Understanding the Wallaby Bubble Boys - Green and Gold Rugby

Understanding the Wallaby Bubble Boys

Understanding the Wallaby Bubble Boys

I have no idea if Bill Pulver is a republican or a royalist, but I reckon he’d feel a degree of affinity with old Queen Liz’s year a couple of decades ago when she described it as an annus horribilis.

It’s a shame really as it should have been a year to be celebrating. The Wallabies managed to win seven tests in a row, then the Waratahs won the Super Rugby title and you’d like to think even the inaugural NRC brought a smile to the face of someone at HQ.

However it seemed that any form of on-field success that provided authorities a moment to bask in was quickly undone by some form of off-field incident.

Kurtley Beale was at the forefront of such activity when he was axed by the Melbourne Rebels last year in a move to shore up their culture. It came after a series of incidents culminating in an attack on his own captain, Gareth Delve. It seemed to turn rosy for Beale as he found himself at the Tahs and playing a key role in their Super Rugby championship.  But not for long as allegations of verbal assault and sexists texts directed at an ARU official saw his career, again, at risk.

James O’Connor also had a contract torn up last year following his own drunken plane incident. Thanks to the professional nature of the game, O’Connor took the opportunity to see the sites of Europe, playing rugby in the UK and France, and will return to Australia next year to play for the Reds. A changed man? We will have to see.

Even having shed these two seeming trouble makers (and late night fast food eaters), the Wallabies found themselves in more trouble on last year’s November tour. Six players were stood down from a test match, and another nine received a warning, for breaking curfew and hitting the town in Dublin in the lead up to a test match.

Whilst those in power at the ARU, from the coaches to the administration, would have been increasingly frustrated, it was the general public that perhaps suffered the most.

Include some allegations of ‘player power’ in the demise of popular coach Ewen McKenzie, players missing promotional opportunities, naivety in media conferences and it could be said that the wider Australian public have never felt more distant from the Wallaby players.

Seemingly gone are the days when the players were so relatable – that was probably back when they had to earn their crust outside of the game. The advent, and development, of professionalism has played a role in this perception that the modern player, broadly speaking, is somewhat isolated from the real world.

In other words, they live in a bit of a bubble.

And “Bubble Boys” just so happens to be the name of Michael Blucher’s latest book delving into the lives and influences of the modern day professional sportsman in Australia. You may remember Michael from his previous book, “A Perfect Union”, which was a biography of Wallaby greats, Jason Little and Tim Horan.

Whilst a through theme of that book was the relative innocence and celebration that was the career of those two country-raised rugby stars, Bubble Boy is a lot rawer. Darker even.

Having been around the sports industry for close to 25 years, Blucher is highly and uniquely qualified to provide this exploration of the perils and pitfalls at the professional tier of sport.

Whilst not excusing the off-field behaviours of our stars, the book goes some way to at least detailing the rarefied environment that our modern day sporting ‘heroes’ have to contend with.

This is a fascinating read, with plenty of jaw-dropping anecdotes of antics and incidents that have occurred across the Australian sporting landscape in recent years. But this is no tabloid newspaper serving up salacious gossip and innuendo.  It is a highly considered explanation of the external influences (and influencers) on these young athletes.

Given the 12-18 months Australian Rugby has been through, Bubble Boys could conceivably act as a type of Cliff Notes of the Wallaby off-field year. Read the book and you will not only shake your head at some of the stories told, but you will nod in understanding at the points of view expressed.

There are many informative chapters covering everything from pre-career to post-career. One deals specifically with the relationship between a player and his main stakeholders – the media, administrators, peers, sponsors, his manager, etc. It reads as an almost case study of the recent Kurtley Beale fiasco despite having been written well before.

Another of the aspects the book deals with is the role of the media. Blucher theorises that sports media ‘jumped the shark’ back in 2002 when the Wayne Carey story broke. When King Carey was found to be having an affair with his team mate’s wife, it was pretty much when reporting on sport went from on the field to off. Now relate that to how the media handled the rumours around Ewen McKenzie and Di Patston and you’ll see their endeavours in a whole new light.

Social media is another massive factor these days. As Bubble Boy suggests the challenge is not just how the players use it themselves, it is how the media are using it for their own stories. Again, go back to that Beale incident at the Rebels  when he decked his skipper, the first it came to light was when team mate Cooper Vuna tweeted about it.

I can proudly report that this site also gets a mention in the book as Blucher explains the challenges for modern media in their search for constant content. One poor journo stumbled across an article by one of G&GR legends Juan Cote. Juan’s regular “Week in the life of” satires were somewhat of a feature on this site and this particular article was ‘Quade Cooper’ talking of his week not too long after his laptop incident. Whilst most picked up the tongue-in-cheek nature of the article, this journo picked up some of the ‘quotes’ within to use in his own piece and ran with them, failing to fact check. The internet is not always right people!

bubbleBoysCover-193x300Overall, Bubble Boys covers so many aspects of a professional athlete’s career and challenges I’d suggest it is a must read for any of G&GR’s fans. We’ve always felt our readers are ones that take an extra level of interest in our beloved game. Whether it be through game analysis or the administrative structures. For me Bubble Boys provides the level of intimate analysis of the industry that is rarely seen but which the majority of our followers would appreciate.

“Bubble Boys – The increasingly complex world of our nation’s sports stars” can be purchased here and I reckon would make a great Christmas present. Perhaps for Bill and the ARU Board?

  • RobC

    Thanks RugbyReg. I reckon 2014 is just a warm up. Next year is going to be the real annus horribilis.

  • Except that we’re going to win the World Cup. Go Wallabies!

    • cryptographynetau

      This is the kind of complacent smugness that has got us in the annus horribilis we’re currently in. The way to get the results is for us here on social media to maintain the rage.

      • Jade

        I never thought I’d say this but go England. Bad form won’t get rid of grub, Hooper, Fooley and the rest but loss of our supporting will. No pain no gain.

        • Pclifto

          Wow. Cheers for the positive vibes. Make sure you hang around and keep posting

        • cryptographynetau

          Damn right. Get rid of the dead wood. Go England and get us a new coach before the world cup boys. Link back and a Reds backline: Genia, Cooper, Hunt, JOC, Kerevi. Gilll for Hooper. Simmons, Slipper and Horwill. Happy days.

  • Bill

    Apropos of nothing and a completely different theme I guess since it dealt with amatuers but my favourite sports book was written by an english journo about the pub cricket team he and his mates formed ”Rainmen and the madness of cricket”.

  • Sambo6

    You forgot to finish your plug with the regular retail price?

    • Pond dweller

      Sambo, I’ve read it and I’ve got say, Reg is right. It’s fantastic.


  • mxyzptlk

    Whilst most picked up the tongue-in-cheek nature of the article,
    this journo picked up some of the ‘quotes’ within to use in his own
    piece and ran with them, failing to fact check. The internet is not
    always right people!

    I love stories like that. There’s a long-running parody newspaper in the States called The Onion. Years ago they ran an article about how the U.S. Congress was going to move to Charlotte or Memphis if they couldn’t get sky boxes and a retractable roof (conflating politics and sports). One of the choice quotes by a Representative was about why you need to update your venue: “Look at British Parliament. Look at the Vatican. Respected institutions in their markets. But without modern facilities, they’ve been having big problems attracting top talent.” [http://www.theonion.com/articles/congress-threatens-to-leave-dc-unless-new-capitol,98/]

    A Chinese nightly TV news show picked up on the story and, assuming it was legit, ran with it in their evening news. Then the L.A. Times saw that the Chinese news source ran a parody news story as real, and tried to interview them about checking sources. That didn’t go well.

    Then National Public Radio covered the L.A. Times covering the Chinese news source covering the parody news source, and the media almost burped while eating its own tail.

  • Digs

    Someone at the ARU has a sense of humor. Beales fine has gone to an orgnisation (while obviously being highly reputable and providing valuable programs):

    “that promotes an ethos of good sportsmanship, nutrition, mental health awareness, drug and alcohol free living and taking personal responsibility for positive life choices”.

    Do you think they are hoping that Beale takes the hint?? Behaving in a sportsmanlike manner, no midnight burgers, keeping the mind healthy, no more binge drinking and taking responsibility for your actions – sounds a like a good recipe to me.
    I hope he gets involved, the more these “Bubble Boys” get involved in the community and come back down to earth a bit, the better it is for them and the supporters.

    • Bay35Pablo

      Not White Ribbon or Beyond Blue … ?

      • Brendan Hume

        Lloyd McDermott rugby program… I thought White Ribbon would have been an acceptable charity as well. ARU though will be able to knock some expenditure from the McDermott program now and save some dough.

        • SuckerForRed

          And here I was thinking I was the only sceptic……

    • HK Red

      The problem I see with Beale, he’s saying that he’s really liking where he is right now, it’s where he wants to be, great support from the team and the coach, etc.
      Now, in the future, say through injury or lack of form he’s dropped from the team, or Cheika’s just too busy with his dual roles to play mother 24-7, are we going to see the same BS behaviour from him and is everyone once again going to say “Awwwwhh, he’s just a kid”, “people around him should be supporting him”??
      FFS, this “kid” should be grown up by now and taking responsibility for his own actions. I hope I’m totally wrong and he has a fantastic 12 months, but across the backline I just don’t see him deserving of a starting spot anywhere from 10-15. Is that going to be enough for him? After all, he’s previously said, “if I’m not starting in the Wallabies, I have to look after my future”. So if he gets disillusioned with riding the pine, then who’s he going to punch next?

      • Train Without A Station

        I agree. Almost 26. 48 Caps. Should be a senior player.

        With his behavior I doubt he would have made it to 48 caps in NZ or SA, without even discussing if he’d be good enough to.

    • DameEdnasPossum



      So you’re saying they just spent KB’s penalty money on trying to remedy KB?


  • Garry

    With all the post RWC contract negotiations going on at the moment, JOC has seemingly produced the template for the modern day international WB troubadour.

    Post RWC, let your hair down. Party hard, turn up to training at a time that suits you (not the management), bitch slap any hardline teammates, piss in alleyways, get charged with a misconduct, lose your contract for a period, tour the world sowing your rugby seeds (and any other, without the pervy ARU fogies watching your every move). Finally, after scaling the hights in Europe, The ARU management will have again gotten our game into a fine mess, and when the Aus rugby public is calling for your immediate recall for our salvation, casually wonder back into a S15 outfit (remember, one eye in the mirror) about 12 months out from the next RWC.

    Contract negotiations for playing time out of the country? Hah, who needs them?

    • DameEdnasPossum

      Looking at the photo of JOC…and I’m not a violent man…but couldn’t you just slap the bejizzle out of that prick’s smug face…hopefully dislodging some of the dye out of his perm and making the sponsor logos fall off of his spandex tights?

      And I do respect his on-field skills as a winger…despite me being a tight-5 player…

      But what a fucking nonce wanker.

  • John Tynan

    Bought it, read it, great read.

  • SuckerForRed

    Book purchased. Allocated for Christmas reading. Once I get through “Introduction to Insolvency & Reconstruction” and “Better Practice in Governance & Accountability”. Two more titles that may provide some interest to the ARU.

  • Boris

    Hopefully it doesn’t get confused in the book store with Todd Carney’s autobiography

  • SuckerForRed

    Ahhhhhh. We can only wish. I doubt they will want me after the letters I sent Mr Hawker & Mr Pulver this week. :-D


The original prop in a prop's body, but thankfully I have the rugby mind of a prop as well.

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