OPINION: Sir Graham, just why did you feel the need for some belated exorcism?
Just what on earth motivated you to indulge in one of the world's most disliked and mistrusted pastimes - being a bad loser?
In 2007, after the All Blacks' shock quarterfinal exit from the Rugby World Cup at the hands of France, Graham Henry was reviled by many rugby fans in New Zealand.
The reaction was over the top, but now he has eclipsed all of that with the accusations, in his book Graham Henry, Final Word, of match-fixing.
Without a scintilla of proof, he blames his team's shock loss on the match officials.
The time-honoured tradition of losing World Cup All Blacks coaches is to resign and quietly cease to exist, at least as far as the public is concerned. John Mitchell, John Hart and Laurie Mains all did, although Mains did complain bitterly about the food poisoning allegedly administered by a mysterious South African waitress named Suzie.
Neither she, nor the source of any contaminated food, was ever found, leaving Mains to suffer the rare ignominy of being a losing All Blacks coach who couldn't accept defeat.
Sir Graham was different. He successfully pleaded for a chance at redemption from the New Zealand Rugby Union and - despite a storm of protest at the time - was given that chance.
That redemption ultimately came on October 23 last year, when the All Blacks won the William Webb Ellis trophy for the second time. Now he's tarnished that with the revelations in his book.
In so doing, he's relegated Mains to little more than a postscript when it comes to that very small club of whinging All Blacks coaches.
It's easy to understand how he has upset so many people. New Zealanders are fiercely proud of our fair play ethics; our ability to win graciously and lose with a generosity of spirit is part of our national psyche. When that concept is shattered, we all feel it.
Some may argue that it is his book and he is doing little more than describing his personal reaction to the loss, which he is quite entitled to. Moreover, as ghost-writer Bob Howitt points out, the context has been lost amid the furore of the reaction. Sir Graham made it clear in the book that the officiating was only one factor, as far as he was concerned, with the poor play of the All Blacks a significant factor as well.
While those sentiments are relevant, it nevertheless does not excuse his own poor judgment in playing the blame game that will make many others the world over think less of him.
Sir Graham Henry had a better legacy to leave New Zealand rugby than this. His tenure as a great All Blacks coach and rugby thinker has forever been tainted.
The pity is he can blame no-one but himself.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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