SYDNEY (Reuters) – The maelstrom caused by a row between Kurtley Beale and Wallabies official Di Patston showed no sign of abating on Monday after a June text exchange between the pair was published in local media.
The row has already cost Patston her job, could yet cost utility back Beale his international career, and, according to local media reports, has exposed divisions between Australia coach Ewen McKenzie and his senior players.
The text exchange published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph followed what the newspaper said was Beale’s distribution to team mates of two pictures of obese women with references to business manager Patston, who was inadvertently copied in.
“I am sitting here in the team room doing my job and I can’t stop crying,” Patston writes. “What did I do to you? You have barely known me a day. I can’t stop crying I am so humiliated by this. Don’t you think my job is hard enough without this? This is how the only female staff member is treated?”
A contrite Beale texted back an apology — “I just do stupid things for no reason … I hate I have done this to you” — which, after a face-to-face meeting, Patston accepted and agreed not to inform McKenzie or the Australian Rugby Union.
The row was rekindled, however, after Beale and Patston were involved in a slanging match over whether the player should change his T-shirt on a flight between South Africa and South America three weeks ago.
Beale’s role in that incident was the subject of a disciplinary hearing in Sydney last week but that action was abruptly suspended when the issue of the June texts came to the attention of the ARU.
The 25-year-old now faces a “Code of Conduct Tribunal” next week, which more than likely will result in the remainder of his ARU contract being torn up.
Patston’s position clearly became untenable after the incidents became public and she went on sick leave before resigning because of stress on Friday.
That followed an extraordinary news conference at which an angry McKenzie was forced to deny an intimate relationship with Patston, who he brought with him from his previous job at the Queensland Reds.
With the Wallabies in turmoil off the pitch because of the row, and struggling on it in the wake of successive defeats to South Africa and Argentina, McKenzie’s hold on his job is starting to look slightly precarious.
The Australia squad, minus the suspended Beale, gathered in Brisbane on Sunday to prepare for next weekend’s third Bledisloe Cup test against New Zealand.
Captain Michael Hooper, while also offering his backing to his coach, said he thought Beale’s transgressions, if proven, should not cost the talented back his international career.
“That stuff, it is out of our hands (but) I hope KB stays in rugby union and Australian rugby union,” the flanker, who also skippered Beale at the Super Rugby champion New South Wales Waratahs, told reporters at Brisbane airport.
“We are backing Kurtley. I enjoy having him around the team and he is quality on the field.”
That should certainly make for some interesting team meetings this week as the squad prepares to try to beat the world champions for the first time since their Tri-nations win over the All Blacks at the same Lang Park in 2011.