These two reports appeared in yesterday and today’s edition of TODAY:
Rugby team in turmoil (TODAY, 31 March 2009)
Nine players sit out in protest over training issues
By Loh Lin Fhoong
SINGAPORE’S preparations for Asia’s elite rugby tournament, the HSBC Asian Five Nations 2009, have been thrown into disarray. Nine local players from among the30-strong national rugby squad failed to turn up for a training session last Thursday.
Today understands the players failed to turn up last night as well, leaving just 17 expatriate players and four Singaporeans training for next month’s tournament.
The team is coached by Danny Tauroa and Harry Woods.
It is believed the nine players are unhappy over training issues, and they now risk missing a friendly match with a Singapore select team (comprising players from local clubs) on Saturday.
Last year, the national team were crowned champions of the ARFU Rugby First Division, after a draw against Sri Lanka and one win over Chinese Taipei.
The victory meant they qualified for the continent’s top tournament, the HSBC Asian Five Nations 2009, against Japan, South Korea, Kazakhstan and Hong Kong.
Singapore kick off their Five Nations campaign on April 25 against South Korea at Tancheon Sports Complex, before hosting Kazakhstan at Yio Chu Kang Stadium on May 9 and the controversy could deal a crippling blow to the team.
Today understands the nine players wrote a letter to SRU president Low Teo Ping yesterday. When contacted last night, Low said: “I don’t know anything about this (incident), but when it comes to the time, I will have to resolve it.”
Singapore’s HSBC Asian Five Nations 2009 schedule:
April 25: Korea v Singapore (Tancheon Sports Complex, Seoul)
May 9: Singapore v Kazakhstan (Yio Chu Kang Stadium)
May 16: Hong Kong v Singapore (Hong Kong Football Club, Hong Kong)
May 23: Singapore v Japan (Yio Chu Kang Stadium)
Rugby probes player sit-out (TODAY, 1 April 2009)
Low says he has received letter from ‘unhappy’ national team members
By Low Lin Fhoong
A DAY after Today reported that nine local players from the Singapore rugby squad had missed training due to unhappiness over certain issues, the Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) have stated that they are investigating the matter.
Nine players from the 30-member national side — which is coached by Danny Tauroa and Harry Woods — skipped training last Thursday and also failed to turn up for a session on Monday.
With 17 expatriate players and four locals left in the squad, the team’s preparations for the HSBC Asian Five Nations 2009 tournament, the biggest international rugby competition on the continent, have been thrown into disarray.
Singapore will kick off their opening match away to South Korea on April 25.
In a statement issued by the SRU yesterday, chief executive Ian Bremner said: “Singapore Rugby Union confirms that a group of players have failed to report for national team training and have outlined concerns in a letter to president Low Teo Ping. The issues raised in the letter will be given due consideration after which a further statement will be issued. No further comment from SRU will be made until that time.”
Today was not granted access to the team’s coaches or players during a visit to the SRU’s Toa Payoh office in the morning, and at their training session in the evening at St Andrew’s. Bremner reacted strongly to this reporter’s presence on both occasions, and refused to grant permission to Today and Channel NewsAsia’s photo and film crew to shoot the team in training.
When contacted, rugby chief Low Teo Ping acknowledged that he had received a letter from the players and he said: “I’ll definitely be looking into it, and will give it due consideration and investigate it … we’ll issue a statement after that.
Despite the current sit-out by the nine players, Low stressed that preparations for the Five Nations tourney remain on track.
“No, this doesn’t affect preparations for the Asian Five Nations,” he said. “Everybody has a right of appeal and we will look into the complaints and grievances and take it from there. This happens in sports all the time. When people come together, they’re bound to have differences. We’ll find out what the issues are and hope to resolve it as soon as possible.”
Singapore earned a promotion to the continent’s elite competition after topping the ARFU Rugby First Division. After South Korea, they will host Kazakhstan at Yio Chu Kang Stadium on May 9. It will be followed by a match away to Hong Kong on May 16, before the final game against the mighty Japanese at home on May 23.
At first glance, it’s pretty easy to conclude why the bulk of the local players in the national rugby squad have decided to boycott training sessions in preparation for the Asian Five Nations tournament coming up later this month.
Just do the math: There are nine local players who have not turned up for training. According to the Today report, only 21 players trained. Of this 21, 17 are expatriates while four are locals.
So, even if the nine players do return to the fold, it means that out of the training squad of 30, MORE THAN HALF of the players are expariates who have fulfilled the International Rugby Board’s residency rules to play in the A5N.
This is a worrying sign – it means that Singapore rugby has now crossed a certain threshold in the combination of foreign ‘talents’ and local players in the national team.
Now, even though this may not be the final squad ( I am unsure how many they have to eventually register for the A5N), will you be willing to bet your final dollar that there will be more local players than foreign ones in the end?
I wouldn’t be so brave.
It also means that increasingly, the national rugby team is starting to look like the farcical sides that Hong Kong have been fielding for international tournaments for a long time. Meaning, the number of foreign players far outnumber the locals. In fact, I remember a time when the HK sides only had one or two local players in the squad.
This is not a good situation for Singapore rugby.
In my prevous posts, I did say I was fine with having a foreigner – in this case, Chris Gilbert – as national rugby skipper, especially if he has shown that he can inspire and lift the side at the crucial moments.
I was also fine with the number of foreign players that formed the national squad that took part in the ARFU first division tournament last year. After all, you do need some extra bulk to do battle in the field.
Out of the 24 players in the squad then, nine were foreigners. So the ratio of locals to foreigners was still a pretty bearable 2.5:1.
But it seems that the Singapore Rugby Union is going further and further down the foreign player path. Why so? So that we stand a chance of doing slightly better in the A5N and avoid relegation as wooden spoonists?
If so, then my question to the SRU is this: Then what about local development?
At the end of the day, what is the mesage you will be sending to the hundreds of aspiring local young players who dream of pulling on the national jersey one day?
That the number of places available to them will always be limited because Singaporeans don’t have the physique that the foreign players will have?
I am not going to go on a nostalgic trip and say “Remember the 1978 Singapore rugby team which finished third in Asian, its best performance to date, despite having an all-local squad!”
But I must say that I am surprised that Low Teo Ping, president of the SRU, was reportedly caught unaware by this situation. Or was the long-time championof local talent caught unaware by only the rebellion of the nine local players?
If it is the latter, then this is truly disappointing.
For the sake of Singapore rugby, I hope the SRU can solve this issue soon.
And to the nine local players who are rebeling at the moment, if things do work out and you find yourselves selected for the national team, please make sure you die for your country out there, regardless of the result.
Only then can you silence your critics who will be eager to pounce, and show them that local pride still has pride of place in a brutally physical sport like rugby.
Yours in sport
Singapore Sports Fan