Gavel / Nasty truths of a painful public life

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I HAVE been sounded out twice about running for politics over the past 26 years living in Canberra and both times I have declined.

Tim Gavel.
Tim Gavel.
Apart from doubting whether I would get many votes, the main factor is the public scrutiny faced by people in public life.

It is not me I would be worried about, but the impact on my family. As a father, the last thing you want to see is your children under pressure because of a stance you have taken.

Kellie Furner, the wife of former Raiders’ coach David Furner, spoke out about the impact on her family during David’s reign when the side was struggling.

It became intense and ugly at times when the side was losing and people took it out on the Furner family, she said.

Heather Reid has spoken about her detractors as she goes about running soccer in the ACT. A minority has targeted her and it has become personal.

You can see why people opt not to take on such roles. The spotlight is greater now than it has ever been with social media allowing everybody to have a soapbox to call for a coach to be sacked.

It is hard to imagine that Ewen McKenzie would not have gone into the Wallabies’ coaching job without knowing about the scrutiny and pressure associated with the position.

He would have seen it during his time under Rod McQueen, then Eddie Jones, as both came under attack during their stints as Wallabies’ coaches.

Ewen came to the job on a wave of popular sentiment that was largely media-driven with a perception that an Australian was the best person to coach the Wallabies after the reign of Robbie Deans and the prospect of a South African, Jake White, taking over.

Nothing though would have prepared him for the fallout from the trip to South Africa and Argentina. It wasn’t so much the performance of the team that was being scrutinised, it was his judgment.

To a certain degree he was a victim of poor management. The structure did not appear to be there to fully support him in his role as coach and the financial position of the Australian Rugby Union is partly to blame. It’s obvious the team needs a full-time manager; it should be one of the priority appointments.

Another factor was the absence of genuine leaders within the team. There is no Stephen Moore, David Pocock or Ben Mowen.

It’s all very well to talk about structure, but if you don’t have a strong senior leadership group, it is often not enforced.

The other factor, of course, is the media’s desire for somebody to fall. There is a constant call for people to face the consequences; somebody has to be sacked. The media builds itself up into a frenzy until there is a kill. Once the objective is achieved, there is a lull, almost a sense of shock at what has been achieved accompanied by a great deal of self-satisfaction.

The hope is that this current episode doesn’t deter good people from taking on leadership roles in Australian sport.

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Tim Gavel
Journalist and ABC sports broadcaster

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