Leadership in the time of Covid is a thankless job, in politics and in sport – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: November 28, 2021 at 9:53 pm

OPINION: Assuming you have the required skills, would you want to be Prime Minister or All Black rugby coach? Really?

Its a wonder they can find anyone to do either job, given leadership means abuse, insinuations, and accusations. Opposition leader is said to be even worse.

PM Jacinda Ardern and Ian Foster must wonder what they were thinking when they stuck their heads above the parapet; two Waikato kids now being widely compared with a by-product from the back end of cows.

Neither will be having a great time, both are likely to be cursing Covid. OK, Ardern had Whakaari/White Island and the mosque shootings to deal with as well, but for two years Covid has stalked their every move.

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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster, dejected after losing to France.

Public doubts are rising. Ardern is maintaining her smile as she slips in the polls, and a potpourri of disaffected Kiwis protest in the streets.

Foster has never won a popularity poll, even before consecutive losses to Ireland and France. You wouldnt rule out an anti-Fozzie march, the way things are going in Aotearoa.

Why lump Ardern and Foster together, you ask? Stints as a Press Gallery and sports reporter have revealed they have more parallels, than differences.

In Australia, its said the cricket captain is the second-most important person, after prime minister. Former PM John Howard even put it the other way around.

Rachael Kelly/Stuff

Werner Marx and Phil Gerritson of Tapanui were at Groundswell's Mother Of All Protests in Gore.

And so it is in Godzone, where rugby is the national game and politics has five sides on the Parliamentary pitch at the same time.

A PM must manage the unmanageable, whether the country or her own MPs, as does the All Blacks coach, harnessing an array of talents and mindsets into a cohesive whole.

After an election, one political team is given the ball, while the others complain about how they want it, how unfair the rules are, and what they would do if they only had the ball (always much better).

And just like Super Rugby, political parties have fans who will go nowhere else, or even see any merit in their rivals. A small percent of voters might switch, but only to the next-door party on the political spectrum.

No-one is going from the Greens to ACT, or vice versa, that would be like a Crusaders fan switching to the Blues. A decade after Foster left the Chiefs, there are still accusations of bias, with every selection seen through a Chiefs filter.

When the All Blacks get rucked over, the coach is a target of frustrated fans, powerless to vote him out, and with employer New Zealand Rugby usually as supportive as an international front-row forward.

My point is (yes, I know it has been a long wait) no normal person could handle either job, and both Ardern and Foster are more talented than normal people; which is not to say they are flawless, or even the best.

Yes, there is the money - the prime minister gets $471,049 and annual allowances for travel and lodging, and a lifetime annuity.


John Key was one prime minister who got to choose the timing of his own exit.

For that, prime ministers work endlessly, irrespective of the colour of their rosettes. I say this as someone who has been phoned by a PM after 11pm, and before 7.30am. Exhausting.

Fosters salary is a state secret. Top All Blacks earn more than a million.

So there is the money, but when did money ever make you less tired, or less stressed? Your body doesnt know how much youre being paid. It just knows it is exhausted, and youre not looking after it. The same goes for your brain.

And at the end of it all it can (and usually does) end in tears; Helen Clark, Jenny Shipley, Laurie Mains, John Hart, Grizz Wyllie, Bill English, John Mitchell, Jim Bolger, Mike Moore - did any stop being top gun on their own terms?

Or maybe they did. Maybe they (and their families) were simply relieved the war was over.

Whod blame them?

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Leadership in the time of Covid is a thankless job, in politics and in sport - Stuff.co.nz

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