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Fan abuse is never great, but the message to the Wallabies is clear

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17th September, 2018
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5706 Reads

There is simply no condoning the carry-on a Wallabies jersey-clad man dished out to the Australian players after Saturday night’s loss to Argentina.

None.

It was one thing that he was allowed to get as close to the players as he did and rip into them for as long as he did in the first place – just as it was one thing for several players to stand there and let him have his say.

But for him to then get into an area occupied by the players’ families and not just continue his rant, but to escalate it in terms of the language used and the ferocity with which it was delivered, was quite another thing altogether.

And that it took an actual coming together with Lukhan Tui before stadium security arrived on the scene is a shocking look.

For his part, Tui has taken his involvement so personally that he feels he needs some time away from the game.

Given the family circumstances he brought into the game, and that his younger sister was caught in the middle of it, his decision to take some time out is not difficult to understand.

For their part, Rugby Australia concluded on Monday evening that the matter itself and security measures at venues would be reviewed, but CEO Raelene Castle was quoted as being comfortable the occurrence was “an isolated incident and we haven’t experienced anything like this in our game in the past, so we don’t want to race into any hasty measures”.

The man himself told Fairfax Media on Monday that he was “shell-shocked” and “distraught” about the incident on reflection, and that he had no idea Tui’s family was in the vicinity or that he’d lost his stepfather only a few days beforehand.

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It’s fair to say he won’t do it again, and there probably isn’t much else Rugby Australia can say or do. The review will ensure security is more aware of potential flashpoints, but may not change anything in terms of their procedures.

Whether Tui plays again in 2018 is probably entirely up to him now. He’ll play when he’s ready, and that will pretty much be that.

Wallabies player Lukhan Tui

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

Hugh Cavill wrote a great piece on this topic over at Green and Gold Rugby, and despite fearing “the comments section is now likely to get stuck into me with both barrels”, the reaction has been solid agreement and introspection.

The incident itself has given Wallabies fans cause to think about their own reactions and overreactions to what happens on the field, and that’s something that should be applauded.

If that means that discussions become more respectful and more thoughtful, and less confrontational and conspiratorial, then from the fans’ side of things, maybe this weekend will have been worth the heartache.

But despite all this, and everything that was said to and about the Wallabies in the aftermath of the 23-19 loss – both in person and from the safety of rugby forums and social media – one thing is crystal clear.

The Wallabies now really, really know what the fans think.

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And this is important. So often after a loss, we’ll hear a player or a coach say something along the lines of “we know the fans are frustrated” and it sounds like the right thing to say, but it’s also just a tad difficult to fully believe when we’re also told fairly regularly that “we just can’t worry about what’s being said on social media”.

Now, it’s different. The guy on the Gold Coast has crossed way too many lines, of that there can be no doubt, but his message to the team is loud and clear and we know the team have heard it.

The players will be frustrated and disappointed at their performance on Saturday night, and so they should be. It wasn’t good enough at any level, never mind the highest level in the game.

I still can’t really recall a game with more dropped ball, and a glance down the stats sheet show that only Matt Toomua and Allan Ala’alatoa from the starting XV – who were both replaced with around half an hour to go – didn’t concede at least one turnover for the game.

Missing every fourth tackle didn’t help, but then Argentina’s tackle completion was no better. Equally, and though limitations in his game make that left-to-right pass instinctively difficult, the blame cannot lie solely with Israel Folau for ignoring Bernard Foley in the last moment of the match.

Israel Folau Australia Rugby Union Championship Bledisloe Cup Wallabies 2017

Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

Sadly, the Wallabies have always had this kind of performance in them, though maybe not quite as bad as what we saw on the Gold Coast. We’ve lamented exactly this kind of performance, and this kind if desertion of basic skills for as long as The Roar has been around.

“Why, Wycliff Palu, didn’t you draw and pass to an unmarked Adam Ashley-Cooper when instead you half-dummied and lost the ball?” I wrote back in September 2008.

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“Why, Matt Giteau, did you not just pass normally on the inside to a looming Lote Tuqiri, rather than that ordinary attempted impersonation of the Harlem Globetrotters over your shoulder?”

Saturday night, unfortunately, wasn’t a one-off occurrence in terms of what happened on the field, but hopefully the sideline sideshow won’t be repeated.

The Wallabies will be hurting, but if that hurt fuels new levels of passion and pride in their performances, then that will be a great discovery of motivation from an unfortunate event.

A quick sidenote
Why the random example from ten years ago? Well, that comes from my first ever column published on The Roar, way back on Wednesday, September 17, 2008.

From that first published piece has followed 956 more, a passion hobby unearthed that eventually became a career change and an entirely different life, and for that, Roarers, you have my sincerest thanks and appreciation for the comments, support, and interactions along the way.

I literally wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today without you.