Thursday, 20 May 2010

If there is a rugby God, then surely the time has come for him to smile upon Jason Rutledge.

I barely know Cabbage to say hello to, but he’s one of the few modern-day rugby players I genuinely admire. I’ve followed his progress over the years from lightweight flanker, to lightweight hooker, to back-up Southland hooker, to sharing-the-honours-with-David Hall hooker, to being-ranked-behind-Hall-and-Holloway hooker, to finally-nailing-the-Stags’-top-job hooker, to Ranfurly Shield-winning hooker, to genuine Super 14-quality hooker, to genuine All Blacks-contender hooker.

There’s no doubting Andrew Hore and Keven Mealamu are the tope rakes in the country, even though Rutledge comprehensively outplayed Hore in last year’s NPC clash. However, with the latter out for all but the end-of-season tour, the All Blacks need a like-minded grafter not a fly-by-night, throw-the-ball-in-the-dark lineout exponent like Aled de Malmanche.

In an age where All Black jerseys are given away more lightly due to rotation, reconditioning and recuperation, it’d be nice to think they’d find one for a man who’s built his reputation on loyalty, longevity and love of the game.

* Artist Andy Warhol famously said in 1968 “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. Although I’ve had to wait half a lifetime, I’m pleased to report my fleeting 15 minutes of fame lasted for a whopping 103 minutes.

For a brief period on Wednesday morning I was an All Black. A press release from Beef and Lamb New Zealand at 7-59am about its Steak of Origin contest stated “Kathy Child and Yvonne Hill’s steak was crowned winner after a fiercely-contested tasting by BMX World Champion Sarah Walker, ex-All Black Jamie Mackay of Radio Sport and Newstalk ZB, together with top chefs Hester Guy and Graham Hawkes”.

Unfortunately for me that press release was recalled at 9-38am and my All Black status was under a cloud until another press release was issued at 9-42am describing the inadvertently previously-excluded Richard Loe as the ex-All Black on the judging panel.

I now know how an old Otago university acquaintance David Halligan must feel as an Almost All Black. He was chosen to play against Scotland at Carisbrook in 1981, only to pull a hamstring in training, allowing Allan Hewson the chance to cement the fullback position.

Jason Rutledge is almost an All Black. I would hate to see him finish his career labelled an Almost All Black. He deserves better and has earned the right to join his old man Leicester in one of rugby’s most exclusive clubs.


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