Rugby Australia can Learn from the Crusaders

Alan Jones has had a lot to say about Australian rugby union, lately. Of course, Alan Jones always has a lot to say. But, as a former national coach and administrator, rugby is a subject closer than most to Jones’ heart and expertise. Suffice to say that Jones has almost nothing complimentary to say about the management of Rugby Australia.

On the other hand, Jones is looking across the Tasman, and finding a lot compliments for the Crusaders – and a lot of lessons for RA.

The Crusaders look set to take out their third consecutive Super Rugby title.

We have much to learn, not just in the Folau affair, but in rugby in general from this franchise. There is a reason why they’ve won nine of the 13 Super Rugby finals they have played in since the game went professional in 1996.

What happens with the Crusaders on the paddock is a matter for another column; and much deserves to be said. But this success comes when people genuinely care for one another and the Crusaders’ man management is spot on.

Australian rugby has been plagued with player scandals. Too often the response from management is to simply turn an indulgent blind eye. Unless a player quotes some un-PC passages from the bible, of course.

We know the Folau story. Well, what about the Sevu Reece story?

At the beginning of the season, the Crusaders gave a lifeline to this young Fijian winger. He had been involved in a domestic violence incident. He was run out of the North Island of New Zealand and had a contract in Europe torn up.

The Crusaders gave him a last chance.

In the space of a few months, Sevu Reece has become a sensation on the wing. I have no doubt that one day soon, he will be an All Black.

This doesn’t happen by chance.

Turning fit, virile young men into heroes and lavishing them with money and adulation has always been a recipe for bad behaviour, especially when their worst behaviour is indulged and covered up.

[Reece’s] life has been turned around because the leadership of the Crusaders offered compassion, care and a new discipline.

Early in May this year, two of their backs were accused in South Africa of misconduct. I understand they were out late, drinking. The matter was quickly dealt with by the Crusaders and New Zealand Rugby. The two organisations responded superbly. There was contrition on one side and compassion on the other.

The coach Scott Robertson summed it up, “We have good people and we will support them.” He backed his team’s culture.

If only RA were so willing to support their good people.

Folau is a very good person, abandoned…The great thing about our Anzac brothers across the ditch is that they responded in the cases cited above with consideration and consistency.

The young men the Crusaders dealt with were known to be good citizens, so they were forgiven. No dramas. I am certain the rugby public barely knew. It is this kind of management, tough love, that produces the results that are now identified with the Crusaders. It’s called leadership.

The “leadership” of RA, on the other hand, consists of an ex-banker and a female CEO who appears to have been appointed more to tick off a virtue-signalling quota than aptitude for the job.

There is very little at the top of Australian rugby that commends itself…Political correctness is well and truly alive at Rugby HQ…Where the Crusaders have been calm, measured and proportional, Castle acted with haste and no proportionality. Rub your best player out for life.

Folau…has received zero support from Rugby Australia or the Waratahs. Instead, they want to persecute him and run him out of the game so they can keep Qantas on the front of the Wallaby jersey.

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