Rogers punished with grassroots work

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rather like a hunt protester being forced to atone for his public-order sins by adopting a fox, the outspoken Wallaby full-back Mat Rogers has been subjected to ritual humiliation by the sporting judiciary in New South Wales.

Rather like a hunt protester being forced to atone for his public-order sins by adopting a fox, the outspoken Wallaby full-back Mat Rogers has been subjected to ritual humiliation by the sporting judiciary in New South Wales. Rogers was yesterday fined Aus$3,000 (£1,200) for using his column in a Sydney newspaper to lambast the standard of club rugby, and will be fined another Aus$10,000 (£4,000) if he does it again. By way of rubbing his élitist nose in it, a disciplinary panel ordered him to participate in a series of grassroots-development programmes at the end of the season.

Rogers described the union game at club level as "as waste of time" - a view that infuriated a number of former Wallabies, one of whom accused the former rugby league international of having "a battleship mouth and a rowboat brain". The brouhaha following the publication of Rogers's views led to an almost immediate hearing, at which he was roundly chastised for failing to clear the contents of the column with a New South Wales official and handed a punishment unprecedented in the history of the sport in Australia.

"It was never my intention to harm club rugby," Rogers insisted. "I want it to be better, to rival what rugby league has got. I look forward to seeing that happen in the future." But Fraser Neill, the chief executive of the New South Wales union and a member of the tribunal, refused the full-back even a modicum of sympathy. "When you're in a position of high profile, you have to understand that if you say something, a lot of people will take it as being the view of the organisation you work for," he said. "A newspaper column is not a right, it's a privilege." The New South Wales officials were particularly embarrassed by the timing of Rogers' outburst, coming as it did at a delicate point in their renegotiation of a major sponsorship deal with an Australian brewing company. Rogers, who switched codes in 2002 and plays for the Southern Districts team when he does not consider it beneath him, has been selected for the Wallabies tour of Europe in November.

Meanwhile, the formidable Springbok set-piece specialist Christo Bezuidenhout has arrived at Gloucester, one of the homes of British scrummaging, after completing his Currie Cup commitments with the Mpumalanga Pumas. Bezuidenhout, whose selection ahead of the black prop Lawrence Sephaka for the World Cup match against England in Perth 11 months ago caused much controversy in race-sensitive South Africa, was expected both to train today and declare himself available for the West Country derby at Bath this weekend.

The 34-year-old loose head, signed in the summer after the club lost Trevor Woodman to Sale and Phil Vickery to injury, faces stiff competition from the unsung props Gary Powell, Terry Sigley and Nick Wood.

Comments