Rugby: Forty-eight hours to forget for Chiefs

Chiefs chief executive officer Andrew Flexman. Photo / Christine Cornege
Chiefs chief executive officer Andrew Flexman. Photo / Christine Cornege

The Chiefs bosses will wake up tomorrow and hope the last 48 hours was just a bad dream.

Sorry guys, you're out of luck.

The point is how a uniformly well run organisation, which has appeared to have kept its nose clean all season, played rousing, quality rugby and come within one win of making this weekend's Super Rugby final, could drop the ball so badly in injury time.

Their problems began on Sunday night, when it emerged a player, reserve lock Michael Allardice, had made homophobic remarks within the hearing of another man on a team bonding session at the Okoroire Hot Springs, near Tirau.

As the complainant Brendan Barraclough was leaving, one player - Allardice eventually put his hand up - yelled at him "here come the gays, here come the gays" along with other "revolting" slurs.

"How they think this is okay in this day and age is beyond me," Barraclough said.

The following day Allardice stepped forward and wrote a statement of apology for his conduct.

He said he'd made a comment to a team mate - "said in jest at a team mate and I did not intend to offend anyone," Allardice said.

Just as that appeared to have been swiftly nipped in the bud, it emerged that the Chiefs group had hired a local stripper called Scarlette to perform for the team during their winding down celebrations the same night.

Scarlette has claimed Chiefs players had touched her inappropriately. She claimed she had been hired to waitress for an hour and perform a strip routine. Things turned sour when players allegedly tried to touch her.

"I told them not to pull this stuff with me. It's not on," Scarlette told RNZ's Morning Report. "It was a pack mentality."

She told John Campbell on Checkpoint tonight she felt obliged to fight back when touched inappropriately.

"As I would go towards each one, there was one guy who I repeatedly told to stop touching me, I hit him in the genitals, in the face, and proceeded to slam his head into the ground, to enforce that I meant no."

Scarlette said she had made a choice to be a stripper but it did not define who she was. She was also a beekeeper and a mother, she said.

The Chiefs' initial response was that an investigation was under way. However things were about to ramp up.

Chiefs boss Andrew Flexman said the players had been out of order hiring the stripper. He was "really, really disappointed" and said the team management would have stopped it happening, had they known what was planned.

Then Flexman got himself in a jam when he appeared to impugn the character of the stripper.

Flexman had said the stripper's claims were "one person's accusation and her standing in the community and culpability is not beyond reproach".

Flexman regretted his answer and attempted to clarify it this morning with Martin Devlin on Radio Sport.

Major Chiefs sponsor Gallagher Group offered little sympathy for the stripper.

"If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her," corporate services executive Margaret Comer told Fairfax.

Comer, who received an NZ Order of Merit for services to philanthropy in June added: "It's not nice and perhaps the stripper shouldn't have been hired, but I'm reluctant to say that the boys were out of line." She is a trustee on the board of Waikato Women's Refuge.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen then stepped in. The so-called Mad Monday celebrations need to cop a stiff arm tackle.

Hansen, in Auckland for a two-day training camp, was unimpressed.

"...If it's true then it's disappointing, and if it's not true it's also disappointing because a whole lot of things are coming out of this which aren't great for rugby and the Chiefs," he said.

"The one thing I do know though, is there is a massive lesson about 'Mad Mondays' - just kick 'em for touch. You don't need them."

He said he was confident All Black team culture is "up to scratch. I've given (the players) a reminder that there's a certain way to behave."

New Zealand Rugby chief strategy and operations officer Nigel Cass said they were assisting the Chiefs in their investigation.

"The first thing to say is they are very serious allegations and we treat them with deference they need. Our role is to assist the Chiefs to ensure they undertake a full investigation so we can get to understand just what has happened," Cass said.

"Rugby in New Zealand is central to our society and this type of allegation cuts right to the core of that."

New Zealand Rugby Players' Association chief executive Rob Nichol said end-of-season celebrations were no excuse for players to forget about their responsibilities as professional sportsmen.

"It's not a good look for rugby, it's not a good look for the Chiefs and it's not a good look for the players," Nichol said.

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