Lions rewarded for what they have brought to Australian rugby
Tour has been an outstanding success in every way
Jamie Roberts of the Lions is mobbed by team-mates Conor Murray and George North after scoring the Lions’ fourth try against Australia during the third and final Test at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images)
The Lions last won a series a few short months after rugby had become professional. Rugby has lost much of its ethos and soul in the years since money became the driving force in the game.
Young players now ask “What is in it for me? What can I get ?”
That attitude is a cancer. I tell young players that if they give to the team and give to the game, they will get rewarded.
The Lions are a living, breathing example of how professionalism can enhance rugby’s great traditions.
The Lions have given the Australian rugby community an injection of energy, excitement and much needed cash. This tour had rekindled interest in rugby across the wider community.
The Lions have sold out six of their tour matches and broken ground records for each test match venue in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. As they say in the entertainment business, that is bankable super star power.
That bankable result will wipe the debt from ARU books. If money is the root of all evil and the base of all progress, rugby will survive in Australia because cash is king.
In winning the third Test so decisively, Warren Gatland’s selection and match plan was vindicated. Equally, the relevance of the Lions concept was also vindicated by the 389,400 supporters who parted with their hard earned cash to watch the Lions play in Australia.
As tourists the Lions were great ambassadors. They were generous with the local media and exceptionally well-behaved on and off the field. They played in places like Perth and Newcastle where the gospel of rugby needs to be preached. While the media had a good old whine, the Lions, who up until this week have hardly had a day off in six weeks, good-naturedly gave of their time and played their hearts out.
The Lions have given a lot to rugby and on Saturday night they got their just rewards and won the Tom Richards Trophy.
“Rusty” Richards was a Wallaby who loved the game and the joys it brought, on and off the field. He played for Queensland, New South Wales, Biarritz, Toulouse, Gloucester and the Transvaal. All before the first World War.
He was playing in South Africa during a Lions tour there, when the injury-ravaged tourists called him in as he had played for Gloucester.
Rusty would be delighted to see the inexplicable concept of four separate countries, who compete against each other like cat and dog, then join forces and unite with a mighty intensity of purpose, simply because it is rugby.
It is mind-bogglingly unique.