My farewell to players and fans
Dear Aussie rugby fans,
Since the final whistle in the quarterfinal last weekend, a lot has been said in living rooms, bars, newspapers, letters and on social media. I have had to answer a few questions as well since then, but I’d like to take this opportunity to say a few important things that deserve to be said, and if not said here, probably never will be.
Firstly, I want to thank you, all of our supporters, for the amazing support you have shown the Wallabies in 2019. Why do I say amazing? I say it because no matter what has been put in front of you, either from inside or outside of the game, you have been louder and more passionate than ever before. No fairweather friends here. You guys are the real deal.
From the inside where it matters, I can say that I have literally thousands of people come up to me at games, at training camps, in streets all around Australia and all around the world, at junior rugby games, club rugby matches, coaching clinics, visits to country areas, in office towers on the way to a meeting or just relaxing in a café grabbing a coffee, and then more recently all around Japan – supporting the Wallabies, thanking us for our efforts to represent Australia and urging us on to do better in the next game.
I want to personally thank you all and also say that I am truly sorry we could not go one better in this World Cup than we did in 2015. As the head coach of the Wallabies I want you to know that I feel that weight of carrying all of your hopes and I love the responsibility that comes with it.
That is why I made the call a while back that if we didn’t win this World Cup I wouldn’t ask to be reappointed, even though I would have loved to continue coaching our national team. I know how desperate we all are to win that trophy again. While I know you’ll be disappointed with the results in Japan, I also know you will still wear your gold jersey with pride at the next Test match.
To the 31-man squad over with us in Japan, thank you. Thank you for pushing yourself every day to be a better player and a better person. You represented your country with pride, put your bodies on the line and have showed plenty of mettle to bounce back, day after day, game after game despite the many obstacles that have been put in front of you over the last few years.
We were not good enough to come away with victory and we are all judged by ‘results’ but as we’ve said to each other before inside our dressing room – your worthiness comes from believing in yourself implicitly first, then results will come from that. I have been honoured and proud to serve you all.
To the players who contributed to our mission in 2019 and over the last four years and missed out on selection for the World Cup squad, thank you. Thank you for throwing everything you had into it and pushing yourself every step of the way, even when you may have thought that you were going to just miss the cut. You also pushed those who made it to be better prepared rugby players for the challenges that awaited them.
I want to say thank you to everyone involved in our Aussie teams that compete in Super Rugby. I know how difficult that environment is and we cop it from all directions sometimes, including a lot of friendly fire – which hurts more than the enemy fire I can assure you – but I know you all put yourselves out there to win.
Keep striving to be your best and good things will happen. I also want to thank and say how much I love watching the club rugby comps from all around Australia. Thank you for your commitment to the game in this country. Some of you will make it into the gold jersey as a player but many of you players, volunteers, supporters will wear it in the stands at Test matches. You people give our game the fuel it needs to survive and flourish in this country.
To my coaching and staff team, all of you who have been a part of the last four years, and in particular this crew of 2019, thank you. Thank you for your tireless work in preparing the team, the huge effort you made to contribute to this team and also for the things you missed out on because you were doing that. You challenged me every day, devoting yourself to something bigger than the individual, and I couldn’t have asked for more from you.
I could say special things about all of our players in the squad but in the age of professional rugby where it all seems glitz and glamour and that it all comes easy – I would like to take a moment to talk about some of our people, and how they responded when it has not been ‘glitz and glamour’ at all, but you are still being perceived through that lens.
Men like Izack Rodda and Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, who each, after the shock loss of a parent, felt the support of their teammates alongside them and responded in difficult times to answer the call of their families and their team.
We wanted to try to share your pain and walk with you along the way and it’s inspiring to see the way you have both stepped up for your families. Having lost my own father nearly 18 years ago now, I feel for you and I know your dads would be immensely proud of the men you are becoming.