The Wallabies have been thumped by Wales by 40-6 in the Rugby World Cup. To be honest, it really comes as no surprise. Ever since Rugby Australia sacked Israel Folau for expressing a personal religious opinion — which in the context of world history would have been totally uncontroversial until about five minutes ago — I have not been able to watch any of their games. Not. A. Single. Game.
And I am by no means alone. Most of the people I know have switched off, some even going for some other niche country. For example, amongst some buffs plucky Fiji seems more popular right now than our national team.
David Campese—Australia’s greatest-ever rugby union try-scorer—tells the story of Russell Crowe coming into his Sydney in the early 2000s to buy a Wallabies jersey . Australian rugby was flying so high that Rusty exchanged one of the two original masks he wore in Gladiator for Campese’s signed 1991 World Cup jersey, the one he wore to beat the All Blacks, and the great All Black Jonah Lomu’s Test jersey.
What do you reckon the chances are of Hollywood movie star wanting to do something like that today? Yeah, pretty well Buckley’s and none.
What’s happened to us as a sporting nation? When I was growing up the Wallabies were living legends. They were role models the young ached to emulate. But at the moment you’d be hard pressed to find a kid who could name more than three players in the current team. As Jeff Messitt, secretary of the Bundaberg Waves Falcons Rugby Union club, was quoted as saying back in 2021, “The grassroots are in a catastrophic state at the moment. Kids can’t name a current Wallaby … funny the only one that they know is Israel Folau. And he’s now gone.”
For me, the Folau disgrace was the tipping point that settled my decision to tune out and turn off. The way Rugby Australia dealt with the situation was appalling. They became so woke in the name of “tolerance” that everything was to be tolerated except for views deemed as being no longer en vogue.
In saying that, I realise the issue is much more complicated than simply what happened to an individual player. As David Campese explained in a podcast, The Breakdown, for The Australian:
I just think we just need to get the culture back. I think that‘s important. I think we’ve lost our culture, players have got no idea who we are, the kids have got no idea who we are, where we came from. I was taught that the only way to be the best is to aspire to win. It seems like the winning mentality has been lost. Mediocrity is accepted and normalised.
If you talk about ‘winning’, people get offended and tell me it’s all about participation? How can you be the best with an attitude like this? We shouldn’t have to apologise for wanting to win and be the best.
Campese is obviously correct. A massive culture change is needed. And it has to start at the top of the organisation; Eddie Jones cannot be allowed to take all the blame. Alan Jones’ analysis over recent years of Australian rugby’s decline has been spot as can be seen here and here and here.
I reckon bringing back Folau would be a good start. At the very least it would make a powerful statement and, maybe, even win back the fans who, like me, have switched off. But sadly, they won’t do that for fear of alienating woke corporate sponsors and — shudder — being assailed and attacked on social media. The leftist paradigm of identity politics has become so ingrained that the sport’s administrators won’t recognise the obvious answer to what is in essence a cultural problem.
With every reason to expect the woke Wallabies will continue to wallow in their impotence and incompetence, maybe the time has come to buy a Wales jersey or a Fiji one