Great about Ireland; pity about you

DEAR Dr Syd Millar,

I’d like to thank you, as chairman of the International Rugby Board, for bringing us probably the most exciting world championship final in the history of the game.

Pity you had to be there, though.

Couldn’t you just have directed events from Ireland, where you live? Then you wouldn’t have embarrassed yourself and everyone else with your appalling presentation of the runner-up medals to the Wallabies.

I’d like to apologise to the Wallabies.

I said some cruel things about them last week in a pre-match spirit of sporting bonhomie. Then I watched them play and I was ashamed of myself.

Not half as ashamed as I was of you though.

Here’s some secrets I don’t think you know: Being in a world cup final is an honour. It means you’re very, very good. To reinforce this they give you medals.

Not throw, like you did. I know this is Australia, but they’ve come a long way. They’re not all criminals any more. It’s safe to shake their hands. Pity you didn’t. It’s a pity you rushed down that presentation line bunging medals at half of the world’s top 30 players as if they had leprosy and bad breath.

As far as sportsmanship goes, I thought you’d found a new low, but I was wrong. The new low came when you gave up trying to lasso their necks without actually touching them, and just shoved the medals into their hands instead.

I notice people have been moaning about the way John Howard presented the medals to the Poms. I don’t even like John Howard – but after comparing his performance to yours I like him a lot more than I like you!

I understand you have been quoted as saying you were under pressure from the TV channels to hurry it up (and yet you had time to shake hands and smile sweetly at the Poms as you followed our prime minister down the line).

Not good enough.

I can safely say as an ex-pat Pom and a new chum citizen of a country where sport is a religion, that the Wallabies could teach you a whole lot about sportsmanship. They fought hard, they played like kings, they lost — just — and they smiled.

It’s still about how you play the game, you see… it’s not about how much money the TV channels are paying. It’s about respect where it’s due.

And you, Dr Millar, have lost mine.

I have never seen such an appalling display of bad manners and bad sportsmanship and personally I think this is one time when John Howard doesn’t need to apologise. But I think you do.

I’m fond of Ireland. I go there a lot. I have Irish relatives (thank heaven you’re not one of them). I play the tin whistle, which is a quintessentially Irish musical instrument (well… in some people’s hands). Now I’m a bit ashamed.

I think maybe I’ll take up the didgeridoo.