'Open wounds' from trans-Tasman rugby spat

1 month ago 18
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Rugby Australia chief executive Andy Marinos admitted there are a "lot of open wounds" in the relationship with New Zealand Rugby as two former Wallabies took aim at Kiwi officials for some underhanded tactics in the wake of the controversial Bledisloe Cup no show.

The All Blacks and Wallabies had been scheduled to square off in the third Bledisloe Test on Saturday in front of a sold out crowd of 60,000 at Perth's Optus Stadium.

But NZR pulled the pin on Friday with chief executive Mark Robinson stating that "without complete certainty on the team's next movements around the Rugby Championship we felt it was prudent for the team to stay put in New Zealand."

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NZR CEO Mark Robinson. (Getty)

On Tuesday it was announced that Queensland would host the remainder of the Rugby Championship while Optus Stadium would get its Bledisloe Test after all, on a rescheduled date that is yet to be confirmed.

But further damage to an already uneasy trans-Tasman alliance has been done with an angry Marinos claming last week that RA had been blindsided by the Kiwi decision.

The former SANZAAR boss joined Stan Sport's Rugby Heaven on Tuesday to reflect on a rocky few days for the game Down Under.

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Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos speaks during the 2021 Super Rugby AU launch at Taronga Zoo. (Getty)

"There's a lot of open wounds," Marinos said.

"But we've got to be grown men about it and start focusing and moving forward. The reality is, whether we like it or not, we are geographically linked and it is important that we continue to build that relationship for future generations and for the strength of rugby in the region. I'm certainly of a very positive and proactive mindset to keep moving forward and I think that's what we need to do for rugby.

"And for the rugby public in this country, having these games, hopefully getting the certainty of the third match against New Zealand locked away, will really just be a good springboard for us to build the game in this country."

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While Marinos was in a more diplomatic mood after the major win of securing a blockbuster fixture list on home soil, former Wallabies Morgan Turinui and Justin Harrison expressed extreme disappointment at NZR's actions.

Turinui was quick to make a distinction between the actual All Blacks - who had "been great in the way they'd handled themselves" - and the suits at NZR, while putting the latest Antipodean spat into historical context.

"This is as low as relations have been since 2003 when the Wallabies saved the Rugby World Cup by hosting it alone as opposed to hosting it with New Zealand," Turinui said.

Morgan Turinui on Stan Sport. (Stan)

"The great John O'Neill threw a few grenades in his time but the last couple of days have been tough for the relationship.

"What we've learned in the last few days is that Australian rugby did the right thing... when Rugby Australia asked for patience, maybe it would have been good for New Zealand to do it."

Turinui also cast doubt on the real reasons behind NZR's decision making.

Ardie Savea of the All Blacks and Michael Hooper of the Wallabies exchange words. (Getty)

"I don't think there's any reason to think the All Blacks didn't want to play the Bledisloe but New Zealand Rugby, I think, they used 60,000 ticket holders for the Perth Test on the weekend as hostages really, to try and get some of the things in order that they wanted to.

"Some of it's to do with the private equity deal and they've got issues with the players union around that.

"It's been reported that they made moves to some promoters in the UK about hosting TRC and games over there.

"They're trying to deny it but I know the company, I've had dealings with the company that they're said to have dealt with - and they definitely have...

"We've also just heard that Ian Foster has been confirmed as the head coach through to the 2023 World Cup in France.

"The information is at board level and high up in New Zealand Rugby administration, this wasn't a fait accompli. I've heard that twice the rugby committee has recommended to the board to confirm and re-contract Ian Foster through to the next World Cup and twice it was rejected by the board.

"There are significant elements within the boardroom that wanted Scott Robertson brought in as All Blacks head coach for the next two years... and they were trying to buy time. There's been lots of backroom moves and manoeuvres high up at board level."

Justin Harrison on Rugby Heaven. (Stan)

Meanwhile, Australia's rugby players association chief executive Harrison also pulled no punches on Rugby Heaven, expressing his frustration with NZR.

"I think there's a lot of conjecture and miscommunication and clearly what's gone on is unfortunately… tactics and dishonesty seems to have crept into what should be a far broader consideration around the game and the way the game engages different communities," Harrison said.

"And also the different stakeholders. We have two huge communities who have shown they're willing to support a product that involves Australian and New Zealand involvement.

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"And it seems at every opportunity New Zealand are looking for everything other than a genuine partnership and honest approach in how to negotiate these things.

"That's a very difficult room to enter and come out with anything positive.

"And also you would wonder, broadcast engagement, how that works with our model moving forward. You need to really examine the intent of some of these discussions."

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Harrison also expressed sympathy for the players, staff and fans who were trying to do right by the game.

"Who are in their own environments really trying to navigate through all sorts of uncertainty on their horoscope," Harrison said.

"And to give them some certainty and some engagement – we know that sport is a wonderful gauntlet for people and for social interaction. And for some genuine energy around positivity. And that is what we need to really concentrate on moving forward."

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