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 WOULD NOT HAVE A JOB!

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.

IT IS THAT SIMPLE!

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!

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: Time to give McKenzie a break!

I have been fascinated by calls of late questioning the selection of Ewen McKenzie as coach of the Wallabies following his first three test matches. There is only one person I blame for the poor form of the Wallabies and it is not Ewen McKenzie: blame for Australia’s poor form has to rest with Robbie Deans.

McKenzie has had, since the end of the Super Rugby season less than two months to work this Wallabies team into a team that plays, for want of a better term, the “McKenzie Way”. It is ridiculous to suggest that the Wallabies were going to be able to magically erase 5 years of Deans’ coaching and strategy in such a short time frame.

Even with the injection of new players there are still a significant number of players in this current team who were schooled in the game at test level by Deans. McKenzie needs time to mould this team into his own image and to his own style of play. The move to drop Will Genia is an important part of McKenzie stamping his authority on the team, indeed it is more important that the return of Quade Cooper in my view.

We need to give McKenzie some time without knives in his back: to even the least ardent of Wallabies fans it must have been obvious that immediate improvements were a pipe dream and now we know that to dream to be a reality. Let’s assess the start of the McKenzie “era” at the end of the Rugby Championship or even after the end of season Northern Hemisphere tour. By then we will know whether McKenzie’s midas touch as a coach, as we saw at the Reds, translates to the international game.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that Australia win and win well against Argentina this weekend in Perth. To lose will only increase the disharmony in the ranks of the fans, if nothing else.