New Zealand assesses player support
April 22, 2013
Julian Savea was tearful and apologetic in reading his media statement © Getty Images
New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew will call in independent assessors to establish if the governing body is doing enough to aid young players in the wake of Julian Savea's common assault charge.
Savea, 22, will appear in the Wellington District Court on Monday after a domestic incident involving his partner last Sunday. The All Blacks and Hurricanes winger issued a tearful apology on Sunday afternoon, acknowledging his wrongdoing and saying he was taking steps to ensure it didn't happen again.
Alcohol was not a factor in the Savea incident, unlike those involving Zac Guildford in the past 12 months. Guildford was not charged with assault earlier this year despite punching someone at a party while heavily intoxicated, just the latest in a series of alcohol-fuelled incidents involving the Crusaders and former All Blacks winger. He voluntarily stood down to deal with his issues with alcohol, and the NZRU considered tearing up his contract. He returned to the Crusaders in March after spending time in a rehabilitation facility and admitting he was an alcoholic.
Other Super Rugby players who have faced court proceedings in recent times include Ben Tameifuna and Rene Ranger. Tameifuna was sentenced to 50 hours community service after pleading guilty to two charges of driving while disqualified last November. Ranger was cleared of assault in a trial in August 2012. He was charged in 2009 following an incident in a bar.
"We need to find out whether we are doing enough to help these young men cope with the pressures of the professional game," Tew said. "We will take a deep breath and get someone independent to give us some assessment of what we're doing particularly around our young players. We're certainly not trying to make excuses ... but overall we've got a large group of men who generally do a very good job for themselves and the teams they play for. But we've had a number of incidents in the last 12 months so I think it's time to check that what we are doing is right."
Tew did not reveal details or timing of the review, saying: "It's something we've talked about in the last few days as this particular incident has been worked through. We've got a piece of work to do around what that would look like. But we are constantly looking at the development of our players on and off the field. We benchmark against a lot of other professional sports worldwide. We've had people recently in a conference in North America. We have people come out here to look at what we do.
"It's fair to say, generally speaking, people think we have got a very good player development program in place. But no system is perfect and we are having, I guess you could call them casualties, inside our environment and we'll get someone to come and have a look and tell us. It's possible they will tell us we're doing too much. But we've got incidents that we would prefer not to happen and we want to make sure that we do what we can to make sure they don't happen anymore."
Hurricanes chief executive James Te Puni said the franchise would look again at the support provided to players and families."This is something that we constantly have to keep looking at," he said. "[Players], their partners, their families, the sponsors, everyone really, has an expectation that we are doing the very best we can and that the support, guidance and teaching we provide is world class. In most cases that is the case. But whenever something like this occurs it is cause to pause and it's right for us to look closely again at what it is we are doing."