OPINION: If anyone had asked me before the NPC started just who Taranaki could ill-afford to lose during the season I would have said Beauden Barrett and Scott Waldrom.
Now they have to.
The sight of Scott Waldrom coming out of the Taranaki changing room at Toll Stadium with his eyes staring at his shoe laces was enough to spoil my weekend.
I didn't need to ask how he was, I knew the arm he left the field holding was broken, so too his chances of making the New Zealand Maori tour.
"It's the story of my career," was what he did have to say.
Sadly for the man they call Scooter, he was right.
It started after he had made a name for himself playing in Wellington with a foot injury that just wouldn't go away.
It got so bad there was a growing line of people ready to say he would never come back.
Well, he did, and he got better and better.
The amount of work he gets through and his vision for the game are attributes he brings to a team.
Quite how no Super Rugby coach wants to employ him for 2013 is beyond me.
The Highlanders should be bending over backwards to grab him given their lack of depth in the No 7 jersey and the Hurricanes should also take a butchers because for me, Waldrom offers more than Karl Lowe who is starting to look like his best days are over.
Taranaki's chances of winning their first NPC title have also been blunted by Waldrom's absence, although I do have faith in his replacement, Chris Walker.
You won't find another bloke who is willing to give more to the cause than Walker and his tough as teak approach will be an asset.
But he is a different style of player to Waldrom.
I do think Taranaki need a link man if they are going to play expansively come the business end of the season. It's not all doom and gloom for amber and black fans, though.
The sight of Kane Barrett back on the field, and playing exceptionally well, was pleasing at Toll Stadium. The bloke plays at 100 per cent every game and fully deserves his Blues contract.
There should also be a thought or two for one guy who doesn't always get a mention. Carl Carmichael put in a really good 70 minutes as he scrummaged well and got through plenty of work.
The same could be said of veteran centre Willie Rickards whose deft pass put Kurt Baker over for a try.
Rickards is one of life's nice guys who never forgets to say hello and deserves some recognition because he gives everything he has.
It was a good atmosphere in Whangarei on Saturday night and the turnout was the best they had had at Toll Stadium for some time according to Dennis, the taxi driver.
While the Auckland-based media are making a big deal about the lack of patronage at Eden Park, as well as Westpac Stadium, in Wellington, people should not forget that rugby is still alive in some provinces.
We shouldn't care if Aucklanders don't care about the NPC.
The best thing the Auckland Rugby Union could do is find another ground to play at because it must be costing them a fortune to play at Eden Park with the number of staff they employ.
There is merit in the concerns people have about the current NPC format because as I've said before, it has some fatal flaws.
If the format does stay the same as it is now, and that's what New Zealand Rugby Union boss Steve Tew wants, then provinces will be pushed further and further to the wall.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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