At the same time Eddie Jones was announced as the new Wallabies coach in January, Rugby Australia revealed he would also “oversee the Wallaroos program” in a “world first”.
That part of Jones’ job description has gone under the radar this week as members of the national women’s team spoke out against inequalities with the men – including the resources lavished on their own ‘overseer’ Jones with his team of assistants.
In contrast to the millions paid to Jones to come home, the Wallaroos coach Jay Tregonning is part time – he works as a Wollongong school teacher.
Jones is, of course, in France with the Wallabies, trying with all his might to turn around a team that is 0-4 heading into the tournament – and he can be excused for being fully focussed on that job.
But the Wallaroos statement gives a clear sign of Jones’ standing within the Wallaroos set up.
On Tuesday, Jones acknowledged he has had no time to make any impact with the women’s program, and couldn’t say if that part of his role would continue next year, when Rugby Australia will employ a fulltime coach along with a newly appointed High Performance Manager.
“In addition to his role with the Wallabies, and in a world-first, Jones will also oversee the Wallaroos program as Rugby Australia pushes forward towards a professional future for the Women’s XVs game,” is how the Rugby Australia media release on January 16 framed it.
It always looked an odd appointment and wasn’t made much clearer when the soon to be deposed CEO of RA Andy Marinos told ESPN:
“His role is to oversee the whole program. It’s an overseeing role working with the coaches, I would envisage that when the girls get into periods of international assembly he would spend a day or two with the girls and just be on the field and getting an understanding for that environment. But [it is] very much for Jay [Tregonning] and his coaching staff to run and have the benefit of that strategic insight and advice over the top.
“[Jones has] got a huge amount of knowledge and understanding across the programs, and I just think it’s a valuable resource. Understanding the coaching age of our coaches, when I say the coaching age in terms of their coaching experience right across Super Rugby and the Wallabies and Wallaroos, having that experience and being able to lean on that is only going to be beneficial for the overall rugby ecosystem.”
On Tuesday, Jones said of the Wallaroos’ disgruntlement: “I’ve got my hands a little bit full here, so that’s obviously a secondary issue for me.”
He then compared the team to the Matildas, fully professional players in elite programs who are well (if not perfectly) funded by their sport.
“I think it’s wonderful what the Matildas have done for Australian sport and women in general, and we’re all hopeful that the Wallaroos will do the same when the time comes about. And we’re all supporting them to do that,” Jones said.
The Roar asked Jones if he had a chance to “be on the field” with the Wallaroos as expected by the RA hierarchy at the time of his appointment.
“I have been here since January 29th and I don’t think I have had a day off. It has been impossible,” said Jones.
“I have sat in a couple of meetings with Wallaroos coaching staff but that’s the extent of it at the moment.”
(That and a funding announcement at Kirribilli House alongside Albo).
Jones continued: “They have a great coach in Jay, he is doing a good job. I have reached out and said if you need anything, come see me or give me a ring. I have met up with the attack coach (Sione Fukofuka) who is up in Brisbane. I have been trying to do what I can but obviously given the situation of me coming in late, it has been reasonably hectic.”
So Eddie isn’t actually everywhere and his excuses seem completely reasonable – even if giving him such a wide remit in the first place does not.
And asked if a fulltime coach coming in next year meant he would no longer need to be involved, Jones replied: “That’s not my decision, mate. That’s the decision of Rugby Australia and Phil Waugh, so I will let him decide that.”
All we can wonder is what was the purpose of giving him both roles in the first place?