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Aussies hope for psychological boost for Bled -

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Aussies hope for psychological boost for Bledisloe Cup

Broadcast: 28/06/2007

Reporter: Mary Gearin

Australian rugby's big moment of truth in the shadow of the world comes this Saturday in Melbourne
when the wallabies line up against an intimidating All Black team in the Bledisloe Cup.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN: Australian rugby's big moment of truth in the shadow of the world comes this
Saturday in Melbourne when the Wallabies line up against an intimidating All Black team in the
Bledisloe Cup.

In the doldrums for longer then they'd care to acknowledge, the Wallabies are looking to the return
of top sports administrator John O'Neill for a psychological boost, although even he can't be
expected to perform miracles overnight.

O'Neill's previous eight years at the helm was mostly a golden period for the Wallabies, and his
brief stint at the head of Australian Soccer also coincided with a magic run for the Socceroos at
the FIFA world cup in Germany last year.

And this time around, he's off to a predictably interesting start, as Mary Gearin reports.

(excerpt from the song by Travis.)

TRAVIS (singing): Why does it always rain on me? Is it because I lied when I was seventeen?

(end of excerpt)

MARY GEARIN: There's nothing like atrip to Melbourne to give Australian rugby players a morale
boost. The Wallabies did the hard yards this week flushing out union starved Victorians in slippery
conditions.

JOHN SO, MELBOURNE LORD MAYOR: We will see a huge power again turning out to cheer the Wallabies.

MARY GEARIN: This devoted turnout and ticket sales of 80,000 for this weekend's Bledisloe Cup match
shows the Wallabies brand name still stands tall in sports marketing landscape but it won't last if
the team can't recapturing the days of world domination, a fact not lost on this man.

JOHN O'NEILL, ARU CHIEF EXECUTIVE: The big overarching objective is to restore rugby's popularity.
We've got to get people back to the game. They've drifted away, they've found the game
unentertaining, boring and we haven't been winning, so it's not a great combination.

HOST: John O'Neill, ladies and gentlemen. (audience claps)

MARY GEARIN: He says he's not the Messiah, but the second coming of John O'Neill to Rugby Union
ahead of this year's World Cup has certainly galvanised the rugby world. He's been named the top
Australian sports administrator of the year three times, twice in Rugby Union and once during his
term at Football Federation Australia.

SPIRO ZAVOS, RUGBY COLUMNIST & AUTHOR: And Neil came in. He was a former banker and a lawyer and he
had to well, as Lennon says, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs and he had to
break some eggs. That was resented. Despite the terrific success of the 2003 Rugby World Cup.

MARY GEARIN: But perhaps the rugby world can expect a slightly different John O'Neill this time
round.

JOHN O'NEILL: Look, I'm a bit older and wiser I guess. I'm not here to distract or indeed be
destructive.

MARY GEARIN: Is that a recognition that perhaps your style was abrasive, that as much as you're
credited with uniting the factions of Rugby Union, that you are also seen as something of a
divisive character?

JOHN O'NEILL: Look, I often hear that, but there's very little to support it. I effected some
people's power and influence and they didn't like it. It's a pretty robust environment, rugby
politics, and it's not for the faint hearted. I'm very unapologetic.

MARY GEARIN: John O'Neill wants Australia to carry more clout with the International Rugby Board,
and he's certainly prepared to be unpopular with his South African counterparts over their plans to
not send their best Springbok team to Australia for their Tri Nations game.

That's after they drew packed crowds in their country in matches featuring top flight Australian
and New Zealand line ups. Today on his first day in the hot seat, he would not rule out legal
action.

JOHN O'NEILL: They've failed in their obligations to us, it's not good enough. If this was a
commercial matter I'd be looking at suing them for damages.

MARY GEARIN: Isn't it commercial, shouldn't you be suing them?

JOHN O'NEILL: Day one of the job, it's something to look at.

FAN: Oh damn, thank you.

MARY GEARIN: Die hard fans in Melbourne who lined up last Sunday to breathe the same chilly air as
their heroes faced disappointment this Saturday night along with thousands of others if they don't
have pay TV.

Channel 7 will not be playing the Bledisloe Cup match live into Melbourne, and more generally, the
station ranks rugby well below AFL, which it only won back this year.

JOHN O'NEILL: It should be live across the country. The fact that it isn't is very disappointing. I
haven't spoken to my good friend David Leckie for a while but I look forward to having a chat to
see whether we can fix that problem. But I need to understand, where does rugby fit? I no doubt
will get a blast telling me where rugby fits. But look, we just need to make ourselves more popular
so it becomes a compelling argument that the free to air network, whichever one it is, shows the
Test matches live across the nation.

MARY GEARIN: And for that, this Saturday, John O'Neill will be closely watching the style in which
the Wallabies face up to their clash with the world top ranking All Blacks attack.

JOHN O'NEILL: It's about the Wallabies winning, playing entertaining, attractive rugby. We're
probably about fourth in the world at the moment. But that's good. I mean, I love being the
underdog and favourites often get beaten.

RUGBY COMMENTATOR: And Matt Giteau scores for Australia.

KERRY O'BRIEN: As long as underdog doesn't become a permanent condition. That report from Mary
Gearin.