Disappointed Wallabies back Christian Leali’ifano says business manager Di Patston’s resignation is like ‘losing a mother on tour’.
Controversial former Wallabies staffer Di Patston has been described as a caring and hard-working mother figure who will be sorely missed by a number of players.
A far different picture emerged on Tuesday about Patston, the team business manager who resigned last week after Kurtley Beale’s lewd and offensive text messages about her became public.
As Test coach Ewen McKenzie praised her expertise in running the Wallabies’ business model, inside centre Christian Leali’ifano described Patston – the only female in the 46-strong squad over the past 14 months – in glowing terms.
Showing how much respect and admiration he had for Patston, a disappointed Leali’ifano said it was like “losing a mother”.
“I sort of treated her as a mother and she was the same to me and she was like my sounding board if I had any troubles,” the 27-year-old said.
“I can’t fault anything she has done for this team.
“She worked countless hours and I was always going over to her and telling her to take a break but she always had things on to make this team better.”
Leali’ifano’s comments came after a besieged McKenzie attacked the media scrutiny of Patston and her role within the team.
Since details emerged about a mid-flight spat with Beale a fortnight ago, there have been reports about dodgy qualifications in her LinkedIn account, a lawsuit for a spider bite 12 years ago and the growing unease among some players about her influence.
But Leali’ifano, who has been in the Wallabies’ squad all year and will play his first Test of 2014 against the All Blacks on Saturday, said many players, including those she knew from her 2012-13 stint at Queensland, appreciated her efforts.
“This organisation will miss her,” he said. “That’s my personal opinion.
“It’s tough, you know. It’s like losing a mother on tour.”
McKenzie, who also was forced to deny an improper relationship with Patston last week, defended the decisions he made in appointing her and how they both addressed team culture issues.
But he also admitted he felt responsible for the dire situation his former employee was now in.
Like Leali’ifano, McKenzie has been in contact with Patston and is deeply concerned about her welfare.
“She did an outstanding job for me over a long period of time and made a massive contribution,” the former Reds coach said. “Now she is suddenly on the outer and under massive pressure, heavily medicated and under a fair bit of media scrutiny, which I find incredible, the depths of that.
“Now, if you google her name, it will be difficult for her to get a job.
“It’s been a really difficult time.”
The support for Patston comes after captain Michael Hooper and vice-captain Adam Ashley-Cooper strongly backed Beale, who faces a code of conduct hearing next week, and appealed for him not to be sacked.
McKenzie said players would always support their teammates.
He revealed Patston saved the Australian Rugby Union between $600,000 and $700,000 from the Wallabies’ budget in the past year and defended his management model, splitting into logistics and business positions, which both NSW and Queensland also use.