Pulver 'disappointed' in criticism from Wallaby greats

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

ARU CEO Bill Pulver says he’s disappointed at the move from a group of high-profile Wallabies to sign a letter slamming the governing body's approach to grassroots rugby.

Former Wallaby Brett Papworth has written a letter addressed to the ARU board addressing a lack of community support and urged as many former Test players as possible to co-sign.

Some of the game’s biggest names, including former Wallabies captain Nick Farr-Jones and ex-Wallabies coach Alan Jones, have reportedly agreed to get behind his cause, with Papworth’s move coming after a series of articles critical of the ARU’s perceived lack of support of grassroots.

Papworth and Pulver were both at Wednesday’s 1986 Wallabies reunion lunch, an event celebrating the 30th anniversary of the last Australian side to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park, a team in which Papworth played.

Bill Pulver announced the Fiji team on Friday. Photo: ARU Media/Stu WalmsleyPulver said while Papworth's views were no shock, that a number of other Test players had echoed his opinions had been the surprising element of the news, which emerged on Wednesday morning.

“Brett's put a few stories out of that ilk over the last couple of years,” he said.

“I'm surprised and a little disappointed there’s a raft of Wallabies that have signed up.”

Pulver expressed his frustration about the dissemination of the news as well, critical of Papworth’s willingness to speak to the media.

The ARU has said in response to previous articles by Papworth that he misrepresents the contribution of the governing body to community rugby, with a differentiation of millions of dollars, an assertion Pulver again disputed on Wednesday.

“He underestimates the amount of investment we put there and I'm trying to correct that,” he said.

Nick Malouf and Jesse Parahi helped promote the VIVA7s. Photo: ARU Media“In many ways the spirit of what he's saying is right, I wish he'd come and see us about the issues rather than doing it via the media but it is what it is.

“We've invited him for a lot of opportunities to come in here and have this dialogue - I have personally, as has the chairman of the ARU or whatever reason he would prefer to voice his opinion from afar."

“I would love to engage with the community, where our strategy is wrong, tell us what's wrong and let's work on fixing it.”

1986 Wallabies captain Andrew Slack said Papworth's argument had merit but hoped that a logical conclusion would be found.

"Pappy’s got a point, without question," he said on FOX SPORTS News.

"Whether or not the figures are right, I’m not sure I’m also confident with some of the people I know in the ARU who want  the right thing to happen by rugby and that includes the grassroots rugby.

"I think his underlying point is there hasn't  been enough practical help for clubs and perhaps money  we’re putting into certain other pathways could be better utilised.

"What he’s done is put a situation where the two parties ARU and Pappie’s lot are going to get together and have a chat abotu it. I think it'll be amenable and common sense will be the end result and hopefully a better outcome will be there.

Andrew Slack captained the Wallabies in their last win over the All Blacks at Eden Park. Photo: Getty ImagesPapworth, speaking to the Australian, said the ARU’s funding was insignificant in proportion to its revenue, compared to other codes and rugby nations.

"It isn't just club rugby," Papworth said.

"It's investment at any level. I don't care if it isn't club rugby. It doesn't affect us if they continue to give us nothing.

"We will still be putting corner flags out at TG Millner (Field) or wherever.

“It's about the fact that across rugby nations and against other codes, we invest nothing.

“And they have no long-term vision and we're under the hammer. The game is dying and blind Freddy can see it."