Tax changes may keep All Blacks in New Zealand: Dowd

Before people start jumping all over All Blacks coach Steve Hansen for raising an issue with New Zealand's Minister of Finance Grant Robertson in the Eden Park changing sheds on Saturday, they should think a little more seriously than it being a case of the Government giving the All Blacks a taxpayer-funded handout.

It doesn't have to be that way at all, and I am sure that was not what Hansen meant. I don't endorse the Government giving any money at all to the All Blacks, either.

But consider this.

The All Blacks -- and all professional sports people in New Zealand; cricketers, netballers, rugby league players alike -- pay tax at 33 cents in the dollar.

Professional sports people have a very short time at their peak. Some athletes may play their chosen sport for 10 years, which is the exception rather than the rule, while others may play two or three months, break their ankle and, just like that, their career can be over.

Why should they pay tax at 33 percent? Why not the lower tax bracket of 17.5 percent? As an example, the likes of All Blacks captain Kieran Read would pay the equivalent of 20 ordinary workers' tax if he was on the lower bracket but he would earn more money as an inducement to continue his career in New Zealand.

With that sort of approach we would keep our special players in New Zealand. It is not about how much money you are making, but how much money you are keeping.

Professional athletes need to be put into a special tax bracket; it would be recognition of the fact that the sort of money they earn during that period is going to be for only a very short period of time. They wouldn't be getting an easy ride, they would still be paying tax. And if they were earning $200,000 they would still be contributing around $33,000 in tax. Sportspeople would still be contributing the equivalent of two average workers' tax.

Governments have been prepared to make concessions to Hollywood film companies to film here, so why don't we look after our own home grown products?

No-one loses. The Government isn't going to pay any money but we are giving players an incentive to stay in New Zealand. If you applied that for all professional sportspeople, you are taking about a very small number of people. We are not talking about huge amounts of money, we are talking of a significant incentive.

What you are doing is giving the public what they want, which is having their athletes staying to play in New Zealand when they are in their prime.

We are not talking about people who are going to have long careers as doctors and a lifetime of big salaries. We are talking about people whose one chance at a career could be over on the end of a tackle. As soon as they are back in the non-sporting workforce, then they would pay what everyone else does.

I can't believe anyone would want to argue with that. We are going to be faced with the very real situation after the Rugby World Cup when Beauden Barrett could be offered an extraordinary amount of money by an overseas club. He will only be 28 years of age; is it wrong to want him to continue playing on home soil? NZ is a small country and we need to find financial solutions, could a change in taxation for our professional sportsmen help?

Not wanting to put a dampener on the mood of the nation in the wake of the back-to-back Bledisloe Cup triumphs, which were fantastic, but I would remind New Zealanders that the All Blacks are always the best team in the world one year out from the World Cup.

That has been the case for the past 25 years so people need to come back to Earth and remember that. They should also recall some of the disappointments that have occurred when expectations were so high in the past.

Given what we have seen over the last fortnight, the whole Beauden Barrett-Richie Mo'unga debate feels like it was happening months ago. It seems like ancient history. Barrett certainly had the last word; he wasn't putting a full stop at the end of it, two brilliant performances ensured he signed off with an exclamation mark!

Take nothing away from Mo'unga, he is a fantastic player. But as Hansen said, his time will come.

At the same time, Hansen has conducted himself brilliantly this week. If anyone wants to question his selection, strategy or what he's doing ahead of the World Cup, it would almost be an act of treason. He's just been 100 percent on the money with his selection and rightfully backing the likes of Beauden Barrett. He knows how good Barrett is and even says he hasn't reached his full potential yet which is freakish.

It's a question of where to now for the Wallabies, and for the whole Championship, really, with South Africa also losing. We were looking at this Championship as being the tightest yet, where the All Blacks were finally going to get some competition but now it looks like the All Blacks are going to run away with it.

When you get injuries to the likes of Ryan Crotty and you put Ngani Laumape in there; you've good Jack Goodhue and Anton Lienert-Brown, and countless others lining up behind them in the background, the wealth of talent that New Zealand has probably should send shudders around the rest of the rugby world.

While all that is going on, what New Zealanders are seeing is our national championship being played: the Mitre 10 Cup. It is the next level of players starting to come through.

When you look at all the other countries and wonder why the All Blacks are so good, all you have to do is look at the Mitre 10 Cup. It is the underlying, fundamental development level of our game. It used to be club rugby but now the Mitre 10 Cup is our development pathway.

It is something Australia has missed and tried to rekindle, through its National Rugby Championship, way too late. The wealth, and number, of players compared to what Australia have is crucial. Rugby is clearly the fourth-ranked football code.

I don't think rugby in Australia has gone backwards in the last couple of weeks, it's just the All Blacks have been so dominant. Again, it shows there is still a bit of a gap between the All Blacks and the rest of the world.