Dom George is the on-air producer for The Country.

Furious George: Survival of the fittest

Will he stay or will he go? Dom investigates those Theo Spierings rumours. Photo /  Jason Oxenham
Will he stay or will he go? Dom investigates those Theo Spierings rumours. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Great to see Liam 'Mud flap' Squire selected in the All Blacks last weekend. The Highlander/Mako has had a breakthrough season and has been duly rewarded along with some of his southern teammates. I mentioned him a couple of weeks ago in a column glorifying two of New Zealand's great mullets and the tremendous power they've clearly conferred on their hosts.

Being named in the All Blacks is the pinnacle for any rugby player in New Zealand, for it's only the best of the best that make it. And that's what professional sport is all about. Take the example of Steven Adams - most experts said he'd fail if he didn't stay in College for another year, that going to the NBA was a huge mistake, that he'd fade into obscurity like the vast legions of talented athletes before him that had all tried to crack the big time. But he's proved all of them wrong and is commanding respect and admiration from both his contemporaries and former greats. He's simply bigger, stronger, and faster than those who've gone before. Make no mistake - it's only the elite that can cut it in that environment - it's survival of the fittest.

Like that big bloody gorilla that was shot by Cincinnati Zoo staff just hours before Squire and his mates were being unveiled in Wellington and Adams' Thunder was being schooled by Thompson and Curry en route to blowing an eight-point lead heading into the fourth. However that child found his way into the gorilla enclosure he was about to find out what it's like when something physically superior can assert dominance over you, whether it's play or not.

Of course bigger, faster, stronger doesn't guarantee success; it merely provides an opportunity for it to thrive. The gorilla didn't have a gun, so while he may have been able to rip the limbs the limbs off a human being without breaking a sweat, his assassin ultimately emerged the victor. Survival of the fittest may also involve an element of cerebral fortitude. Cunning and guile can amass fortunes, and vast wealth has the power to sustain empires.

While Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings' wealth isn't vast, I'd wager his bank balance is slightly healthier than the average dairy farmer at the moment. Reports of Mr Spierings imminent demise by The Australian newspaper at the start of the week have thus far amounted to nothing. The wily old Dutchman is standing firm, despite growing discontent regarding his performance as head of the co-op. It may be a case of where there's smoke, there's fire, or it may be a ruse by Aussie media to start a rumour they hope can gather a head of steam by way of a backlash against Spiering's edict to "drive every cent of money which we can out of Australia back to New Zealand shareholders in this extremely low milk price environment".

Reaction to the story has been divided. Federated Farmers Dairy spokesperson Andrew Hoggard told The Country this week he'd rather have the current boss in charge of the dairy giant in the face of the downturn, as a change in leadership may create further uncertainty and instability amidst an already volatile environment. On the other hand, Labour's Primary Industries spokesperson, Damien O'Connor, is questioning Spierings' accountability in the face of a massive loss of farmer income. His unwillingness to stand with farmers and take a pay cut is, in O'Connor's view, arrogant; he needs to take a walk so the company can enjoy a fresh start.

He may be right. Spierings does appear to be arrogantly hiding from public view, leaving the likes of John Wilson and Lukas Paravicini to front the tough issues. His public appearances seem to have plummeted at roughly the same rate as the milk price.

And yet I can't help but agree with Andrew Hoggard, someone with vested interest in Fonterra's success - Spierings needs to see this out. In fact, resignation, even if he's "pushed", would be a complete cop-out. Anyone can sail a ship through pleasant conditions - it's when the storm hits that true leadership and talent shine through. It'll be interesting to watch this play out and see

- The Country

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