Are we glorifying the All Blacks too much?
OPINION: It will be a dark day in New Zealand rugby when the All Blacks aren't recognised for their achievements.
They are the benchmark of world rugby, they are the best at what they do, and every award received is deserved.
But is too much emphasis being placed on the black jersey? Are we still glorifying them in the wake of a World Cup success?
Last Friday night's annual rugby awards dinner recognised notable achievements on the rugby field over the past 12 months.
But the feeling is such a night has just turned into an All Black benefit and no matter the achievement by any other side, as long as the All Blacks have the trophy cabinet relatively full, the major awards are theirs for the taking.
The snubbing of both the Chiefs and the Canterbury rugby team for the overall team of the year gong on Friday night was proof enough of that. Both sides were more than deserving of the title after incredible seasons on the rugby field.
The Chiefs turned around a 10th placing in rugby's toughest competition in 2011 to beat off the rest of the field in some of the most exciting rugby seen in New Zealand and Canterbury did what no other side have done before in claiming a fifth consecutive provincial title.
Many feel the All Blacks dropped the ball at Twickenham, and showed an inability to put away a weak and depleted Australia.
Did they achieve anything that was unexpected? No. Did they set the world alight with flawless rugby? No. Did either the Chiefs or the Canterbury side do one or the other? You bet.
When Canterbury won the first of the five consecutive titles, finding someone to place a wager with that they would maintain that domination for five years would have been tough. To stay at the top of the rugby pile for so long is a remarkable feat.
Couple that with the fact that fewer than a handful of the squad this year have enjoyed all five years and it adds a little more context to the argument.
Yes, Canterbury are blessed with an unbelievable talent pool from which to choose players and they also play host to some of the best non-All Blacks in the country. But 2012 was tough for the red and black side.
There was an expectation they would just come out and win their fifth title which added pressure. Plus doing it with a new coaching combination, a plethora of young players with limited experience at the national level and while dealing with several injuries to key players makes the achievement a lot more compelling.
Names like McNicholl, Taylor, Bird and Funnell were shoved into the limelight. And like the Chiefs, Canterbury played an expansive, exciting style of rugby scoring 58 tries in 12 matches.
That pulled the people from their couches to the stadiums - a diminishing sight in New Zealand rugby.
If that's not enough to earn a little more consideration for team of the year, then nothing will be.
Take nothing away from the All Blacks, what they did this year they did with class, but on this occasion there may have been two sides a little better.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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