Western Force unprofessional as Graham goes to Reds
David Pocock (left) captain of the Western Force and coach Richard Graham. AAP Image/Paul Miller
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This past week saw two significant transfers take place in Australian rugby. Flanker Michael Hooper left the Brumbies for the Waratahs, and coach Richard Graham moved from the Force to the Reds.
While they are both good moves and significant boosts for their new clubs, what is different about the two situations is how their current clubs have treated the news of their defections.
In doing so they have highlighted the continuing tensions between the amateur and professional aspects of modern-day rugby.
Hooper’s loss will be a blow to the Brumbies. He’s an emerging talent and has shown to be a huge influence in games. The Brumbies loss to the Reds at Suncorp was partially a result of him not having more game time.
When it was announced that he would be leaving, the response by the Brumbies, in particular Jake White, was commendable.
Instead of freezing out Hooper, as had been done in the past, (as with Ashley-Cooper, for example) White insisted nothing would change as Hooper had already earned the right to play for the Brumbies.
This is how it should be done.
Once news hit that Richard Graham was moving to the Reds in 2013 to take up a head coaching role there was an outcry at the Force.
Despite assurances that a parting would be amicable, The Force ousted Graham the day after his announcement, via a player vote of no confidence.
This is despite Graham having a clause in his contract that would allow him to move at the season’s end. He is a good coach, that’s why the Reds went and got him. How he has been treated in the West is unprofessional and desperate.
These two transfers highlight the tension between amateurism and professionalism – between loyalty and money – in this modern era. The reality of rugby and all sporting codes is that players no longer play just for loyalty and accolades.
Since the mid-1990s rugby has being paying its players and the code has benefited enormously. The players can concentrate on playing.
If this standard is to continue, the teams and the public need to recognise that other factors aside from loyalty will now influence a player’s or coach’s decision about where they ply their trade.
Loyalty and mateship will still play a part, but a club can’t cry foul when a professional in their ranks decides to switch clubs. Sidelining a player or coach creates a bad precedent for the club.
The Brumbies knew this with Hooper but the Force did not with Graham.