After the news broke yesterday that six Australian players had been banned, and a further nine reprimanded, for drinking during the week of a test match, head coach Ewen McKenzie has introduced a host of new measures on his squad for the rest of their tour. Mid-week drinking has been banned and a midnight curfew has been imposed.
Adam Ashley-Cooper, Nick Cummins, Tatfu Polota-Nau, Benn Robinson, Liam Gill and Paddy Ryan have all been handed one match bans, with the first five missing Saturday’s encounter with Scotland, and Ryan missing the game against Wales. Nine other players have been reprimanded.
In the wake of these revelations, McKenzie has banned drinking in the week leading up to a test match, and has imposed a midnight curfew on his players. They will be allowed to celebrate a victory or drown their sorrows after a loss at the weekend, but during the week they must go teetotal.
“I am not running social tours of Europe,” McKenzie said. “We’re here in a high-performance environment, we’re trying to win Test matches. I’m not going to treat them like kids, they get paid enough money, they’re employed to do a job.
“And that’s demeaning to say they’re employed, they’re actually given the privilege of being a Wallaby. With that comes responsibility. This business is about making sacrifices, it’s not about going on a Kontiki tour of countries. It’s about making sacrifices, it’s actually a profession for them but they’re passionate about it in the end, as I am.
“This is not a club trip. Sure, alcohol has to exist in society, so we’re saying ‘After the game, enjoy a win’. I’m not draconian and saying you can’t drink forever. It’s never been any different, you play Saturday night, you can have a beer after the game, then you move on and get on with the job.”
“I’ve been quite clear, when you say you go to dinner, dinner is dinner. I don’t know of any dinners, unless you’re in Spain, that goes past midnight. Sometimes you don’t have to define the time, you just have to be responsible. Then you’ve got the responsibility as a Wallaby, there are performance aspects in play.”
Meanwhile, Adam Ashley-Cooper’s mum has, rather hilariously, leapt to the defence of her son, claiming he is being singled out for being one of the more senior players. The utility back has 90 caps, making him comfortably more experienced than anyone else who received a ban. However, Mrs. Ashley-Cooper thinks her son is being unfairly singled out.
“These players are now being made an example of, but because Adam’s the most senior player, they’re coming down on him the hardest,” Mrs Ashley-Cooper told the Triple M radio station in Brisbane.
“So he’s missing a game for not upholding the behavioural and cultural standards of an elite athlete representing the Wallabies. He said he’ll cop it and move forward, but he’s really upset because they are claiming excessive and inappropriate alcohol intake by him, and alcohol was not the problem. It was the time he got home.”
We’re not sure we believe you on that one, Mrs A-C…
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images