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March 12, 2012 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

Nothin’ But Net – Our Obsession With The ‘Next Big Thing’. See Also: How We Ruined Isaia Toeava

I love a new Super Rugby season. As a Hurricanes fan it’s a chance to hope for a fresh start.

But most fascinating is watching the future stars. My cock(les) get all tingly and stand erect as fresh blood take the field, often having improved in the off-season.

Aaron Smith is one of my favourites at the moment. He’s got the skillset of a great traditional halfback and looks like a superb long-term option for the All Blacks.

I’m not the only one who enjoys watching this. Last year the majority of rugby fans had their opinions on the duel between Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade.

One problem that these young guys face in the modern environment is the hype they tend to generate, combined with the increased scrutiny they inevitably receive thanks to enough cameras to feed a Third World country and talk shows hosted by washed up stars hoping for a quick buck.

The result of this is usually way more pressure coming onto the players than they can cope with. When this happens they get overwhelmed by the big lights, slowing or even limiting their development as players.

Meanwhile, the once-captivated public turns on them with a fickle lack of mercy.

Isaia Toeava is a classic example. One of the most talented backs in the country, as a mere youngster he found himself thrust vigourously into the international game after only a few semi-professional appearances.

The bright-eyed padawan was gifted with a harsh awakening to the highest level of the game and is still average years later.

It’s not unique to rugby either. Football’s Joe Cole was placed in the senior West Ham squad early on and, while a decent player, is regarded as a disappointment.

The success stories tend to involve a bit more patience. Aaron Cruden finally came good after a season’s training with the All Blacks.

Basketball’s Blake Griffin spent his entire first season on the bench with injury, adjusting to the games’ atmosphere and gameplay. This confidence allowed him to explode into one of the world’s best power forwards the following season.

When the pressure to perform is removed, younger players find it easier to thrive, and it’s not like there’s any hurry for them to do so: Cory Jane didn’t emerge as a top-grade winger until he turned 26.


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