In modern sport there are many who believe player power has become far too strong, and it would appear that the Emirates Western Force may well be a case in point.
The Emirates Western Force and coach for 2012 Richard Graham had a contract in which there was a clause that at the end of the 2012 season either party could terminate the agreement. Many speculated that if the Force finished bottom of the Australian Conference the management would have invoked that clause.
Richard Graham, however beat them to the punch by announcing in the week of their bye that he would be leaving at the end of the season to go to the Queensland Reds as Coach with current incumbent Ewen MacKenzie moving into a Director of coaching role.
The Force at the time of the announcement stated that Graham would remain at the helm of the Force for their last eight games of the season, and gave the impression that they were grateful that he was up front and announced his intentions leaving them plenty of time to source a replacement.
The players however felt very differently, and many inside the club felt that their dis-satisfaction had started rumbling earlier than Graham’s resignations. Captain David Pocock along with the retiring Nathan Sharpe lead the players viewpoint that they no longer had faith in Graham to the board, which has subsequently lead to him being told that his services will no longer be required for the rest of the season.
Many feel that Graham has bitten the hand the fed him, but they fail to take into account that sometimes in life it is the right time to move on, Queensland is after all his home state, and also that of his wife, and they have spent ten years away from there. He had worked with the Reds previously and as most Australian Rugby fans know there is a very proud history and loyalty in Queensland,and when faced with a dream job, one feels he no doubt felt all the planets were aligned.
It appears that there is one rule for players and another for coaches. It will be interesting to see if any of the players who are out of contract and who have agreed terms with a new club prior to the end of the season are ousted from the starting 15, should news get out before the end of the season.
Loyalty and commitment are words that are banded about in modern sport, yet are not these athletes and coaches professionals now, who just like those of us in regular jobs are expected to work out their ‘notice’ putting in the same level of performance?
Fans will always feel aggrieved when a coach announces he is moving on, but one cannot feel that whether the players feel hurt or not Richard Graham did the right thing by the club by giving them plenty of notice of his intentions.
The players have made a strong statement, and now must show on the park with their performances that they were justified in forcing him out prematurely. A failure to perform now will see many questions raised in relation to how much power they deserve in the future.