Kiwi journalist Brad Lewis, who is a digital producer for Newshub, has written an excellent piece, apologising on behalf of the entire media for how they handled the coverage of the tour. Here’s some of what he wrote.
1. We convinced you Warren Gatland’s style of play was awful and he was fighting a battle he couldn’t win against the messiah known as Steve Hansen.
Let me say this before I answer. The decision to plaster a clown cartoon of the Lions coach on the front page of a newspaper only ultimately achieved one thing – it pissed off Gatland and his men.
Throughout the past six weeks, planted all over our sports media have been stories surrounding the mind game battle between Shag and Gats. The general theme suggested that Gatland was fighting a battle he couldn’t win. Well, he sure as hell got the last laugh didn’t he?
Gatland is an extremely talented coach who took Wales to within an inch, literally, of making a World Cup final in 2011. Yes, at times he has played crash-bash midfield rugby. I even heard a parody of Oasis hit, ‘Wonderwall’ called ‘Warren Ball’.
But wait a second. Do we not remember Ma’a Nonu, Frank Bunce or Joe Stanley? All crash-ball specialists.
Gatland outcoached Hansen in Wellington and, at worst, was his equal in Auckland last night. Despite all the flak he copped from both sides of the press, his reputation is ultimately trending upwards after a series draw.
2. We told you the Lions players just weren’t that good.
This is the one that grates me the most. I question the amount of foreign rugby some of us actually ingest. Personally I watched the Six Nations with interest.
I was impressed with what I saw from the likes of Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell, Elliot Daly, Jonathan Davies and Stuart Hogg to name only a few. Yet, let’s be honest, they get written off because they are playing in a competition we don’t rate.
There’s no way Farrell could match Beauden Barrett, and you just wait till Itoje runs into Sam Whitelock and Brodie Retallick. He won’t know what’s hit him. Nope, that’s not what happened.
Before the tour started, sports talkback hosts and print columnists were proclaiming we could suffer multiple injuries and we would still be too good for this lot. We are New Zealand rugby and we have the depth of the Pacific Ocean in rugby talent they said.
Well, we suffered injuries and a suspension and what do you know? We weren’t good enough to claim series honours.
We have become so insular that we think the only thing that matters is us, and that reflects in the media’s coverage of the Lions before and during the tour.
3. We warned you it was the tour schedule from hell and they would be lucky to win more than two games.
Okay, so they only won five, but look at the games they did win – Crusaders, Maori All Blacks and the second Test. Those were the games that were supposed to be an embarrassment for the tourists.
A full-strength Crusaders outfit didn’t fire a shot and neither did the New Zealand Maori, yet still the Lions were written off. It was apparently the referee’s fault and the fact that the Maori had only been in camp for four days.
That’s fine, but where was that argument for the Lions after they had struggled to put away the Barbarians? They had only been in the country for 40-odd hours.
I remember sitting in the office at work and overhearing banter they wouldn’t win another game and the All Blacks would smash them by 40.
Talkback radio lit up with callers proclaiming the Lions a joke and Gatland clueless, without retort from hosts either, just cheerleading and talk of a series whitewash for the world champions.
The schedule was tough, but this squad was full of quality that could easily compete at Super Rugby level. I’m pretty sure the Blues would jump at the chance to recruit a guy like Dan Biggar, let alone Johnny Sexton.
Sean O’Brien, Jamie George, Anthony Watson, Leigh Halfpenny, even mid-weeker James Haskell was great with the Highlanders a few years back. Who are we kidding? These guys would walk into most New Zealand franchises as starters.
We got this wrong and we failed you, the rugby public, by giving you a false sense of security that this All Black team would send Gats and his boys back home in tears.
Sorry New Zealand.