The decision to include Crusaders winger Sevu Reece in the All Blacks squad was, on the face of it, completely unsurprising. The 22 year old has scored 15 tries in 14 appearances for the Crusaders and was in electric form throughout Super Rugby, eventually being named Rookie of the Year.
Yet, the decision made by Steve Hansen to include Reece comes just a year after he was charged with “male assaults female”, the legal term for spousal abuse in New Zealand. Ultimately, Reece, having pleaded guilty, was fined but discharged without conviction after the judge declared the potential damage to his rugby career to be a mitigating circumstance.
On the night in question, Reece returned home drunk and was heard yelling expletives at his partner, before being seen by neighbours chasing her down the street and dragging her to the ground. As a result, she suffered bruising to the side of her face and waist, and bleeding to her knee.
Reece himself has since stated, “that’s all in the past,” and “we’re all here to learn and become better people,” but, given the brutal details, is that really enough? Can this be a man New Zealanders would be proud to see pull on the national jersey?
Whilst All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has condemned Reece’s actions, he has controversially defended the decision to include him in the squad for the coming Rugby Championship.
“You have got to remove him out of it and say, look there’s been a domestic violence incident,” Hansen, a former police officer, began, “do we agree with it? No, we don’t. Does the New Zealand Rugby Union? No, they don’t. Do the Crusaders? No, they don’t.”
According to Hansen, however, domestic violence is, “a big part of our society unfortunately… so rugby is going to have people within its community that are involved in this.”
“And having been a policeman, I’ve seen plenty of it. And I know it’s not just restricted to males assaulting women, women assault males too. It’s not a gender thing, it’s a New Zealand problem.”
It is for this particular claim, that domestic violence is ‘not a gender thing’ that Hansen has been lambasted. Hansen’s decision to even make such a claim is, in and of itself, bizarre, and completely unrelated to the case in hand. In particular, Ang Jury, the chief executive of the New Zealand Women’s Refuge, hit out hard at Hansen’s comments.
“He’s referring to ideas that are old, debunked, based on his experience as a police officer some 20-odd years ago… it’s a gendered problem that New Zealand has. There is no statistic available that demonstrates anything other than that,” she argued.
New Zealand has one of the developed world’s highest rates of domestic violence, according to a UN report the country has one of the worst records of family violence in the world.
Furthermore, between the years 2009 and 2015, there were 92 intimate partner deaths. In 98 per cent of these deaths where there was a long term, recorded history of abuse, women were the victim, abused by their male partner.
Therefore, it is simply inaccurate for Hansen to suggest that domestic abuse a gendered issue. Likewise, for him to portray domestic abuse as simply an unfortunate fact of life in New Zealand, rather than an endemic problem that the country’s national team should be involved in fighting, is tasteless and misguided.
Sending a clear message that the All Blacks are committed to fighting domestic violence, such a huge issue in New Zealand, would surely have been the correct course of action, rather than appearing resigned to its presence and willing to defend its perpetrators.
Fundamentally, Sevu Reece should not be playing for the All Blacks so soon after committing such a crime.
Written by Joe Ronan