Saturday, June 22

It’s not just the match officiating that’s been a problem during Warriors games

The Warriors beat a pretty average Bulldogs side on Friday evening. And it’s just as well they did, or this opinion piece might have a sharper edge to it.

But strap yourselves in anyway, because while I’m still learning to live with the losses to the Panthers, Storm, and Roosters games before it, there’s one thing about all these games that has left me with a sour taste. We are consistently cursed with ignorance, racism, and blatant bias emanating from the commentary box. And while I’m sick of using and reading the word ‘bias’, it is nonetheless present.

It’s not okay. And we deserve better.

Let me explain.

There’s nothing quite as fulfilling as a great commentator of a sport you love. Keith Quinn was sublime for rugby in his day, as was Ian Smith for cricket (and rugby) – arguably undervalued for the contribution they’ve had to the growth, development, and enjoyment of the games.

Quinn complemented the spectacle for generations of rugby-loving fans with his pragmatic yet stirring commentaries. Smith’s insightful descriptions, respect for the players, and clever quips are a stark contrast to the flatulence that Warriors fans have had to put up with. Quinn wrote 16 books on the game of rugby. I doubt Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach could write a legible shopping list. And if he did ever manage to pen a book, I have no doubt it would only be about himself.

As I sat back with anticipation for the Warriors game on Friday evening, a sense of disdain slowly crept into my viewing experience. While I’ve already come to realise and appreciate that most of the Aussie commentators are biased dinosaurs from a bygone age, the last month of listening to their dribble has finally tipped me over the edge. Because while the games were contests that ebbed and flowed, the Aussie commentators calling them were as one-sided and distracting as a Klan member in the front row of a Bobby Brown concert.

For a bunch of blokes with big mouths, they tend to find themselves incriminatingly silent when the match officials don’t call out opposition infringements against the Warriors. Case in point against the Panthers – when Moses Leota hits Tohu Harris with a high shot that should have amounted to a sin bin or at the very least a penalty, the commentators were missing in action.

The official response from the NRL was that apparently that shot wasn’t high enough. Well, I’d love to see any of those refs get in line and take that shot and see whether they still feel the same way. And against the Bulldogs, Blocker claimed DWZ should be penalised for tackling a player who was shepherding the ball runner. Shouldn’t the shepherding player be penalised, you numbskull? What the actual…?

They are hands down, the most blatantly biased, racist, and bigoted commentary team in English-speaking sport. They consistently ruin games for Warriors’ supporters and I’ve found myself surprised by how unsurprised I am with their disrespect.

Greg Alexander, Blocker Roach, Dan Ginanne, and Andrew Voss can’t tell the difference between players of colour, let alone pronounce their names correctly.

Between them, they are a Specsavers commercial, and don’t even know it. In fact, if either of them can tell the difference between Tom Ale and Dimetric Sifukula for the rest of this season, I’ll buy them each a dozen beers. Could you imagine if Aussies were forced to listen to NZ commentators unable to tell the difference between Nathan Cleary and Dylan Edwards and were pronouncing him ‘Nithin Clurry’ all the time? They would think we were inbred, sheep-shagging imbeciles. So why shouldn’t we think this of them?

A good commentator is worth their weight in gold. They make the games more enjoyable and complement the action. They inform the viewer and champion the game, leaving us enthralled whichever way the game goes. They are a voice representing the hopes and fears of both sides. Can you honestly say that about any of those Aussie commentators calling a Warriors game? They’re about as representative as a couple of National Party caucus members cracking feminist jokes at the Invercargill RSA. They’re grey sprinkles on a rainbow cupcake. If you think I’m insulting these guys, I’m not. I’m simply describing them.

Steve Roach might not be intentionally racist, but if he’s not, he’s a bigot. Or maybe just casually racist. He’s unwilling to learn how to pronounce Māori and Pacific Island player’s names correctly. But this is the guy who, while on tour in New Zealand back in the day, thought ‘Takeaway’ was a Māori name and pronounced it accordingly, until his amused Kangaroo teammates corrected him. As crazy as this story sounds, you wouldn’t want to bet against it having happened, would you?

Mangling pronunciation is utterly disrespectful and players on the receiving end and fans spotting this should let him know all about it. Need we be reminded that this is the guy who back in 2016, described the Warriors playing style of offloading and spinning the ball as ‘jungle ball’, during a commentary? It’s clear the concussions are starting to take effect on Blocker because he can’t see a knock-on from an Australian player in a Warriors match, even if a knife was at his throat. I don’t think he even watches the game; he just watches the other team playing against the Warriors.

Greg Alexander may have once played for the Warriors, but it’s clear he resented every minute of it. Until this year, it had been 25 years since he set foot on NZ soil again. Given his ongoing involvement in the game since he retired from playing, doesn’t that just say it all? It leaves me disheartened and scoffing whenever he’s referred to as a former Warrior. He’s the poster child for Aussie players turning up in the twilight of their career for an obscene pay cheque and phoning in sub-par performances. He should be forced to apologise for ever putting on a Warriors jersey. For what it’s worth, Alexander was reportedly questioned over his overall bias in a 2021 interview and said that he isn’t biased and just likes to call a game. I have absolutely no doubt that this applies to Aussie teams outside of Penrith. But not for an NZ team playing against an Australian club. And yet, despite all this, when he’s not commentating on FOX, he’s often extremely complimentary toward the Warriors, for instance on his SEN radio show. Which begs the question – why would Alexander treat the Warriors one way on his own show, and another on Fox Sports? There’s certainly a lack of diversity which only Fox Sport can be responsible for but is it possible they’re also encouraging bias against the Warriors in their commentary team in order to fuel the white Aussie market?

The main issue here is these guys are Australians. And as we’ve previously deduced, when it comes to sport, Australians are generally wankers. They don’t have a genuine Kiwi in their commentary team that can empathise or call them out on their bigotry. They don’t have anyone of colour within the team. They are not diverse and are not representative of the viewers or players.

Give us commentators that respect our club and the players, and who represent our tribe, who empathise with our club’s struggle and who voice our opinions on rubbish calls and inconsistent match officiating. Who take the ride of the game alongside us, not against us. And Daryl Halligan doesn’t count. Besides, the guy looks and sounds like he’s just sunk five beers every time we cross to him.

I’m just sick and tired of it and we as the fans shouldn’t have to go and find other alternative commentaries (though I keep hearing Dai Henwood’s is amazing). We should just expect better from the one we have. Or the inclusion of one of our own.

We don’t need alternatives.

We need replacements.