Sir Graham Henry has publicly admitted he caused “a huge bloody furore” by suggesting match-fixing may have been behind the All Blacks quarter-final defeat in the 2007 World Cup – but he says he needed to tell the truth “in black and white”.
By Matthew Backhouse, NZ Herald
The former coach’s comments came at his first public speaking engagement since the controversial revelation appeared in his new autobiography.
The suggestion of match-fixing has been criticised both here and overseas, with sports broadcaster Murray Deaker saying it was all about book sales.
Sir Graham told guests at a tribute dinner at Wellington’s Amora Hotel that choosing to reveal his suspicions on match-fixing may have been “naive”.
“You write these books and you can say, ‘Well, let’s not say that, let’s fob that, let’s not get too much into that.’ But I think if you write an autobiography, it needs to be honest, it needs to be real, it needs to be what you think.
“Maybe I’m naive, but this book is about that – it’s about being black and white, totally honest and my thoughts are in that book, and there’s no fobbing on those.”
Sir Graham said after the quarter-final against France in 2007, he thought something strange was going on – “but I didn’t really know”.
His first thought was how to handle it and to get the team through the situation.
“So I decided that all I would say is that we didn’t play as well as we should, the French played better than we thought and we didn’t get the bounce of the ball,” he said.
“I kept on saying that for a long time.”
Sir Graham said he analysed the quarter-final and felt “physically ill” after watching the first half.
“I spewed in the toilets … I was just bloody amazed,” he said.
“It was completely outside anything I had experienced before. And I just thought you know, match-fixing, sports betting – and that’s what I put in the book, and it’s caused a huge bloody furore.”
Sir Graham said he mentioned his “gut feeling” to the New Zealand Rugby Union and was told not to pursue it any further with the International Rugby Board.
“Their advice was right. Otherwise if I’d pushed the point at that time, I would never have coached the All Blacks again.
“To coach the All Blacks again was a surprise to me.”
ALL BLACK DRINKING PROBLEM
In his half-hour speech tonight, Sir Graham also touched on his battle with depression and his work to turn around the All Blacks’ drinking culture.
Tributes in honour of Sir Graham at the dinner included a welcome address from rugby great Sir Colin Meads – who earlier came out in support of the book’s comments – and video tributes from Prime Minister John Key and All Blacks’ captain Richie McCaw.
The cocktail evening and its three-course dinner also featured a charity auction for Kidney Kids.
Sir Graham is due speak at three more tribute dinners organised by Duco Events, including at Auckland’s Langham Hotel this Thursday – where a single seat costs $459.43 and a VIP table for 10 costs $6894.25.