Ben Mowen is heading to France to ply his trade in 2015. He will be playing out his 2014 contract with the ACT Brumbies / Wallabies. The announcement of the contract for 2015 has been made, ostensibly, to allow both teams time to plan for the departure of Mowen from the scene.
The fact is that Mowen is the incumbent captain of both the Brumbies and the Wallabies, having been elevated to the captaincy in favour of James Horwill on the summer tour to Europe. He is the incumbent Number 8 in both teams. Mowen’s defection, he has been reported as saying, on family grounds (note that it was reported broadly in October 2013 that there were monetary factors also in play) raises a number of issues for the ARU which, with the Super 15 season so close, must be answered swiftly.
The principal issue for both the Brumbies and the Wallabies must be whether Mowen continues to be selected, both as captain and in those respective teams in general. For the Brumbies the answer is simple: it is a professional rugby franchise rather than a representative one and thus his ongoing selection in both role raises no issues at all. The position for the Wallabies and the ARU is far more vexed. In my opinion it can not be in the interests of the Wallabies to select a player for whom the allure of being the captain of his country or playing at a World Cup is not strong enough to keep him playing for said country. I applaud Mowen’s devotion to his family (if one is to believe the reason given) but taking this position leaves a serious question of his commitment to his country.
The World Cup is being held in 2015 and the test matches played by Australia in 2014 will be an important guide to the make up of the Wallabies team that takes the field in that tournament. That being the case, Mowen simply can not be selected for Australia this year can he?
The other major issue that the defection of Mowen raises is who will be the next captain of Australia? James Horwill seems to be on the outer as captain and the return of David Pocock to the line up hinges on his return from a lengthy rehabilitation from a serious knee injury. In Europe, Quade Cooper was elevated to the vice captaincy in the aftermath of Horwill’s demotion. It should also not be forgotten that Will Genia has manfully taken on the position in Queensland during Horwill’s all to regular injury lay offs. I am not certain who the ARU will pick for this position as they all have competing claims. It will be vital though that the ARU pick a captain this year that they, injury and form permitting, intend to be the captain at the 2015 World Cup. The last thing the Wallabies need after all is more instability.
The departure of Ben Mowen again opens the door to a discussion around the recompense of professional rugby players in this country (let’s be honest here: money is an underlying factor no matter the reasons posited by the man himself) albeit I remain steadfastly of the view that the money presently being paid ought be more than enough for the privilege of wearing a gold jersey.