There will be blood: Wallaby trial scratched

There will be blood: Wallaby trial scratched

Heard about the scuppered pre-tour trial match? In short, the ARU and Dingo Deans wanted a Possibles vs Probables trial (under lights at the SFS or North Sydney) to help decide the peggings of who goes on the Grand Slam tour this year.

No doubt it would have also generated more cash and RUPA wanted a slice of it – an extra $2500 for each of the 44 players involved to be precise, on top of what they already earn. The ARU wouldn’t swallow it and when RUPA wouldn’t back down either, the whole idea got canned. (You can read Grumbles Growden’s full exposé here).

At the bottom of this post is a letter from a reader that I think summarises the sentiment of a lot of Wallabies fans on the issue (if our forum is anything to go by). I’ll confess that with what I had to endure last Saturday, it captures many of my emotions on the subject as well.

But first, some juicy and important background. What everyone should realise is that this situation is no doubt the latest round in one of the most bitter bloodfeuds going in Australian rugby; that between John O’Neil and Tony Dempsey, head honchos of the ARU and RUPA respectively.

JO’N and Demmo have never got along, and it’s personal. JO’N’s the corporate ex-banker (from Joeys), Demmo the jock ex-Wallaby (from Riverview). It started in the late 90’s when the original player agreement was hammered out, and went totally doolally in 2003 when RUPA tried to hold the ARU nuts to the fire just before RWC 2003, by co-ordinating a player strike over the bonuses on offer through the tournament.

The two met in Demmo’s office in June 2003 to hammer a deal out. But to kick things off, the RUPA chief outlined a plan to form a new international rugby scheme where as chief exec of IRPA (the International Rugby Players Association) Demmo would be the representative of all international players to the IRB, relegating the ARU and other national bodies to fartcatchers.

What happens next is reported in O’Neil’s autobiography It’s Only A Game:

….it was time he was told the truth.

“You will not be rising to that station in life,” I said. “You are, Tony, where you are”

The situation exploded. All of my resentment toward him came tumbling out – and likewise him at me.  Poor Peter Friend and a colleague of Dempsey’s….had to calm us down. Then, just as there was silence, I said under my breath but loud enough for Dempsey to hear, “You’re a low life.” Tony made a move across the table toward me and had to be restrained.

So, imagine six years later when the ARU want to put on an unscheduled trial match; an irresistible chance for the pair to get back in the ring. Who’ll win this round? It’s looking like another KO to the professor of rat cunning to me. Especially if the email below from Doug H (Sandpit Fan) is anything to go by. He’s already sent it to RUPA.

I don’t usually feel moved to write letters about issues, however after reading Greg Growden’s article of Sept 22 titled “Wallabies scupper tour trial over $2500” I am so disgusted with the unmitigated, overwhelming greed of RUPA and “several senior wallabies” that I have to say something before I burn my wallaby supporters gear and go see what the NRL have to offer.

There have been plenty of low acts in recent Australian rugby history, from both the ARU and RUPA but this one takes the biscuit by a long margin.  There is obviously no need to analyse our loss in Wellington on the weekend any further – it’s because the wallabies are playing for a cheque and couldn’t give a rats arse about winning or not (they still get paid, plus trouser $11,000 a test just for running onto the field and turning in the sort of performance a schoolboy 1st XV would be ashamed of), and the kiwis are playing for pride in the jersey and the honour of representing their country on the rugby field, and as a bonus they get paid well to do it.

Old fashioned stuff I know, but that’s rugby for you, at least in NZ and South Africa, if not in Australia any more.  You fellers, and those you represent seem so intent on burying the old snout in the trough that y’all have lost sight of why a team run onto a rugby field – it’s to win games, or if you can’t win, give everything trying.

No one denies that the move to professional rugby has been a success, and players certainly deserve to be paid commensurate with their abilities – I have no argument with that.  In general I think RUPA has been a benefit to the game, but there has to be a middle ground.  If this is the way things are going, you may as well wind it up, as there will be no supporters left to buy tickets.  Not that it really matters I suppose, going to a test in Sydney is like being in an NZ stadium anyhow!

For the good of Australian rugby, the so called senior wallabies (in fact any wallaby player) who were part of this obscene demand should be dropped so fast their heads spin, and replaced with players who actually want to play rugby for Australia and will get out there and have a crack.  Blokes with some heart, some pride in the jersey and a burning desire to be a wallaby.  In other words, not the guys who are only there to pick up a cheque, and have shown by this latest demand that they have hearts the size of a pea.  Then it won’t be quite so disappointing when they lose, because at least it will be obvious they are having a go.

The squad that just lost 5 out of 6 TN matches should be lining up to play these sort of trials as part of their job description.  It’s a sad day when it seems the Australian rugby team puts their hip pocket before their team, and effectively asks for a bonus to do their job.  Sounds like something the CFMEU would be proud to take on board, but I don’t think even they would be so brazen as this.  After last weeks performance any wallaby player with a conscience should be handing back his match payment, not sticking his hand out for more.

I played at school, and can still remember sitting up at midnight in 1984 when we pulled off the grand slam.   After this, I can assure you I won’t be bothering to watch or even listen to the results for this years grand slam tour.  When the team and the players association obviously doesn’t care about the results, just whether the cheques in the bank at the end of the month, it’s obvious that supporters shouldn’t care about the team either.

Doug H

I can tell you for sure the biggest loser  – Aussie Rugby. As usual.


Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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