Karmichael Hunt: the ARU and QRU announcement 

The ARU and QRU have just announced the following punishment for Karmichael Hunt arising out of today’s guilty plea:

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) today suspended Karmichael Hunt for six weeks and fined him $30,000.

The statement then goes on to say:

As Karmichael has already been made unavailable for selection for two weeks, he will return to competitive Rugby in Round Eight of the Super Rugby season.

So let’s be clear: it actually is only a 4 game suspension and not a 6 game suspension.  Let’s also be clear that the penalty incurred is less then 15% of Hunt’s contract value. 

I note the comments of the CEO of the Queensland Reds that this is also a player welfare issue and I will be glad if the Reds assist Hunt in getting the help he needs.  

Equally, as in the situation with Kurtley Beale, the ARU  has shown itself to be more interested in the welfare of a player over the welfare of the code because I have no doubt that fans of the game will be lost because yet another player has received a slap on the wrist when a sterner penalty surely was the public expectation when considered in line with community standards.  

I hope Hunt takes this golden ticket he has received and comes back a better player and a person for the Reds.  He has received an opportunity that most in the community would not have.  

Karmichael Hunt: In the interest of clarity

The Queensland Reds’ posted a statement this afternoon about the revelations regarding Karmichael Hunt. In that statement the following point is made:

Karmichael has not been arrested or charged. He has received a notice to appear.

Either the Queensland Reds have not been furnished with the Notice to Appear or they are receiving very poor legal advice because that statement is patently wrong!

A simple search of the Queensland Department of Justice website reveals that there are four ways one can be made to go to Court (in a criminal context) including the receipt by the defendant of a Notice to Appear. The page then goes on to describe the Notice to Appear thusly:

After being arrested, instead of placing you in custody, the police might give you a notice to appear and let you go home. They can give this to you when they charge you or will mail it to you. A Notice to Appear is a written document that tells you what you have been charged with and when and where you have to go to court.

For those who are further interested here is the link: http://www.justice.qld.gov.au/justice-services/courts-and-tribunals/going-to-court/defendants/when-to-go-to-court

Hunt, clearly, would not have received his Notice to Appear unless he was charged with an offence (or in this case four offences). To suggest otherwise is a nonsense plain and simple!

The Reds have, as an outsider looking in, fumbled their response to this from the get go. From the original statement which suggested that they first found out about the charge in the press through a statement that is not only legally wrong but also outlines a decision only to stand down Hunt for this coming weekend’s fixture the way this has been handled by the QRU has been amateur hour!

Here’s hoping the QRU’s response to this very serious issue improves. At the very least they have to get their facts correct. They also have to, as a minimum, suspend Hunt indefinitely. Any other approach is a joke.

Elite sportsmen in Australia and community standards: will the two ever meet?

Yesterday evening saw what would appear to be the end of the Kurtley Beale texting and plane argument scandal.  For those who missed it Beale was charged with two serious breaches of the ARU Code of Conduct related to the sending of two offensive whatsapp messages about a female staffer of the Australian Rugby Union and was found guilty of one breach and not guilty of the other.  Beale was fined $45,000 and had his playing rights reinstated with immediate effect.

The whatsapp messages sent, based on what has been published in the media, were abhorrent.  As a male, indeed as a human being, there is no other way to feel about them.  Sent in jest or not, there can be no cogent excuse for sending them.

Starting from that very low benchmark; viz, that there can be no cogent reason for having sent the message that Beale was proved to be sent, what has galled me most about the “Beale Imbroglio” is the Australian Rugby Union’s seemingly complete divorce from the reality of community standards or even the standards of a corporate employee.

The fact is that if I had have sent a message like that which Beale sent about a fellow employee of the organisation that employs him:

  • I would not have been stood down with pay;
  • nor would I have been given the opportunity to front an independent tribunal to plead my case (with legal representation);
  • nor would I have received broad public support, in defiance of my employer, from the senior people within my employer; and

I work for one of the largest professional services firms in the world; an organisation much larger and much more profitable than the ARU.   Whilst I am not an owner of said business, I sit in a moderately senior position and there is no way that if I had have conducted myself in the way Beale has that I would still have a job.  I have an employment contract and work for an employer that takes issues of sexual harassment / vilification very seriously and I would have had that employment contract terminated for cause if I had have sent the proven text message that Beale sent.


The foregoing of course ignores all of the prior conduct of Beale in the last 18 months including:

  • Punching the captain of his domestic team whilst on tour in South Africa and being sent home.
  • Being photographed in a Hungry Jacks restaurant at 3am on the day before a test match against the British and Irish Lions in significant breach of team rules (for which he was not penalised).
  • Arguing on a long haul flight with various management staff of the Wallabies over the hefty issue of being told to put another t-shirt, again as a result of Beale breaching team rules.

With that sort of “rap sheet” surely Beale must have been on his final warning?  Again, if Beale worked for any employer in the community other than a sporting team he would have received at least two warnings for this conduct and would have been on a “final warning”.

I wrote this when Beale was last in trouble https://shumpty77.com/2013/06/28/kurtley-beale-can-i-have-his-employment-contract-or-that-of-any-sportstar-for-that-matter/ and my comments there hold true.  This latest saga again does nothing other than prove that the Australian Rugby Union is significantly out of touch with the standards of the community.  Just because Beale, or any other player, is good at Rugby Union should not elevate him to a position above that of an ordinary member of the community should it?

In the title to this post I have gone further than just mentioned the ARU and included elite sportmen as a whole (in Australia) in this post.  That is because of the conduct of Paul Gallen, New South Wales Rugby League captain, poster boy for the NRL and guilty drug cheat.  Earlier this week, after the sacking of Cronulla Sharks CEO Steve Noyce, Gallen, from his holiday in Hawaii, tweeted a highly offensive tweet referring to the leaders of the National Rugby League by reference to a descriptive word that society considers to be in the worst category of slurs.

Gallen has apologised, albeit with one of the most strained apologies I have ever seen and deleted the tweet, and the NRL has announced it will be investigating however, based on past outcomes of NRL investigations the outcome of that investigation will inevitably be a fine.

This again shows just how outside of community standards the sporting codes in this country are: I have 1100 twitter followers and if I posted a tweet to my account calling the leaders of my employer the term used by Gallen what would be the result? You guessed it: I would be out of a job, again for cause and again with immediacy.

At some point the leaders of the sporting codes in Australia must take notice of the standards of the community in dealing with their employees.  The codes have advanced exponentially in the two decades when it comes to professionalism and quantum of money earned in the game.  Unfortunately the manner in which players are disciplined remains back in the days when Rugby Union was an amateur game and Rugby League was split on border lines.

The Beale saga, more so than that of Gallen, is replete with victims.  Di Patston has been vilified in the press, lost her job and is in treatment.  Ewen McKenzie felt compelled to resign.  There are also a whole tranche of victims who are presently unrecognised: the future potential generation of rugby fans who will not become fans of the game because their fathers, mothers, uncles, grandfathers (etc), like me, are so now disaffected with the game that they will not deign to take them to games any more.  I will be not going to games in 2015 and that means my nephews will also not be going which makes them victims too.

Players of professional sports are employees just the rest of us: surely at some point they have been treated that way because presently they are not and it is damaging the brand of the game.  It is that simple!

Rugby: Another day, another player is off to France

Rod Davies has signed to play rugby for the next two seasons with Biarritz Olympique in France. It is a very sad, more to the point another sad, day for Queensland and Australian rugby fans.  Sad in two respects:

  1. Rod Davies is a talismatic player for the Reds.  When he is on the field and the ball is in his hands the crowd lifts.  You can almost here the fans, me included, thinking and saying “go on Rocket!!!”.  He is a player who brings young fans through the gates and will be missed by the team, the members and the fans.
  2. Yet again Australian rugby has been unable to retain a player playing in our top domestic competition and perenially on the cusp of Australian selection.  Rather, the player has preferred to play in the second division of French rugby for a team that won 5 of 20 games in the French Top 14 last year.  I am all for players setting themselves up for their careers post rugby but it saddens me that that same opportunity is not afforded to such a player in Australia.

Rod Davies is one of my favourite players to watch and I will miss him running around in a Reds jersey.  I am left to lament now his loss from Australian rugby and to ponder who might be next to chase the money (and future security).

Genia dropped and Horwill to the bench: McKenzie gets it right again

Ewen McKenzie has named the Australian team for the first test against France at Lang Park this Saturday night. The team is:

Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tevita Kuridrani, Matt Toomua, Nick Cummins, Bernard Foley, Nic White; Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Rob Simmons, Sekope Kepu, Stephen Moore (c), James Slipper. Res: Tatafu Polota-Nau, Pek Cowan, Paddy Ryan, James Horwill, Ben McCalman, Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, Pat McCabe

Obviously the biggest move by Coach McKenzie is the dropping of Will Genia, not just from the team but also the bench. This is a massive step, given the Genia has not been out of the team when available since 2010, for McKenzie and, frankly, is the correct one. Aside from an inspiring performance in the 100th Queensland game last Saturday Genia has been in terrible form this season. Based on form he simply could not be selected. Nic White, conversely, has been in excellent form and deserves his run on spot.

James Horwill has been selected on the bench as the locks to run on are Carter and Simmons. This, again, is the correct move in my view: the Reds back row has been smashed this year whilst at line out time, last week aside, Horwill and Simmons had been less than impressive. I am not sure about Rob Simmons at test match level to be honest: I find him to be too ill disciplined for my liking so will be interested to see how he goes in this game.

This is a team that is, obviously, selected on form and for that McKenzie must be saluted. He is making his mark on the team on the field with these selection decisions as well as off the field with his leadership team selection. Now all he needs is results on the field to lock down his position at the top of rugby in this country.

Rugby: The Wallabies Captaincy Conundrum

In the aftermath of the departure of Ben Mowen from Australian rugby (let’s face it the quicker the ARU jettison him from anything to do with the Wallabies the better), a massive question that remains is that of who will be the captain of the Wallabies come the first test of 2014 on 7 June against France.

Looking into the crystal ball for a moment, that team that runs out onto Lang Park on 7 June could well include three former captains in its ranks in the form of James Horwill, Will Genia and David Pocock.  One suspects that the leader of the team out onto the park on that day will be one of those three men.

Before anointing one of those men as captain of the Wallabies it is important though to closely consider the claims of Quade Cooper to the highest office in Australian rugby.  When Ewan McKenzie named Cooper as the team’s vice captain during the European tour there were many a curled eyebrow and social media was replete with negativity from those who sit firmly in the “anti-Cooper camp”.  Coach McKenzie though has been overt in his praise for Cooper, particularly regarding his ability to play out a game plan and it has been broadly reported that those in power at the ARU consider him a full time captain of the future.

An important word in that last sentence is the future.  Quade Cooper has only been the vice captain of the Wallabies for a handful of test matches and only made his captaincy debut for Queensland in a tour match against the British and Irish Lions this last winter.  It can not be forgotten that it is not twelve months since Cooper was firmly on the outer with the Wallabies set up and it is not twenty-four months since he was describing the culture of the team as “toxic”.  There is another consideration here: how the appointment of Cooper would likely play out with the fans.  He is a dividing figure among Wallabies fans and now, possible more than even, a captain who will unite all fans behind the team is what is required.

I would keep Cooper as the vice captain behind whoever is tapped on the shoulder to take on the Wallabies captaincy.

That leads us back to the choice of the original three as captain: who of Genia, Horwill or Pocock should run out at the front of team on 7 June? Each of Genia, Horwill or Pocock have strong competing claims to be returned to their former role as captain of the team.

James Horwill is the long time captain of Queensland and has lead that team through a period of resurgence under the stewardship of Ewen McKenzie.  It must be pointed out that Horwill has spent a lot of time out of the team due to injury and much of the time during which Queensland’s resurgence has taken place has been whilst he has been sitting on the pine.  On the positive side of things McKenzie and Horwill obviously work very well together.

Will Genia is the long time vice captain of Queensland and has taken on the role of captain on each occasion at which James Horwill has been out of action with injury.  He has also taken on the same role at the Wallabies level when Horwill has been injured in the past.  He is the team’s scrum half and some of Australia’s greatest captains have been scrum halves in the past.  A large question mark though hangs over Genia and that is what his form will be like come 7 June: his position as the permanent number 9 in the team has been under threat from others through the Super ranks (Nic White being the main candidate).

David Pocock has been out for a long time with injury and is enjoying, apparently, his first full pre-season of training since 2007.  There is a significant road block in the path of his immediate return to the team in the form of Michael Hooper who has taken the number 7 jersey in Pocock’s absence and (despite the valid claims of Liam Gill) made it is his own.  A big pointer to whether Pocock is in the frame to be Wallabies captain may well be whether he is names as the Brumbies captain for the 2014 Super Rugby campaign.  He is a leader of men and, pre-injury, was a clear second in the race for the best player in the world behind some bloke called McCaw.

Taking each of these claims into consideration, who comes out on top? I think one of the principal things to consider is which of these players is going to play the most minutes.  If he is in the team that person seems to most likely to be Genia but there is a question mark, for mine, as to whether he will be in the team. Horwill is injury prone and could only be considered if he played every game of the Super 15 before the first team.  Similarly Pocock could only be considered if his return from injury saw him return to his old form and he played every game of Super 15.

All of that leaves me with no clear answer other than to say that the Wallabies captain will come from one of those three players AND that their form in Super 15 rugby will be determinative of who ultimately named captain. I, for one, will be watching with keen interest each players’ performances.