Brad Lewis: Violent past should halt Sevu Reece's All Black prospects

OPINION: Let's just park the bus on Sevu Reece wearing an All Blacks jersey in 2019.

The Crusaders winger has starred for his adopted Super Rugby franchise, scoring nine tries in seven games and prompting talk of a World Cup call-up for the 22-year-old.

But Reece comes with an asterisk - a really big one.

The former Hamilton Boys' High School standout is less than 12 months removed from pleading guilty to common assault.

Reece was discharged without conviction, because the judge felt that would have had serious implications on the Fijian-born’s rugby career.

But Reece's contract with Irish club Connacht was torn up anyway and when you look at the circumstances surrounding the case, it's hard not to argue with that decision.

According to court documents, Reece got into an argument with his partner of two years in the Hamilton central business district last July.

Reece yelled expletives at her, while chasing her down the street, then dragged her to the ground.

She suffered bruising to the side of her face and waist, and bleeding to her knee.

As a result, the police prosecutor said Reece had already been blacklisted by the Chiefs rugby side and his offending came at a time when the Government was campaigning vigorously against family violence.

Reece expressed remorse for his actions and has certainly gone about things in the right way since.

Joining the Crusaders was the biggest break of his young career - the franchise is synonymous with nurturing and moulding brilliant rugby players.

Crusaders management has lauded Reece's commitment to change and his tremendous work ethic, as he looks to rebuild his career and, for that matter, his reputation.

And that has to be respected.

But no matter the rehabilitation, no matter the rugby exploits and no matter the need of the All Blacks selectors, Reece should not be rewarded with national honours in the same 12-month period all this came to light.

Former All Black lock Ian Jones recently told Trackside Radio that the All Blacks ethos and Reece's violent outburst didn't sit well together.

'Kamo' noted that another year staying out of trouble would benefit Reece and prove he is worthy to wear the black jersey.

The bottom line is, without the Crusaders lifeline, Reece's career would be in limbo - no Super Rugby deal, blacklisted by European clubs, sitting on the sidelines until the Mitre 10 Cup.

Given the current climate of sports stars and domestic violence or violence against women, Reece finds himself in far more fortunate circumstances than most.

Former Baltimore Ravens superstar running back Ray Rice hasn't played in the NFL since his contract was terminated in 2015. Footage emerged of the then 27-year-old punching his fiancée, knocking her out in an elevator.

Another NFL superstar, Kareem Hunt, was released by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018, after a similar video showed him kicking a woman.

Hunt is serving a lengthy suspension and isn't eligible to play until midway through next season.

Several NRL players have been involved in recent domestic violence cases or allegations of violent conduct towards women, including Ben Barba, Jarryd Hayne, Jack de Belin and Matt Lodge.

In Barba's case, he will never play in the NRL again.

Closer to home, New Zealand Cricket has received nationwide condemnation for its handling of rape accusations against Scott Kuggeleijn and his subsequent Blackcaps selection.

Kuggeleijn was not convicted of any offence.

This just isn't the right time for Reece to be elevated to rugby's global stage. He would become a distraction rather than a revelation.

The foreign press would have a field day, posing daily questions to coach Steve Hansen and co about the merits of selecting a young player with a violent past.

And he must prove to New Zealand Rugby, the Crusaders, to himself and to people like me that he won't offend again.

As anyone who has ever witnessed domestic violence first-hand will tell you, it's simply horrific and apologies are often a stop-gap until next time.

The All Blacks are New Zealand. It's a 'brand' we, as Kiwis, identify with and are unbelievably passionate about.

Sevu Reece's future may lie in a black jersey - just not now. Not this year.

Brad Lewis is a digital sport producer for Newshub.

Where to find help and support:

Shine (domestic violence) - 0508 744 633

Need to Talk? - Call or text 1737

Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Youthline - 0800 376 633, text 234, email or online chat

Samaritans - 0800 726 666

Depression Helpline - 0800 111 757

Suicide Crisis Helpline - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)