Of course you knew that I was talking about the John Mitchell suspension saga…..
What a turnaround in such a short space of time! I clearly recall receiving an e-mail around the end of last year from someone within the GLRU in response to one of my queries and in this message it was boldly stated – “What Mitchell wants, Mitchell gets.”
The statement may have been made more as a flippant comment as opposed to a declaration of policy, but it certainly highlighted the status that John Mitchell had earned. That was how much confidence the Union had in its Head Coach and such was the influence that the man had within the Union and across all echelons of the organisation.
Pressure is a funny thing, it brings out the shinning best and the despicable worst in people. There can be no doubt that every single person within the GLRU is under immense pressure. Financial pressure; injury concerns pressure; performance pressure; results pressure and of course the mother of them all – the risk of being relegated from Super Rugby.
There had to be a breaking point and if this did not happen on the field through a turnaround in results, then it had to happen behind the scenes. First Doppies left, then Killian and now it’s Paul Willemse. Future plans must have been shattered and difficult questions must have been asked. I cannot comprehend how the burden of responsibility must have weighed on Mitchells shoulders. And when the players were not able to bring back the results – for whatever reason – be it poor execution or poor game plan, the guy must have snapped, flipped his lid and blew a gasket. He must have made Sergeant Major Luys (who was the most terrifying non commission officer who I served under during my National Service) look like Earl Rose…
There are some actions in life that can never be undone no matter how many times you say sorry. There were 2 such life changing events that took place, the first was Mitchell’s last action he did that prompted the players to report him and the second was the players reporting him.
The reports that are out at the moment have confirmed that the labour dispute between Mitchell and the GLRU will be ongoing for a protracted period of time, but the outcome is crystal clear to me – Mitchell can never coach the Lions again. The relationship is now too scarred and beyond being able to patch up with a band aid. Mitchell has to go and if the GLRU can’t fire him they will have to somehow negotiate a settlement that will not cripple their already fragile financial position.
In contrast and to me it is worth mentioning the difference in how Kevin de Klerk has handled the pressure. He alone has had to shoulder more pressure, for the most amount of time than anybody else – no question about that. But yet he has always remained pragmatic, diplomatic and composed. Most of all he has stuck with the Union under the most unbearable and uncertain circumstances and remains one of the only shining lights and glimmers of hope that I look towards.