Sport Union Insular, myopic, deluded: why rugby is sinking

Insular, myopic, deluded: why rugby is sinking

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What a mess.

Ewen McKenzie’s reign as Wallabies coach ended in Brisbane after his team suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to the All Blacks.

In one of the most bizarre post-match press conferences in recent times, the Wallabies coach departed in a fog of sulking, sadness, regret and recrimination.

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Fox Sports had been reporting ahead of the press conference that a big announcement was imminent.

In the space of three months, Australian rugby has gone from the promise of a brand new day following the Warratahs’ breakthrough Super Rugby triumph to the car wreck that was Saturday night’s frankly risible announcement.

No doubt they had the inside running on that, as ARU director John Eales was part of their post-match panel.

Hopelessly conflicted: John Eales. Photo: Getty
Hopelessly conflicted: John Eales. Photo: Getty

Eales, who knew about the resignation in advance, played dead on the issue whilst doing his job – hang on, not doing his job – for Fox Sports. The former Wallabies skipper was shirtfronted Tony Abbott-style by his own conflict of interest.

It was evidence once again that you can’t be a stakeholder and a commentator and hang on to your credibility.

When he sat down to face the media with his captain Michael Hooper, McKenzie looked like he would prefer to be flossing his teeth with his belly button lint than talking to the media pack.

After going through the routine lament regarding the Wallabies’ inability to finish off The Men In Black, we waited for the big reveal.

Hooper got up, stormed off and left the man they call “Link” to make his statement.

It was quittin’ time.

McKenzie had quit prior to the Brisbane Test, citing intolerable and intrusive pressure following on from the Beale/Patston controversy that saw his own personal behaviour called into question.

“It’s been a disappointing time for many reasons. I’m not going to go into the reasons. You guys can work it out. I’ve written to the board. I’ve been unhappy with a bunch of thing. So the easiest thing for me is to exit stage-left,” he said.

As he got up to leave the gathered media pack inexplicably applauded.

I cringed.

If you want to be a fan, buy a ticket and wear your scarf in the stands. Don’t put one on in the press conference.

Then things got really weird.

In stormed ARU boss Bill Pulver, who proceeded to admonish the nation like a posh school patrician about how we’d let his Wallabies down.

Bill Pulver blamed the fans. Photo: Getty
Bill Pulver blamed the fans. Photo: Getty

“I’m pretty disappointed with the Australian public in certain areas for how they’ve dealt with Ewen, and in fact how they’ve dealt with Di Patston. If I read one more article criticising those two … it would be extremely disappointing.”

Oh, so it’s our fault.

No doubt the rumour mongering and sniping that seeped out of the pores of Australian rugby in the last few weeks was vicious and ugly.

Pulver conveniently disregards the fact that most of it came from within the “rugby family” itself.

Because, quite frankly, the rest of Australia stopped listening and caring ages ago.

For the chief executive of a sport that is sinking beneath the waves in the battle of the codes to sit there and lecture the sporting public about its behaviour being responsible for the mess rugby is in was hilarious.

No Bill, we didn’t do this.

Australian rugby did.

Your inability to manage a situation that you could have and should have been on top of six months ago is your failing, not ours.

And face facts Bill.

Your team is without a coach while it prepares for a spring tour of Europe. It has a World Cup on its doorstep next year.

And as Jarryd Hayne says goodbye to the Eels in the NRL, they will be eyeing off your main man Israel Folau with a bucket of cash.

Bill, we’re the least of your problems.

It’s too easy to blame everyone else for the mess that you’re in.

It’s squibbing it.

And that’s something the Wallabies never accepted in the past.

Don’t start now.

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