Matt Giteau is a twit for his Robbie Deans tweet
Matt Giteau fails to handle the ball. AP Photo/Rick Rycroft,
It was a case of “there he goes again” when Matt Giteau rather indulgently tweeted another attack on Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
“I’m starting to lose the faith but after waiting all day I don’t think I’m going to get a valentines card from Robbie Deans ha,” read the former Australian representative’s message.
In all seriousness, why would Deans maintain contact with Giteau?
Giteau failed to reward the coach’s goodwill in 2008, when Deans awarded him the prized number 10 jersey. Instead, Giteau responded with a series of poor displays, including some appalling goal-kicking that lost Australia a couple of seemingly easy Tests.
Soon afterwards, Giteau’s teammates were justifiably promoted to the number 10 position. The next year Giteau was overlooked for the vice-captaincy position – another correct decision – only for him to unleash a poisonous series of tweets after the Wallabies semi-final loss to the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup.
One of his tweets read: “Shows (McKenzie) understands the players; players clearly play for him. He should b oz coach #justmyopinion.”
When this tweet provoked an outrage, Giteau deleted it and put up a “more diplomatic” version; “Shows (McKenzie) understands players and players clearly like playing for him. #RWC11 #clearsolution here.” Yet the updated tweet was nevertheless obnoxious, especially from a player still in line for a recall to the Wallabies side.
Let’s be clear about the impertinence of this nonsense.
Deans has achieved far more success in his career as a coach – and as a player for that matter – than Giteau. Deans has five Super Rugby titles, a bronze medal from the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the 2o11 Tri Nations title next to his name.
After inheriting a broken side – ranked fifth in the world in 2007 – he pushed the Wallabies up the rankings, making them the second best team in rugby. Giteau, on the other hand, has played in just two Super Rugby titles – with the Brumbies – and one final with the Wallabies, during the 2003 Rugby World Cup.
Moreover, those Super Rugby titles and the 2003 final were triumphs that flowed from the brilliant play of others such as Stephen Larkham, not Giteau.
In fact, Giteau’s career can be divided into two halves. The first half, up until 2003, was filled with success. This success, however, was primarily the work of other players.
When Larkham retired from Australia after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, Giteau was seen as the new golden boy of Australian rugby. The Western Force offered him a fortune to be the foundation of a successful and enduring franchise. Deans gave him the Wallaby number 10 shirt.
Yet the Western Force struggled to win games, with Giteau perennially being the star who could not deliver. In 2009 Giteau missed four of five shots at goal – including shots from almost directly in front – against Scotland. Such poor form allowed Scotland to defeat the Wallabies for the first time in 27 years. And Giteau’s kicking woes only continued.
In the crucial 2011 season, Deans gave Giteau a final chance to impress at number 10 in the first Test of the year against Samoa. But Giteau played poorly as Samoa massacred the Wallabies. Even Rod Kafer, Giteau’s greatest supporter in the media, was pointing out that Giteau was running across the field and compromising the directness of the Wallabies’ back-line attacks.
Deans made the obvious decision to go into the next Rugby World Cup with Quade Cooper as his number 10 and Berrick Barnes as his back-up. He also correctly opted for stronger tacklers in the centre. There was no place for Giteau in the 30-player squad.
The back story to all of this was that Giteau was probably the last of the dissident players, most of them with a Brumbies background, who virtually rebelled against the Australian Rugby Union in the years leading up to the 2003 Rugby World Cup tournament.
In other words, there was a bigger game behind the surliness and insolence. The game of rugby politics.
In Giteau’s case, it was also the game of celebrity. There was always the notion that he cared more about his own interests than those of the team. And those interests were essentially financial.
You get a sense of this in Georgina Robinson’s story about the tweet, from this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald.
She quotes several tweets between Giteau and Joe Rokocoko, who asked “did you get a card from mickey though.”
Robinson identifies “mickey” as Micky Steele-Bodger, the president of the Barbarians. Yesterday Steele-Bodger announced that the Barbarians will play three Tests in June.
Giteau’s reply to Rokocoko is instructive: “that’s the one card I want bro ha ha as long as it arrives before the next baa baa game I’m happy.”
As Robinson notes rather tersely: “Players are paid a handsome fee for Barbarians selection.”
Oh dear! Players have short careers; even the ones who have “long” careers don’t last forever. No one begrudges them making as much money as they can before their playing days are over.
But let’s not have to put up with this nonsense about not being understood when a coach has done the right thing and dropped someone for a good reason.
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.