The eight questions that remain from the Beale-Patston saga
Di Patston in a Wallabies team photo at Manly in June. Photo: FacebookWallabies players may have held a “truth session” to clear the air in the lead up to the third Bledisloe Cup match, but Friday’s disciplinary hearing into the Kurtley Beale affair is the one truth session that counts.
Beale allegedly sent two lewd messages containing pictures of obese women to teammates, accidentally copying in Wallabies business manager, Di Patston. One message was captioned simply “Di”, the other “Di – would you f——- go this?”
District Court judge Mark Williams SC, former Wallaby David Griffin and barrister Dominic Villa will decide whether the suspended playmaker infringed the ARU policy against harassment and bullying.
Beale’s legal team requested that Patston and former coach Ewen McKenzie be present to give evidence but neither will attend the Code of Conduct hearing.
After weeks of chaos, there are eight main questions to which rugby fans deserve answers.
1. Why did Beale send the messages?
Was it simply a smutty prank to get a few laughs from other players? Or was it motivated by resentment of Patston’s relationship with the team and their coach? Patston, who was officially employed as business manager, had reportedly expanded her influence over time to include decisions directly about the team.
If Beale attempts to qualify an apology by citing frustrations with management, it will raise further questions for the ARU.
2. Who are the other players Beale sent the messages to?
Beale originally told Patston he had sent the messages only to himself. But it is understood he mistakenly copied Patston in on a group text to other players via the program WhatsApp.
Wallabies players have publicly stood by Beale. Captain Michael Hooper has argued that the incident should not end the 25-year-old’s career. Israel Folau, who won the John Eales Medal for rugby player of the year, has also defended Beale.
Discovering how many Wallabies received but did not report the message will help to determine the complicity of the group. The failure of senior players to report Beale would bring their leadership under scrutiny.
3. Were more messages sent?
“If you did not accidentally send them to me how many more would there be?” Patston asked Beale.
The question is impossible to answer. But how many may have gone before? It is unclear whether the messages formed an isolated incident or a habit of Beale’s. Whether other players engaged in such private slagging of Patston is also unknown.
Following the leaking to the media of the text exchange between Beale and Patston, there has been some suggestion that not all texts were leaked. If that is the case will the ARU release the full exchange?
4. When did McKenzie find out about the messages?
McKenzie said he became aware of the messages this month in Buenos Aires amid the fallout from an mid-flight argument between Beale and Patston over his not wearing a sponsor shirt.
But Beale’s manager, Isaac Moses, said McKenzie spoke with Beale about the text messages in June. If McKenzie did wait months before reporting the messages to the ARU integrity unit, the omission would raise further questions about his off-field management.
5. Did McKenzie favour Patston at the expense of the team?
McKenzie missed a team dinner in the lead up to a Test against South Africa in Perth to drive Patston to the airport so she could fly home for a family emergency (she ended up staying). More importantly, he was said to have missed a training session in Argentina to drive Patston to the airport. The Wallabies went on to lose to the Pumas for the first time since 1997 giving the Pumas their first Rugby Championship victory.
6. Should the lewd texts have been revealed after the mid-flight argument?
In a text from Patston to Beale on the day of the messages, she told him: “I won’t be telling Ewen, or the ARU as you are entitled to one mistake and be a better person for it.”
The mid-flight argument was the trigger for Beale’s alleged previous indiscretion to be revealed to ARU management. Did the holding back of that information from the ARU create an unhealthy power relationship between Beale and Wallaby team management?
7. When did Bill Pulver become aware of the breakdown between players and management?
While the actions of the ARU boss fall outside Beale’s hearing, Pulver has come under fire for his handling of the incident and its consequences. He has been criticised for a slow reaction to what became an extended public relations nightmare for the ARU. Could Pulver have avoided the mess? And when did he first become aware of divisions between the coach, support staff and players?
8. Even if the disciplinary hearing does not end Beale’s career, is his position in the team tenable?
Beale is not a member of the Wallabies’ 33-man Spring Tour squad that leaves Australia on Friday. New coach Michael Cheika said he was doing everything he could to keep his Waratahs charge in rugby union, short of influencing the hearing.
But Beale is off-contract and frequently mentioned as a rugby league prospect. Plus, his off-field record with the Wallabies suggests if Beale is on his last chance, he could soon use it up. He has been found guilty of drink driving without a licence, accused of assaulting a nightclub bouncer, and suspended for breaking team alcohol bans. He was fined $40,000 last year following a fight with Melbourne Rebels teammates.