We’ve all done it. Clicked on to an online news item, only to discover the story itself bears no resemblance whatsoever to the bold headline that hooked you in the first place.
This is not one of those stories.
Like the headline states, Force fans do have every reason to be outraged.
Regular readers of this column will remember that in the first instalment of our series last Monday, we exposed how the ARU’s original 72-hour “consultation process” to decide whether the Force or Rebels would be axed from Super Rugby was a sham.
Now the Rebels have confirmed as much, leaving the ARU with egg on its face.
In The Weekend Australian, columnist Wayne Smith reported that the Rebels had put the ARU on notice that rugby’s governing body had no right to even countenance punting the Rebels from Super Rugby, and that it was smearing the Rebels’ reputation to even suggest as much.
Smith went on to report that at no stage had the ARU even hinted to Rebels owner Andrew Cox that his Super Rugby team was in any danger – right up until Sunday night when ARU chairman Cameron Clyne telephoned Rebels chairman Jonathan Ling to tell him the ARU had made a decision to cull either the Rebels or the Force from Super Rugby.
Then came the following claim from Cox, which rates as by far the most startling and disturbing utterance so far in the whole Australian Super Rugby debacle.
To quote The Weekend Australian: “Not only was this advice contrary to everything the ARU had previously told the Rebels, but previous communications had centred on how many Force players the Rebels wanted in the carve-up of the Perth side, Cox said.”
If what Cox has stated has any semblance of truth, the ARU sham this column exposed last Monday has descended into a complete farce. In fact, make that a scandal.
Had Charley Owens still been around, the Chicago Daily News scribe immortalised for his 1920s coverage of the Black Sox scandal surrounding legendary base baller Shoeless Joe Jackson might well have recycled his famous headline to state: “Say It Ain’t So, Andrew Cox.”
Michael Cheika has a slightly different take on things, quoted on Saturday as saying no players from the axed Australian Super Rugby club would be forced to join a rival club they didn’t want to play for.
“What will happen is that there’ll be a round table to sort out what we are going to do with this certain group of players,” Cheika stated.
Perhaps, when Papa Bear arrives at that round table to discover his seat is curiously already warm, he might well enquire: “Who’s been sitting in my chair?”
Like the Rose v Gina litigation over the late Lang Hancock’s fortune which captivated Perth a decade or so back, this mess could all be dismissed as a joke if the stakes weren’t so high.
Unfortunately they are.