Monday, September 17, 2012
It’s 11 years and three months since Duncan McRae wrote his name in Lions infamy.
His attack on Ronan O’Gara was one of the lowlights of a controversial tour of Australia but to this day he can’t explain his actions.
At the time of his sentencing before a disciplinary committee he said he was reacting to O’Gara swinging an arm at him. However, yesterday he admitted he just lost it.
"I’d love to be able to explain it, but it just sort of tipped over the edge," McRae said. "We had a bit of a running battle throughout the game and it boiled over. We were in the same place at the same time and it just sort of kicked off.
"I’ve done a few stupid things in my life and that’s probably right up there."
McRae admitted receiving threatening phone calls at the time but thinks that if it happened now, in the era of social media , he would have been subjected to far more abuse.
"I’m lucky there was no Twitter back then. I reckon I would have copped a lot of abuse," McRae told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"And I’ve got to give a lot of thanks to [then Waratahs coach] Bob Dwyer. There was a bit of a push at the higher levels to maybe get rid of me after that, because it was such a big incident. I can’t thank him enough for the amount of support he gave me on and off the field. He staked himself for me and I’ll never forget that."
The year after his shaming, McRae went on to enjoy a breakthrough season with the Waratahs and remained at the province until signing with Gloucester at the end of 2003.
A rematch between the old foes that year — McRae with Gloucester, O’Gara with Munster — did not spark a replay of off-the-ball violence.
But the clash, its continuing life on YouTube and the controversial tour that followed have ensured next year’s visit of the Lions is hotly anticipated.
"The excitement of the last Lions tour was amazing," McRae said.
"It’s just the expectation of a contest and the uniqueness of the Lions and the fact that you never put four nations together, it’s incredible."
McRae does not watch footage of the attack anymore and while he has apologised for it, his biggest regret is letting his team-mates down on what could have beena famous night.
"It was a such a competitive game. We could have won it and if I had stayed on the field we probably definitely had a chance to win that game," he said.
"To let the guys down and not win that game… it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. That’s probably the biggest disappointment."