Romanos: No excuse for Haden's behaviour

Last updated 05:00 25/03/2014

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OPINION: I've been trying to figure out what was ailing Andy Haden the other day when he was being interviewed by Mary Wilson on Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint programme.

The interview began with a clip of the famous lineout dive against Wales in 1978, when Haden and Frank Oliver went tumbling out of a lineout just before the end of the game. They duly secured a penalty from referee Roger Quittenton, and Brian McKechnie kicked it to win the test 13-12.

Haden objected strongly to the clip being played when he was being asked about his team-mate Oliver, who had just died. Things quickly disintegrated and the conversation had lasted barely a minute when Wilson pulled the plug.

It wasn't as if the clip wasn't relevant. Though Oliver, a tough forward if ever there was one, became an All Black captain and later a Super Rugby coach, that lineout was the most famous moment of his career.

And it's not as if Haden generally backs away from the dubious tactic he and Oliver used to secure the vital penalty.

On the day he had his contretemps with Wilson, he told Television New Zealand: "We practised it the day before. [Near the end of the game] I said, ‘Now's the time', and he said, ‘I'll play my part'."

I once asked Haden about the incident, and he told me: "I would do it again, unfortunately, because it's the way I think. You do what you can within the rules to win.

"I didn't want to go back to my dressing shed and sit there and say to myself that there was something else I could have done to win the test."

So it seemed doubtful Haden was going the way of other leading sportsmen and women who have shied away from history.

Marathon runner Liza Hunter-Galvan was suspended in 2009 for taking banned drugs, and subsequently became hostile to any journalists who mentioned the fact.

Kiwi League tough guy Kevin Tamati was involved in a famous punch-up with Greg Dowling in front of the main stand in Brisbane during a league test against Australia in 1985. Tamati has seemed notably reluctant to discuss the much-replayed incident.

Chris Lewis had to apologise to the spectators in Christchurch for not trying during a dead Davis Cup tennis match against England in 1981. It wasn't the aspect of his career he preferred to dwell on. The same with Chris Cairns, who went out drinking in the middle of a cricket test in Wellington in 1997.

It's understandable that sports stars prefer to direct the conversation to their finer moments, but you can't change history - things that happen are there forever.

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Oliver himself never seemed too bothered when asked about the lineout in Wales.

Anyway, I think I've got to the bottom of the Haden issue.

He did other media interviews and happily discussed the incident with Mary Wilson. He called her "a nitwit pinko who doesn't know much about rugby" and "some no-name".

Apparently the problem wasn't with the interview, or Haden trying to resile from a low moment in his and Oliver's career.

It was the fact that he didn't respect Wilson that induced him to act so churlishly.

Joseph Romanos is a Wellington sports writer and broadcaster.

- Taranaki


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