ON AIR: Radio Sport Weekender

9AM - 12PM

Chris Rattue: How Dalton got it so wrong

Author
Chris Rattue, NZ Herald,
Section
Yachting,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 28 June 2017, 12:53PM
Chromeless video player for distribution of NZ Herald content to other sites. No pre-roll available on this player

Grant Dalton won the America's Cup. Then he dropped it.

Ironically, the supposedly controversial Aussie Jimmy Spithill may have lost the Auld Mug in Bermuda, but he won a lot of friends with his generous praise of Team New Zealand after defender Oracle's humiliating defeat.

Maybe former Wallaby Phil Kearns and the other Kiwi naysayers are right - we don't do post-match sporting grace very well.

When the All Blacks lose, it's the refereeing which brought them down. When the opposition plays well, don't mention the opposition.

There was another example of that on this tour when Sam Whitelock was interviewed after the Lions' muscular victory over the Crusaders in Christchurch. Whitelock, who may become an All Black captain, could hardly bring himself to even mention the tourists. French referee Mathieu Raynal then copped it in the neck from the pundits.

Very sadly, Grant Dalton was a horrible bore in victory. After all those struggles, the magnificent way he held a crumbling team together, he chose the victory podium as the place to get close and personal and nasty about Spithill. Jimmy did this. Jimmy did that.

In all honesty, who even cares what he was referring to. Snide remarks were so irrelevant to that moment.

No wonder commentators led by former Team New Zealand member Mark Orams begged TNZ to keep Dalton quiet throughout the regatta. Dalton has proved himself a brilliant leader and nutty loose cannon all in one.

The Bermuda victory was about a team, a magnificently unified team, but he turned it into something personal. Wrong place. Wrong time. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

He even made a derogatory sounding comment about his old TNZ skipper Dean Barker - " if you want to be Japan, you need to be Japanese" - although I would suggest this was another crack at Oracle, who used Barker's team as a regatta comrade.

Imagine this: Roger Federer taking a dig at Rafael Nadal, on court, with the Wimbledon trophy in hand. Or a golfer putting on a green jacket while slagging off an opponent. In those moments of supreme triumph, with the "world" watching, glory works and goring doesn't.

Dalton had the right of reply to whatever was tearing him apart, and it would be great to hear what it was all about, how it affected him. But the time to do it was later, away from the victory euphoria, when he had a chance to elaborate. Most of those watching or reading about the victory pageant didn't have a clue what he was referring to. It was too in-house.

As for Spithill, he was my favourite character at the cup. As with San Francisco in 2013, Spithill was the most interesting person there. The amazing TNZ helmsman and America's Cup pup Peter Burling was the star, but he is also a bit of a snore-fest on the comments front.

Spithill is refreshingly uncomplicated, straight up. There aren't enough Jimmy Spithills in sport.

"Pitbull" Spithill? Try looking elsewhere.

Grant Dalton is one of the great redemption stories. The way he held this team together, and turned them into champions, is utterly amazing. He has re-written history, after being written off. We salute you Mr Dalton.

But in the moment of triumph, Dalton made it sound as if the America's Cup was all about...DALTON.

***

Sir Clive Woodward is having a better tour this year.

Coach Woodward's 2005 Lions were a bitter disappointment. In terms of a contest, the series was a bit of a flop.

But his analysis has been spot on this time, in his Daily Mail columns.

Woodward mounted a well-reasoned defence - as if they should even need one - of the All Blacks' tactics, after Lions coach Warren Gatland inferred that Steve Hansen's side deliberately and dangerously targeted halfback Conor Murray.

And Woodward is also bang on with his analysis of the first test, saying it was tactics not selections which lost the game for the Lions.

The Lions need to hang on to the ball more, denying the All Blacks scoring chances, and committing them to energy-sapping tackles. Murray's pedantic box-kicking was central to their problems, the star Irish halfback being turned into a one trick pony.

A lot of British pundits want Maro Itoje included in the second test team, and the English middle row forward is a fantastic athlete. But on what basis do they want him in the side? In over half an hour as an impact replacement, Itoje failed to make one decent run with the ball.

-NZ Herald

ON AIR: Radio Sport Weekender

9AM - 12PM