Australia coach Michael Cheika phoned up a fan who vented his anger about the national team’s performances online, writes Stephen Barry.
Jack Quigley, a 29-year-old rugby player, coach and referee, directed the long post at the Wallabies’ Facebook page after they lost 24-19 to Scotland (or “Scotland ‘B’”, as Quigley dubbed them).
The fan lambasted the team for their lack of passion, lack of application and lack of touch with the common man.
He offered to drive two hours to Brisbane to address the squad for 15 minutes.
“That's all I want,” he said. “To look these guys in the eye and tell them WHAT IT MEANS to be a rugby fan in this country. Because they don't know. They're not fans. They're players and coaches. That's different. They don't know.”
He asked the media team to pass his message on to Cheika but was hardly expecting to pick up the phone and hear the head coach on the other end of the line.
“I spoke to the gentleman and gave him a ring because I think it’s important that we talk to the fans,” said Cheika.
He didn’t hide the message from his players either, but chose to pin it to the dressing room wall.
“We put the post up on the wall and that was pretty confronting for a few of the guys because they hadn’t seen it – it was pretty heavy in some ways.
“That’s the message there and then.”
Well. There's a headline I never thought I'd see. That one's going straight to the pool room... pic.twitter.com/fFZOfawcKX— Jack Quigley (@Jack_Quigley) June 19, 2017
Quigley gave his account of the call to Fox Sports: “My phone rung and it was Cheik and he said: ‘look, the letter was addressed to me and I wanted to be the first one to ring you.’
“We spent a good half-hour on the phone. It was pretty honest and heart-to-heart. He didn’t dodge any blame.
“I stuck to my guns and asked him a few hard questions, but he held his hand up and was really good about it and he actually encouraged me to save his number and call him back if things don’t improve, which was very good of him.
“He said that they’ve stuck it up in the change rooms and some of the players were angry about it and some of them were motivated by it.
“He texted me after our conversation and in my response I just wrote to him ‘wishing him the best’
“And he wrote back and said: ‘Mate, I’m the same as you, I’m just a pleb. I just happen to coach the team.’
“It was sort of a nice reference to the piece.
“It sounded like he genuinely read it a few times through and he connected to a lot of parts of what I was angry about.”
For the record, what I appreciated most about the chat with Cheika was that he understood my post was written with frustrated love, not hate— Jack Quigley (@Jack_Quigley) June 19, 2017
The post has amassed almost 50,000 likes and 10,000 comments.
It begins: “I'm a pleb. I'm a nobody. My opinion on rugby counts for the square root of f-all in the grand scheme of things.
“But I've got one thing. Passion. Passion for the game of rugby. And for the Wallabies. And you can't deny me that. Despite your best efforts.”
Quigley continues: “You hurt me. I have to go to work tomorrow. I'm not going to turn this into one of those "they earn so much money they should do better" rants, because I know that our playing stocks are limited. Severely. But I have to go to work tomorrow, and I have to do with this sick feeling in my stomach that stems from the utter disappointment that is my national rugby team.
“When I was a kid - hell, even now, I would've given my left nut just to pull on a Wallabies jumper, but when I see you guys run out, I feel like you don't care. I KNOW you don't care, because it shows. And don't tell me I'm wrong. Don't say that you DO care, because my response is that you don't care ENOUGH! CLEARLY!
“I live in Lismore, NSW, it's a two hour drive to Brisbane. I'm willing to drive to Brisbane this week and address the squad. For 15 minutes. That's all I'll need. Then I'll turn around and drive home again. Because i feel like you've lost touch with the common man.
“Anyone who says "I wouldn't necessarily agree with that" is wrong. You have. And it kills me. And everyone I know. You're quite literally hurting people with your lack of application to your jobs.”
He threatens to quit following the team if there isn’t an attitude change before concluding, “I'll cheer you on and hope that you win so that on Sunday I can go into work to earn my peanuts with a smile on my face while you enjoy another skinny latte at the airport.”