CONTROVERSY continues to rage in New Zealand in the wake of a sex scandal involving former All Black forward Robin Brooke, with former New Zealand internationals now weighing in on rugby players’ attitudes towards women.
Brooke, 43, hit the headlines earlier this year when accused of groping a 15-year-old girl in Fiji on New Year’s Eve and assaulting a 17-year-old male who tried to intervene on her behalf.
Brooke was not charged in relation to the incident and subsequently apologised for his behaviour on New Zealand television.
Now another woman has made allegations against Brooke, claiming that when she was 18 she awoke to find Brooke having sex with her after a test match against Australia in Christchurch in 1998.
The unnamed woman is to meet police in New Zealand in coming days to discuss the allegations, and the revelations have scandalised the rugby-mad nation.
Former internationals have now weighed in with their opinions on the matter, drawing on their own experiences as All Blacks.
Former centre Grahame Thorne, an international star of the 1960s and 70s, said the revelations had made him question his past.
“I did think ‘did I actually rape anyone?’ I was worried but it never happened,” said Thorne.
“Sometimes you don’t know whether you did actually do it, in the sense of where the line is. But no-one ever, ever complained.”
Thorne, who later became an MP, said girls threw themselves at players as soon as they put on an All Black blazer.
“There were lots of groupies. Young women would go after most of the team. It was open slather. But that doesn’t make it all right.”
He said today’s players faced much closer scrutiny than in his era, but that attention had also devalued the All Blacks reputation.
“It must be very difficult for the players today, they go out and they get goaded,” said Thorne.
Former centre Frank Bunce said he had enjoyed the trimmings of fame, and had a number of liaisons during his playing career.
“If the occasion arose and we were both happy about it then that’s okay. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen.”
He said the latest claims against his former teammate Brooke were damaging to the All Black brand.
“All Blacks come from all walks of life. It can tarnish reputations and names but the All Blacks are a whole lot bigger than that and they always will be.”
Another of Brooke’s former All Black teammates, Michael Jones, said the rule during his playing career was that players had to look out for each other.
“Every successful team I have been involved with had a mentoring system,” said Jones.
“It’s just looking after your mates.
“You can find yourself in compromising situations.
“You have got to have a strong character and values, that will keep you focused on who you are and what you represent.”
Former lock Ian Jones said he had spoken to Brooke and his thoughts were with the family.
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