What is it about rugby, violence and wet bus tickets?

by Gavin

One week we hear the outrage that a little 3-year-old boy, Moko, was beaten to death over time by his caregivers. There are marches, hand-wringing and cries of enough. After the outpouring of national emotion things are quiet again, or a few weeks at least. Last week someone was in court for another dead baby.

Today I read in the Herald about the coroner’s enquiry into the death of Stephen Dudley where the much larger 18-year-old boy hit Dudley with a king-hit styled attack with another 16-year-old in an attack where they continued hitting him on the ground.

Dudley died and, as reported by the Herald:

“One of them, 18 at the time and whose name is permanently suppressed was discharged without conviction at the High Court in Auckland in 2014 after a manslaughter charge was dropped to one of assault with intent to injure.

His co-defendant – 16-years-old at the time – also admitted assaulting Stephen and was similarly discharged without conviction three months earlier.”

I am confused. In one week we are told that violence is bad and we need to report abuse and wrap services around the vulnerable. Yet a few weeks after Moko’s death we hear that it seems someone can be hurt badly enough that he dies, supposedly from an unknown heart condition, no doubt aggravated by the attack, but they both get suppression and discharge without conviction. So it seems violence is condoned by our society after all. Or do we only care when a young child is involved? And then, it seems, only for a few weeks.

Dudley was attacked from behind in what appears to be a rather cowardly approach from an older and much bigger man. But, the courts have decided that he gets away without any sanctions. Is it any wonder that there is so much violence in our society when there is an absence of even something as trivial as the proverbial wet bus ticket?

We get upset at violence to children it seems, but we have the haka as the warrior challenge for rugby games and other sports. The games themselves are often quite violent with injuries you don’t get in other sports, often deliberately inflicted, as seen on TV regularly with reruns and analysis by commentators. Is there some disconnect here?

So, violence is to be condoned and celebrated in some settings and deplored in others. How is it possible to be violent on the field and peaceful at home, for most people?

On a personal, level my old man played rugby for Otago, Wairarapa and Manawatu. Like they all did in his era they drank a lot and brought that mess home to the family setting. His public face was jovial, gregarious and one of the boys. The private face behind closed doors was a little less fun. I suspect this experience was shared by many families.

I am also confused that, with the new OSH regulations, paper cuts and near misses in the office have to be reported. Worm farming is considered a high-risk environment but rugby, which has regular injuries, is completely exempt from any of these regulations. What am I missing here as I search for some sense of logic or consistency? I raise this because it seems to be the same as the outrage of Moko’s death compared with the exoneration of a violent bully.

The media is full of the realities of cyber and school bullying and how we should protect children. But, a real bully gets a free pass with a cowardly attack on a 15-year-old boy at his school where, we are told, he is supposed to feel safe.

Can we really expect brutal stupidity to change in this country when there is such inconsistency in dealing with violence, which seems to be acceptably ingrained in the national psyche?


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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

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