The ACT Brumbies have decided to backflip on their neutral stance and will support the yes vote in the referendum on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.

A week ago, the Brumbies chairman Matthew Nobbs revealed the ACT Rugby board had taken the unanimous view that the club should not take a position on the matter and hoped Rugby Australia would do the same.

RA subsequently supported the yes vote, joining the peak bodies of all four football codes in Australia.

“It was agreed unanimously by our board that we don’t think politics should play a part in sport and it’s an individual’s preference,” Nobbs told the Sydney Morning Herald last week.

“There’s no way in the world that we would muzzle our players, they will be free to express themselves as they wish, but we do not believe it is the Brumbies’ role to support a position.”

Nobbs said wanting to stay neutral as an organisation was not the same as supporting the no campaign.

“We have an extremely strong association with Indigenous people. We run out in an Indigenous jumper once or twice a year, our training gear is closely aligned to indigenous themes and [winger] Andy Muirhead is a great role model for Indigenous players and the community,” he said.

Andrew Muirhead of the Brumbies. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

The board decision was criticised as lacking consultation, especially with Brumbies players and on Mondya the club put out a statement changing their stance.

“After a consultative process with key stakeholders including our Indigenous Cultural Advisory Group, our member clubs and our playing group, the ACT and Southern NSW Rugby Union has today pledged its support for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice,” the statement said.

“Given the breadth of the ACT Brumbies community, and importantly that a process of consultation had not yet been conducted, the Board initially adopted a non-political or neutral position on the referendum. Regrettably, this has been interpreted in a way that does not reflect the values of our organisation or our clear commitment to reconciliation and fundamental support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament.”

Richie Allan from the ACT Brumbies Indigenous Cultural Advisory Group was qoted as saying: “I commend the ACT Brumbies for committing their support for the Indigenous Voice to Parliament.

“The Brumbies are leading the way in Australian Rugby in their commitment to reconciliation and furthering the lives of First Nations People through their Indigenous game day experience and thriving First Nations Pathways Program, and our hope as a collective is that this has been an opportunity to learn and grow, and that we may use this week to celebrate Indigenous culture through rugby.”

Nobbs was also quoted in the statement.

“The board recognises that this is an important moment for Rugby and Australia to come together behind the Voice to Parliament. We are proud of our record and ongoing commitment to reconciliation and recognise that this referendum is an important step forward for our Nation and our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,”he said.

“The ACT Brumbies are committed to playing an active part in raising awareness, recognising, and celebrating the unique role that Indigenous Australians have and continue to play in the life of our organisation our city and region.”

Moana Pasifika coach to stand down

Aaron Mauger will step down as head coach of Moana Pasifika at the end of the regular season after leading the combined team in its first two season in Super Rugby Pacific.

Mauger confirmed his departure in a statement on Monday, saying: “It’s now time for me to return home to my family and give my best back to (my wife) Amy and my four beautiful children.”

While Mauger stressed family reasons for his departure, Moana Pasifika’s performance in its first two years has fallen below expectations.

The team, which combines players of Samoan, Tongan and Fijian heritage, won only two games in its debut season last year and has not managed a win this season with only two of 15 regular-season rounds remaining.

Mauger seemed to acknowledge in his statement his task as inaugural head coach had not been an easy one, noting “I have given everything for the cause in testing conditions.”

“I love this team immensely and it has been an absolute privilege to be a part of this special journey for Moana Pasifika and broader movement for the Pasifika community,” he said.

Moana Pasifika chairman Michael Jones acknowledged Mauger’s contribution to the fledgling team.

There inevitably will be suggestions that Mauger was dealt an impossible hand.

After years of lobbying, Pacific nations finally achieved direct representation in Super Rugby when Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua were created.

But the Moana Pasifika team was left mostly with players left over the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises had had first choice.

All Blacks of Pasifika heritage remained with their New Zealand franchises and Mauger had to work with a group which had little international experience.

Reds ready for ‘final’

A trip to the Highlanders’ zoo stands between the Queensland Reds and a Super Rugby Pacific finals berth.

But the Reds have a zookeeper in their midst in forward Sef Fa’agase, who’s drawing on his time at the Dunedin club in 2019 ahead of Friday’s crucial match.

The Reds (23 points) are seventh, just four points or one win ahead of the ninth-placed Highlanders entering the penultimate round.

After this weekend, Brad Thorn’s men head to Fiji to face the 10th-placed Drua (17 points) and could need wins in both games to feature in the finals in the coach’s last campaign.

Fa’agase isn’t looking any further than Dunedin though, where the well-travelled campaigner played at provincial and Super Rugby level in 2019.

Forsyth Barr Stadium has a roof and a boisterous home section dubbed the ‘Zoo’, powered by university students.

“It was a great experience; I learnt a lot about how the Kiwis think and how they want to play their footy,” Fa’agase said of his New Zealand stint.

“It’s pretty vocal; i don’t think many of the boys have experienced anything like it.

“It’ll be a new experience and a fun one too. Hopefully we can keep the zoo quiet.”

“Just be prepared to run. It’s a fast deck, the elements don’t play too much into the game.”

The Reds were humbled by a Blues team resting five All Blacks last week, crashing them back to earth after a historic defeat of the Chiefs a week earlier.

“We’ll need to treat it like a final,” Fa’agase said. 

“They really need a win and so do we.”

(With AAP)

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