Rugby

Pulver to ride out Oz storm

2014-10-31 11:58
Bill Pulver (Getty)

Melbourne - Australian Rugby Union chief Bill Pulver has described the text message scandal that plunged the Wallabies into crisis as a "bump in the road" and remains determined to keep his job despite huge pressure over the body's handling of the case.

Pulver has been under attack in mainstream and social media since utility back Kurtley Beale was fined A$45,000 for sending an "offensive" text message to former team manager Di Patston.

While Beale walked away from a hearing with his national contract intact, Patston has resigned from the ARU due to stress while Ewen McKenzie sensationally quit as Wallabies coach two weeks ago.

Beale was fined another A$3,000 on Friday for an in-flight row with Patston last month, an incident which had been pushed aside as the ARU pursued the more serious allegations over the text messages purportedly sent by Beale in June.

"I do want to be the man to lead Australian rugby forward and the decision whether I am really rests with my board of directors," Pulver told broadcaster Fox Sports on Friday.

"My job is to basically act as a custodian of the game, protect the image of the game and develop the game, and I will continuously make decisions and implement behaviours that are going to be consistent with the core values of the game and I hope that's good enough."

Women's rights advocates slammed the ARU over the first Beale decision and local media condemned the governing body for allowing the scandal to drag on for over four weeks.

A "summary of issues" published on the ARU's website (rugby.com.au) on Friday underlined how razor-thin the ARU's case against Beale was without the authority to call former employees Patston and McKenzie as witnesses.

The ARU were first made aware of the text message allegations from Patston on October 7, but Beale's lawyers were given until Oct. 20 to submit evidence.

The ARU's integrity unit did not attempt to acquire his telephone for forensic inspection until October 22, two days before the hearing.

"However, Mr Beale's solicitors confirmed that Mr Beale had lost his mobile phone in Argentina and that he could only provide his newer phone which only contained text messages that had been sent from July 2014 onwards," the summary said.

Pulver defended the ARU's handling of the case as "due process" but conceded the body had "a lot of work to do to get the right balance of gender" in their ranks.

"Sadly this particular episode with the text messages has been a bump in the road for us but I think we're making great progress," Pulver said.

"Women are an absolute essential component of the game, they're actually the fastest growing component of the game and we're obviously desperate to engage with them in every possible way."

Pulver also rowed back on his criticism of the media, who he blamed for contributing to McKenzie's shock resignation with "character assassination".

"On reflection I should probably not have made those comments and I accept that," Pulver said. "But clearly I think it was a very difficult time for Ewen."

Read more on:    aru  |  rugby
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