Today’s NZRU bosses have stuff to say sorry for, but 1928-60 tour decisions are not among them

Alf is seriously discomforted by the urge among modern-day malcontents to demand apologies for the mischief done to their ancestors.

Clamouring for such apologies is something he expects from Pita Sharples, our Minister of Maori Affairs, of course. Sharples is a chronic complainant about all sorts of things, particularly if a racist edge to whatever happened can be found.

Sure enough – Sharples is now wailing about the Rugby Union’s disinclination to apologise to former Maori players – and their families – for excluding them from past tours to South Africa on racial grounds.

“The refusal of the NZRU to apologise to those Maori All Blacks who were dropped from teams to play against the Springboks because of the South African apartheid policies demonstrates the gross arrogance of the rugby union towards the Maori people.

“During that apartheid regime, the NZRU selected All Blacks for our country’s top team to play South Africa on the grounds of race and colour, deliberating excluding any All Blacks of Maori descent.

“In this year, celebrating 100 years of Maori rugby, it would seem such a small but appropriate gesture for the NZRU to apologise.”

The Sunday Star Times reminded us yesterday that Maori were excluded from tours to South Africa in 1928, 1949 and 1960.

But the NZRU told the newspaper now was not the time to focus on “political issues that happened in the past”.

Trouble is, some bugger by name of Malcolm Mulholland has been researching and writing a history of Maori rugby.

But he wasn’t satisfied with simply researching and writing.

He decided he wanted to indulge in a bit of rabble-rousing as well and become a player in the history he was supposed to be recording.

He wrote to the NZRU last year inviting it to apologise, but rugby’s governing body has refused.

So why didn’t the bugger go public on the matter then?

Because publicity now – Alf suspects – is what he wants to sell his book.

In Alf’s book, these antics seriously undermine any claim he might make to be a dispassionate recorder of past events. The credibility of his book can only suffer accordingly.

Those past events were moulded by attitudes in South Africa, where the government pursued racist policies long before the apartheid regime of segregation took hold from 1948 to 1994.

Even legendary Maori All Black George Nepia was omitted from the 1928 tour after the South African prime minister advised New Zealand government officials that it would be “embarrassing” for his white-rule regime if Maori played.

Jimmy Mill was a member of the legendary All Black “Invincibles” of 1924 but was banned from touring South Africa in 1928 because of his Maori blood.

His daughter, Patricia Mill of Gisborne, was said it was “appalling” that the NZRU was refusing to apologise.

She said it was about a “sense of justice”.

“I think it’s pretty poor. It would cost them so little to do the gracious thing and acknowledge that. There was pain at the time.”

Alf says the blokes who made the decisions should speak for themselves on the matter.

Until that happens, Alf is right behind the NZRU board which – we are told by the Sunday Star Times – officially considered the matter twice.

It decided it was more important in the centenary year of Maori rugby to focus on celebrations rather than political issues from the past that would never occur today.

Fair enough. Anyway, they make enough cock-ups of their own and should be apologising for these.

If any NZRU executive member from 1928, 1949 or 1960 wishes to pop up and say sorry for whatever happened then, Alf imagines no one will stand in their way.

But these bleeding-heart demands for apologies are going much too far. Next thing we know Alf will be called on to apologise for the mischief done by his Viking ancestors when they were raping and pillaging their merry way through England all those centuries ago.

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