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The Roar



The Bledisloe bungle: A self-inflicted curse on both our houses

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Roar Rookie
22nd August, 2021
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As we all know, the current Sydney COVID outbreak, its offspring outbreaks in other Australian states and New Zealand, and the varying responses of state and national governments have thrown the Rugby Championship schedule into chaos.

That was to at least some extent unavoidable for the rugby unions. However, the re-escalation of the ongoing public conflict between Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby is totally unnecessary and counterproductive, as is the mudslinging currently so common among punters.

How did we get to this?

It seems to me – though admittedly I don’t know for sure – that there is quite a bit of thinking about one’s own situation and either not appreciating or making assumptions about the other’s circumstances. I will try to be balanced here.

Did the Kiwis appreciate the sacrifices the Wallabies were making, in camp for months already, while the All Blacks had returned home for a short period before their scheduled departure? Or the importance to Australia for their fans and finances of the sold-out Perth Test?

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Did the Aussies appreciate how complex and changing the logistics were for NZR and the conditions behind any travel permissions from the New Zealand government? Or the massive difference between the All Blacks’ situation and their own, when they had certainty days before travel that they would be able to get to the airport, enter New Zealand without quarantine and soon return to Australia?


In these circumstances the Kiwis were reluctant to budge on their deadline, and the Australian union and players were disappointed. But that did not necessitate the deep accusations that have been made in the media by employees of unions and their media partners.

If either party is to succeed, they need to work with the other. Our geographic isolation from all other Tier 1 unions sees to that. Both parties’ interests are not always going to be aligned, and a level of conflict is inevitable, but all this public mudslinging and name-calling is totally counterproductive.

Fans show support during the International Test Match between the Australian Wallabies and Franc

(Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

In all our most important relationships we disappoint each other. But we need those relationships, and if they are to function, they must be worked on in private. It’s all very well to score points in public, but public injuries are harder to heal, and we get into the situation of both parties remembering the ever-increasing number of times they’ve felt wronged.

The more wronged you feel, the harder it is to meet the other halfway to solve difficulties. And if the relationship suffers, there isn’t a winner and a loser; there are two losers.

It all strikes me as a failure of leadership – it doesn’t really matter by whom – but the important thing in the immediate future is that they work together in private to understand each other’s position and to make the rest of the competition happen.


The good news is that this seems likely, and as I write this on Monday morning there are reports that things are moving in the right direction. But in the medium term we really do need to build a working relationship.

Finally, a word on the community of rugby fans. There is a lot we don’t know for sure – everything said between the organisations, what Andy Marinos told his players and coaches, the extent of the complications on the ground in New Zealand and so much more.

It seems to me that so many of us are making assumptions on many of these that take the best possible slant on our side and the worst on the other. We are then hurling all sorts at the other side.

Can we please stop playing the blame game and the destructive back and forth? Banter and debate are good, but this cycle of accusations, name-calling and listing of past sins real and contrived is going far deeper than that. We recently had Paulo, a valued and sensible long-time contributor to The Roar, leave the community, and I find that saddening. I’m concerned that others will follow and that relationships will be permanently soured.

It would be great if we could all step back, try to see things from the other’s point of view and rein in the toxicity.