The blood is up. The anger, seeping through my bones as I’m writing this. Eddie Jones has just been announced as head coach of Japan, with a press conference set to happen at 7:30pm AEDT. That’s going to be fun.
It’s fair to take the mickey out of journos and commentators. It comes with the turf, we throw out the news stories, we offer our analysis and opinions on the state of the game, put ourselves out there in the public arena. Every word can be scrutinized, misconstrued, ‘um, actually-ed’ to the nth degree.
But the vast majority of rugby journos I’ve interacted with online, come across in person are, at their core, fans. Right now, it is hard to separate the professional from the rugby fan. I have an obligation to provide you with sport coverage on rugby, yet rugby and I, we’re not on good terms right now as I write this.
Everyone has got their opinions on Eddie in 2023, and you’re not likely to get 50 per cent agreement on anything to do with him, and I don’t expect everyone to agree with me. Some of you may be tired of talking about him in general. If so, probably stop reading now. But if you’re furious with the actions of our former coach and wish to choose violence, read on.
Let me tell you what I think.
Eddie Jones was someone I looked up to. First memories at the age of ten, in 2003, at school, we got the chance to meet him. This was the man leading Australia to a World Cup title defence, just a few weeks from now. He walked across the rugby pitch towards us, garbed head to toe in the classic Wallabies tracksuit regalia. He hadn’t even said anything yet, but that was it. Rugby fan for life.
Everyone has that moment, the moment when you went from being interested in rugby to being a fan of rugby.
For international rugby fans reading this (and some indeed, may take pleasure in knowing this, I don’t really care at this point), I think I speak for many when I say Aussie rugby fans are really hurting right now.
The chipping away of our faith in the jersey as results have continued to slide over the last two decades, the continued underperformance of our lower level sides, the constant negative discussion that seems to have seeped into the bones of the sport here.
But now those feelings have been joined by two, raw feelings: anger at the way things have played out at the hands of those in charge, and that empty feeling we dread, to dare ourselves to question: is supporting this sport worth it?
At the end of the day, you follow the sport because it’s fun, it’s something that brings your life joy, and brings people together. What do you do if this supposed sport brings you nothing but that sad, empty feeling?
Why these new feelings? Because, is it worth it if the bloke who was supposed to coach our side not only leaves, but it turns out the rumours of him seeking new pastures turned out to be true and he straight up lied to our faces, on multiple occasions?
Many fans have already answered that question: no it isn’t, as they’ve walked away from the national side of our game and returned to clubland, or worse, seeked other sports to enjoy.
You can’t, and shouldn’t, get angry at the players. Their passion for the sport is so intense they’ve made a professional career out of it. They’re not responsible for the years of failure, only for what happens on a pitch.
I can accept losing. God knows, we’re used to being second best. You can accept when you’ve been beaten by a better side. Right now, we have a side that is struggling.
I can’t accept being treated with contempt. Hamish and Eddie did their song and dance in the media, then left. Guys, you got off lightly.
Some may say, dude let it go. Eddie and Rugby Australia, legally, have resolved the issue. They’ve parted ways, mutually agreed to end their contract. Legally, Eddie has done nothing wrong by doing that then getting a job with Japan.
Yeah, but just because your contract says you can do that, and that doesn’t mean you’re not an arsehole. Bill Burr has a great line from one of his comedy shows: “That’s what the law says. Doesn’t make it right.”
Eddie may be stupid enough to fall back on the rhetoric that this issue is legally resolved. The cold hard reality is that this is going to be something Australian rugby fans will take a long time to recover from – and it was his decisions, plus the decisions of now departed folks at Rugby Australia, that caused it.
They may call it the ‘smash and grab’ campaign, it was an all or nothing play. You lost, and now you have to accept the consequences of that.
Who is going to trust Eddie Jones at his word now?
Eddie, if you ever find yourself in Australia again, maybe anywhere where there are rugby fans again, don’t expect it to be a welcome reception. Once you lose trust, loyalty, don’t expect it to be won back easily, if ever.
Eddie Jones confirmed as Japan’s new head coach… after timelessly denying there ever being a discussion with them.
This clip aged well. ???? pic.twitter.com/0EkobmHulf
— Kodde (@Xaoh_Ami) December 13, 2023
Us rugby fans are a stubborn bunch. The fact that a random bloke who was on the beers at the SCG called you a traitor, and he’s now seen as the sane person in this situation, really shows how cooked this situation is.
I’m calling it, this is rock bottom. We may lose more Test matches to more countries, lose ten more Bledisloe Cups, I don’t care. We’ve dealt with that before, we can deal with it again. The pain of losing is an old friend at this point.
The only positive for Australia out of this mess is that, in front of the rugby world, we were humiliated to the point where we all collectively recognise that action needs to be taken to fix our sport. Now. Acknowledging the blatantly obvious and seeking to change it is a powerful motivator, and weapon, to have.
This is the lowest point for Australian rugby, because at least with the years of declining results, it was honest about where we are.
We weren’t taken for a ride, had smoke blown up our arses, we weren’t lied to by Eddie Jones.