Mitchell presented jerseys to the wrong team
146 Have your say
Last weekend, John Mitchell, the former All Blacks coach and currently the coach of the Western Force, presented the Springboks with their match jerseys. He made a short speech at the presentation, some “stern words” according to Bryan Habana, which proved to be inspirational for the Springboks.
The Wallaby great, Mark Ella, has been reported by The Australian as being critical of what Mitchell did. “He has a responsibility to develop Australian rugby,’ Ella said, ‘and his total allegiance should be with the Wallabies.”
My feeling is that Ella is 100 per cent correct. Mitchell presented the jerseys to the wrong team. He should not have made himself any part of the Springboks build-up before the Test at Perth against the Wallabies.
The Australian reported also the the Western Force’s chief executive, Vern Reid, said that he was happy with Mitchell’s presentation, provided he got a clearance from Robbie Deans.
Deans apparently gave the clearance, or as The Australian put it, “confirmed … he was made aware of Mitchell presenting the Springboks jersey.”
This is a puzzling wording.
Does it mean that Deans was told after the event? Or does it mean that he was asked and agreed? If it is the latter, then, in my opinion, the clearance should not have been given.
Interestingly, two former Wallaby captains, Andrew Slack and Simon Poidevin, were quoted by The Australian as not having a problem with Mitchell handing out the Springboks jersey. “It’s not as though John Mitchell is part of the Wallaby coaching staff,” Poidevin is quoted as saying.
That is right.
But Deans is the Wallaby coach and Mitchell’s presentation depended upon his agreeing to it, apparently. So the Wallabies were involved in the decision, albeit at second hand.
In the professional era we accept that a coach’s former allegiances can be discarded in the interests of pursuing his coaching career. Deans is a former All Black and All Blacks assistant coach.
Now he coaches the Wallabies. Mitchell played for and coached the All Blacks. Now he coaches the Western Force, an Australian franchise.
Graham Henry and Steve Hansen, the current All Blacks coaches, both coached Wales.
All this switching of allegiances is part of the professional era. A coach goes where his career takes him. But when he is a certain place and country, his allegiances must be 100 per cent with that place and that country.
Mitchell coaches the Western Force.
He should not give any help in whatever fashion to teams playing against his team or the Wallabies. It is naive to think that the Springboks management choose Mitchell because he was a good chap or whatever.
They saw some sort of advantage, small perhaps, but an advantage, nevertheless, in having Mitchell present the jerseys.
For me, Mitchell committed, in rugby terms, the crime of sleeping with the enemy. And rightly so, he’s in Ella trouble.
Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.