Nick Farr-Jones comments emblematic of Australian rugby’s perception problem

In short, it is still seen as a club run by Farr-Jones and others from which a significant enough number of Australians feel purposely excluded, and thus resentful.

When they see Raelene Castle run out of town by a collection of former Wallabies captains, they see the club flexing its muscles to remove a female New Zealander, with Maori heritage, so they can replace her with one of their own.

The Wallabies and Australian rugby as a whole need to get further behind their Pasifika brethren.

The Wallabies and Australian rugby as a whole need to get further behind their Pasifika brethren.Credit:Getty

And when they hear Farr-Jones say that there are no real problems with race in Australia, they get affirmation in their beliefs that Australian rugby is essentially a clique of North Shore inhabitants who, like a political party that has gone off the rails, has lost touch with the electorate.

These are tough discussions, problematic and thorny, but if rugby in Australia doesn’t have them it will never grow in modern Australia.

In fact, one of the shocks after moving to Australia was discovering a layer of covert and overt resentment that lingered towards Australian rugby.

Colleagues and acquaintances weren’t just ambivalent towards the Wallabies and Waratahs, they actually wanted them to lose.

‘We have a Wallabies side that reflects diverse, modern Australia but a view of Australian rugby that does not.’

If this exists in white, middle class Australia (and they were middle class – perhaps once they were working class, or their parents were, but they had comfortable middle Australian lives now) then what levels of exclusion exist in marginalised sections of the community?

The frustrating part about this narrative is twofold: first, there are an enormous amount of people who work under the umbrella of ‘Australian rugby’ I would happily describe as being the best bastards going around; genuine people, honest hard workers, aware of rugby’s failings and almost universally undeserving of the antagonism directed towards the game.

Second, the growing number of Pasifika players in Super Rugby and the Wallabies has, in fact, changed the nature of the Wallabies team.

So, we have a Wallabies side that reflects diverse, modern Australia but a view of Australian rugby that does not.

Hunter Paisami was sensational on debut for the Wallabies in Wellington.

Hunter Paisami was sensational on debut for the Wallabies in Wellington.Credit:Getty

For example, midfielder Hunter Paisami’s struggles on the way to the Wallabies are no different to many similar stories in the NRL, but although such backgrounds in league are effective in connecting the game to ‘ordinary Australians’, rugby hasn’t had the same success in making that link. All is not lost.

Twice in recent months I have spoken extensively with Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan, some of it on the record but most of it off.

There’s no doubt he likes to get on the ‘front foot’ with the media, and good on him – part of his job is to get the game on the back pages.

But there’s another McLennan who is a student of history and admirer of individuals who left a legacy by performing acts in the greater good.

Those conversations have persuaded me (perhaps naively, time will tell) that McLennan is deeply sympathetic to ideas such as the game’s moral obligations to Pasifika rugby.

Let’s be clear: I’m not lumping Indigenous communities and Pasifika communities into one indistinguishable bunch.

Clearly, Rugby Australia has significant work to do in Indigenous communities to catch up to the NRL.

But if there is one piece of work immediately in front of Rugby Australia that would transform how Australians engage with it, it would be to take that moral obligation towards Pasifika rugby and turn it into a strong advocacy effort to get a Pasifika team into Super Rugby – and help it once it gets there.


This is the time to do it, with Super Rugby’s future ready to be redrawn and the number of Fijian, Samoan and Tongan-qualified players in Super Rugby embarrassingly low.

For all the heat that followed Dane Haylett-Petty’s comments about taking a knee, it seems obvious that the Rebels fullback was simply opening doors, signalling to every Australian that the Wallabies workplace isn’t afraid to have tough conversations.

Australian rugby needs to keep opening those doors, and kicking down new ones. It needs to let everyone back in.

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Border stoushes ’emblematic’ of broader social and political disunity

Border stoushes 'emblematic' of broader social and political disunity

Sky News host Gary Hardgrave says the border stoushes between states are “emblematic” of the social and political disunity present in our nation.

“The Left are driving this dreadful putrid hatred creating all sorts of divisions around us”.

“They suggest there is a real uncertainty, that our values mean nothing, and we should turn our back on history”.

Mr Hardgrave said “these sorts of wedges do weaken us” and make Australia vulnerable to the leftist endgame “which is a complete displacement of the things which bring us together”.

“Diversity of opinion, diversity of people, diversity of culture and diversity of religion doesn’t weaken us because if we sit down and talk to each other we can find out the sort of things we all have in common”.

According to Mr Hardgrave, “everyone should be able to participate freely, openly and lawfully within our society and everyone should be able to travel where they like within the Australian nation”.

Image: News Corp Australia

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