south to a decent level week in-week out?

Are there enough good coaches about to get the best out of players?

The league used to have 10 teams and is now down to nine. Perhaps dropping another side, taking out the bye, is the way forward.

Bring it home

Best of luck to the Dunedin Technical women’s team. It plays Forrest Hill Milford in the final of the Kate Sheppard Cup at QBE Stadium tomorrow.

The big stage, but shame it will be in front of very few spectators. Playing a game on the outer limits of Auckland is always a risk.

That got us thinking — is the stadium at North Harbour the most poorly attended stadium in New Zealand?Every game played there has a vast array of empty seats.

Otago Daily Times rugby writer Steve Hepburn has a claim to fame.

He has been to the stadium when it was actually full — at the 2011 Rugby World Cup when the Springboks played Namibia. It seemed like half of Johannesburg was there but at least the seats were full.

All Black questions

One can never get through a column without some questions about the national side.

So here are a few:

● Has there ever been a player in any sport to have such a great game as Beauden Barrett did against the Aussies, and then get dropped for the next game?

● Shouldn’t Shannon Frizell prove himself at the Mitre 10 Cup first before making the All Blacks? Dick Frizzell could have scored three tries against the Blues in May.

● Is Liam Coltman the most highly paid tackle bag holder in the entire history of the game?

● New Zealand Rugby is losing more than $5million a year. So why do more than 30 All Blacks have to assemble every week for every test? And how much does that cost?

● Anyone else completely underwhelmed by Jordie Barrett? Ditto Ngani Laumape?

● How much did the Nelson City Council and others pay to get a test at Trafalgar Park? Is this where All Black tests are headed? A sort of reverse Dutch auction.

● Could the All Blacks be in a better place a year out from the next World Cup?

From the Sidelines is a series of thoughts from the Otago Daily Times sports department.

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