Australian bad boy Matt Henjak is dividing Australian rugby opinion.
Henjak, who allegedly broke a team-mate’s jaw in a bar brawl, will tour South Africa with the Force despite the ARU insisting he should not go.
The Aussie rugby authorities, furious over the incident, have warned the Force not to allow him to travel, according to Australian media reports. However, the Perth franchise have not only said Henjak would go to South Africa but also announced that he would play against the Sharks in Durban.
The Force said a serious misconduct hearing would be held into the incident, which took place at The Left Bank bar and restaurant in East Fremantle on Sunday night. Winger Haig Sare had a plate inserted into his jaw following the brawl which apparently took place after a drinking session involving at least six Force players.
“While natural justice demands any player is innocent until proven guilty, we believe there is justification to stand down any player who has a disciplinary hearing pending,” ARU chief executive John ONeill was quoted as saying. He said the ARU had told the Force not to take Henjak.
This isn’t the first time Henjak has been in trouble. His career is littered with fights in bars and nightclubs, including an incident in South Africa in 2005 when he became the first Australian international in 40 years to be ordered home from a Wallaby tour after a brawl in Cape Town.
He received a two-year, two-match suspended sentence and a A$500 fine.
The Herald newspaper reported that the incident has deeply divided the team as a number of players didn’t want him to tour. The coach, John Mitchell, threatened to walk out of a press conference yesterday unless the questioning focused on rugby rather than Henjak.
In December, Australia was rocked by the “quokka shocker” affair, in which Force players Scott Fava and Richard Brown were fined a total of A$16 000 for mistreating quokkas during a bonding camp on Rottnest Island.
The Force, since John Mitchell took charge, have been a constant news item because of players and booze. Former All Blacks captain Anton Oliver accused the All Blacks of having a booze culture when Mitchell was All Blacks coach. Mitchell denied it was the case.
However, last year he implemented stringent anti-drinking measures with the Force, with regular Sunday morning testing. Scott Fava was among the players to fail such a test and was stood down for a game.