Game they play in heaven is having a hell of a week


While hardcore professionals might sneer at the need for it from a playing point of view, the All Blacks don’t! They, famously, even have their own captain on a regular roster to clean up the dressing room after they play in the belief, firstly, that it is the right thing to do and secondly, that such humility is the only foundation on which you can build a team that can be as proud of itself, as everyone is proud of it. Part of new coach Dave Rennie’s role must be to rebuild that very core of humility and diplomacy that has been missing.

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As for the news that Israel Folau has increased his statement of claim for unfair dismissal up to $14 million on the grounds that – wait for it – he will also miss out on being captain of the Wallabies with all the increased commercial opportunities that come with it, I have rarely seen a more laughable claim.

For the record, even if off the record, when I broke the news of that new demand to one of his teammates yesterday afternoon he was simply flabbergasted. The first reaction was howls of laughter. The second was incredulity that I could be serious. The third was to liken the absurdity of the latest Folau claim to his other recent assertions that God sent the bushfires to punish us all for voting for same sex marriage.

The last fullback to captain Australia was Paul McLean – who made his greatest fame at five-eighth. That was back in 1980, and the experiment didn’t last long – just one Test, in Fiji. The traditional view is that the fullback, like the winger, is too far from the action to lead the troops in all on-field action. But Folau is actually making legal claim that an exception to that rule was going to be made in his case, because he was such an outstanding leader of men? Could he perhaps point to a track record of being selected as captain in any other team he played in, across league, AFL and union? Could he explain why, when Cheika tried out no fewer than seven Wallaby vice-captains in his reign, Folau was not one of them? Strange, for a captain-in-waiting…

It will be fascinating to see who will be called forth as his expert testimony that he was on his way to becoming Wallabies captain, beyond the obvious choice of Alan Jones – because, like, he was so close to the thinking of the coach, players and Rugby Australia board who would have had to approve it. Seriously!

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As for Jones’ incessant criticism of Rugby Australia, it is the usual story. As ever there is an agenda behind the criticism, RA has resisted, Jones has gone feral and so it goes – in short it is business as usual for Jones, in any number of fields.

Finally, there is the hugely significant if deeply dull matter of Rugby Australia’s negotiations with Foxtel and Optus for the sale of broadcast rights. It makes my head hurt trying to follow it all, but I am reliably informed it will sort and it is no bad thing to have Optus making offers to test market value.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz





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