Australia bugged by All Blacks revelation

MELBOURNE • The revelation that police had charged a security consultant hired by the All Blacks in the "spygate" saga was viewed dimly in Australia yesterday, with local media queuing up to demand New Zealand apologise over the affair.

The Australian police said on Tuesday that they had arrested and charged a 51-year-old man with public mischief, after an investigation into the discovery of a listening device at the All Blacks' hotel in Sydney ahead of a match against the Wallabies last year. The state media later identified the man as Adrian Gard, who had consulted for the All Blacks for a decade.

The All Blacks' management waited five days before reporting the discovery of the bug and held a media conference on the morning of the match, angering the Wallabies, who felt the announcement was ill-timed and had caused an unnecessary distraction.

The All Blacks never accused Australia or the Wallabies of wrongdoing but the incident fuelled a wave of opprobrium on social media while souring relations between the teams throughout the season.

"Probably now would be a good time to say sorry, New Zealand," Wally Mason, sports editor of The Australian newspaper, wrote in an editorial published yesterday.

"So rather than the Wallabies cheating by attempting to bug the All Blacks, the Kiwis got an unfair advantage by unsettling the Australians. Your apology will be gratefully accepted, New Zealand."

Former Wallaby and media pundit Peter FitzSimons also asked for contrition in his column for Fairfax Media, but from New Zealand fans rather than the rugby authorities.

"It seems (Wallabies coach) Michael Cheika wasn't behind the All Black(s) bugging scandal of August last year, hadn't placed a listening device in their team room at the Double Bay InterContinental in Sydney," he wrote. "Far from it being anyone in the Australian camp, as was darkly insinuated in the Kiwi rugby community, the true culprit."

The All Blacks thrashed the Wallabies in Sydney after reporting the bug and swept them 3-0 for the season. Coach Michael Cheika, however, is not one of those looking for an apology. He told The Sydney Morning Herald: "They made their play and the police have shown that to be a different outcome to what maybe that inference was but I don't expect anything like an apology."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 09, 2017, with the headline 'Australia bugged by All Blacks revelation'. Print Edition | Subscribe