Today is the start of the six nation’s championship. It’s something I look forward to every year, as Ross O’Carroll-Kelly proclaims ‘Happy Sixmas!’
I’ve been a rugby fan for as long as I can remember. I’d sit in the front room with my dad and watch Ireland as they made their way through the tournament. Back in those days the wooden spoon was our only trophy, but it didn’t matter, I just adored watching it. Partly because I sat and watched it with my dad, it was our time together and I listen and watch as he explained the intricacies of the game learned from when he played rugby in school himself. His passion and love for the sport was infectious. Soon I was hooked and we watched as a young Brian O’Driscoll scored a hat trick in Paris to which my dad jumped out of his seat with delight! We watched all though the years until I moved out. It was a thing we did together, just us.
I then even played rugby myself for two seasons with Greystones Women’s Team.
So I have a real love of the game. And for me the Six Nations is a massive event, where we sit down as a family and watch Ireland take on the best.
But today as the opening approaches, I’m not thinking about the game, about the French tactics, or the debuts for Bundee Aki, James Ryan and Jacob Stockdale, today I’m thinking about our Captain Rory Best and his decision to attend the Rape Trial of his Ireland and Ulster rugby players Stuart Olding, and Paddy Jackson, who are accused of raping the same woman at a property in south Belfast in June 2016.
I believe in a person being innocent until proven guilty. I believe that these men have a right to a fair trial and due process. I believe that Rory Best wanted to support his teammates and friends. Of course, he has the right to support them.
But when you are the Captain of your country, you’ve got to take a step back and look at the role you fulfil. Your decisions aren’t just limited to you anymore. Like it or not you represent your country, you’re supposed to be a leader that men and women and especially children look up to. You’re a role model. Your actions have consequences. I shudder to think of the young rugby loving boys and girls who had to ask their parents why the captain or Ireland attended a rape trial this week.
What bothers me even more, is that he decided to go on the day the woman in question was giving evidence and taking to the stand for the first time. If I were her, I would have felt very intimated by having the Captain of the Irish Rugby team a few seats away supporting her accuser. Yes I know she was behind a curtain, but I suspect she felt his presence all the same.
Even more frustrating was, when he was questioned about it, the reply was ‘no comment.’
I think we deserve more than no comment.
I realise Best wanted to support his friends and I realise he was not the only rugby player to attend. As I said the accused are all innocent until proven guilty. But no matter what the outcome, the content of the texts sent between these men describing the woman in question on the night of the alleged rape are sickening. It’s goes beyond Trump-esque locker room talk. It shows a complete lack of respect for women and by Best publicly going to support his friends in the way he did, sends out a strong signal to every woman in Ireland.
It’s one I cannot ignore.
Rory Best has been a remarkable player for his country on the field, but this lapse of judgement has dented his place in my mind as a role model off the field. He’s not a sports man I’d now ever want my son to look up to.
I’m left incredibly disappointed and truly let down by a man who was meant to be a leader.
Today Rory, you're #NotMyCaptain