Langman just trying to make a living

Laura Langman - chose Australia, but she shouldn't have had to choose.

Laura Langman - chose Australia, but she shouldn't have had to choose.

OPINION: Dear Laura,

You won't remember me, but I remember you.

I helped you one night with media training when I was tutoring at Wintec.

It was media coaching before you got media famous.

On this night, journalist Kingsley Field and I gave you some simple tips and tricks for the many media interviews that lay ahead. And there would be hundreds to come.

You were the young and up-and-coming player of Waikato and New Zealand netball.

What was clear was your potential both on and off the court. I can't claim any great influence for the many on-camera interviews that came later, but I have watched many of them. One tip – watch your ums and ahs.

They are called vocal crutches and they are an instinctive attempt to buy time while you gather your thoughts. Instead, just breathe and say nothing. Then answer.

This column, though, is not a media-training debrief. It is an attempt to inspire you and congratulate you for standing up to the insidious creep of career bullying of New Zealand sports starts by their parent bodies.

I wish former All Black captain Ritchie McCaw had your balls. Rugby would be a bigger and better code if it had some Langman in it.

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This month you had to make a choice – play in the best professional netball league there is (Australia), or play for New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games for New Zealand.

It is an either/or choice. You can't have both. Unlike New Zealand rugby, there are no exceptions.

If you play in Australia, you can't play for New Zealand. Netball New Zealand board's stance is clear: aspiring Silver Ferns must play for a Kiwi side in the national premiership to be available for the national team.

You chose Australia and in so doing, ruled yourself out of wearing black and a silver fern ever again.

I say you've been screwed by the creep of the corruption of professional sport.

How dare netball New Zealand officials say you must compromise your income if you want to represent New Zealand? How dare they control your livelihood and national representation with sporting bribery of a silver fern.

Sport is often a short-term career and you should have the right to play where you want without punishment.

But not in New Zealand sport.

How dare anyone in any New Zealand sporting code when selecting the best players in New Zealand say you will be selected on conditions outside your skill set, experience and attitude?

How dare they select a second-rate New Zealand team because the best players are just trying to make a living somewhere else?

Can you imagine what Gareth Bale would say if the Welsh Football Union said he can't play for Real Madrid? What about Argentinian Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona in Spain? Or even our own Winston Reid, who plays in England for West Ham?

What about if Kane Williamson was told he couldn't make money in the Indian IPL cricket league if he wanted to captain New Zealand? Or what if Olympians Lisa Carrington or Eliza McCartney couldn't wear the silver fern if they competed in overseas sports events?

It is a nonsense argument perpetrated by those who simply want to ring-fence talent to promote their brand (and their own income) ahead of the well-being of the code and its players. The players are simply being exploited as corporate sport pawns. And it has to end.

In the world of true established professional sport (rugby and netball are excluded - they are amateur codes that merely pay people involved), players are free to play for whoever will pay the most. The domestic leagues then fill up with lower-level players who then aspire to be like (for example) Winston Reid, who then move to the elite leagues.

It is the natural order of sporting things, unless you play rugby or netball in New Zealand, where the sporting bureaucrats rule.

Why in New Zealand do fans allow sporting bodies to dictate New Zealand representation based on where players want to work? Why do we allow such small-minded thinking to be acceptable?

The nonsense argument says if rugby players go where the money is (in Europe), that will cripple New Zealand rugby. It won't. It has already been crippled.

Domestic regional rugby is dead, the Ranfurly Shield is yesterday's log o' wood and the Super 18 is unwatchable unless it is New Zealanders playing New Zealanders. The only game in town that matters is the All Blacks - and even then few will care about the ho-hum games to come against South Africa and Australia.

If New Zealand athletes want to make a living offshore and are prepared to move family to experience new lifestyles away from New Zealand, we should support them.

Laura, I say stick to your guns. Tell Netball New Zealand to go to hell.

 - Stuff


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