Giteau gives critics short shrift

By Josh Massoud, The Daily Telegraph
March 01, 2007

MATT Giteau, the $4.5 million pin-up boy of Australian rugby, has hit back at critics for demanding Super 14 stars perform "like we're in a circus".

On top of being the code's most expensive player, Giteau is arguably its most exciting and marketable. But the Western Force's dynamo yesterday defended this season's less-than explosive start.

Giteau yesterday spoke of teams being entitled to strive for results "by whatever means possible", the contentious Australia No.9 position and tomorrow's duel with new Waratahs five-eighth sensation Kurtley Beale.

Dull but worthwhile

Although Force has produced the most attractive rugby of all four Australian Super 14 provinces, Giteau concedes the competition's opening month has been less spectacular than previous campaigns.

"There's less tries being scored and less bonus points - that's for sure," the 24-year-old said. "The skill level and execution is not as high as it was in the past."

An early start and absent New Zealand stars have contributed to a flat start, according to Giteau. But whatever the reason, the chorus of complaint from ex-players and fans over the standard grows louder.

Giteau, however, maintains sides now must eke - as opposed to streak - out wins in the most level tournament to date.

"Because it's such a tight competition you can't just expect to win," he said. "You've just got to win the game whatever means possible.

"If the coach wants us to entertain like we're in a circus then we will do that but you train and work hard to win games. It's all right to throw the ball around but if you lose 40-0 I don't think the fans will be appreciate it."

Ritchie Rich

It's been almost a year since Giteau signed the richest deal in history across all four codes - a $4.5 million gold mine to play in Perth until 2009.

Twelve months later and the former Brumbies player says his new teammates still won't let him forget. "There's always jokes from the boys. Whenever we're at a bar, one will say 'Hey what are you doing? It's your shout'. I'll tell them I bought the last round."

For his part, Giteau stressed there was no correlation between the big money and the bigger responsibility he trying to bear at his new club.

"At the Brumbies it was easy for me to sit back and just let the senior players control everything. I suppose I was pretty lazy and got away worrying about myself," he said.

"Here, I've been really conscious of trying to take on a more senior role and get involved more off the field. It's a major thing I've been focusing on trying to improve."

Half a problem

Giteau yesterday admitted being thrown the Wallabies No.9 for last year's European Tour was "scary". Nevertheless, he produced more thrills than spills on a tour that ended with coach John Connolly trumpeting Giteau's future at the scrum base.

This year, however, Giteau reverted to his customary position at inside centre before moving to five-eighth alongside childhood buddy Matt Henjak.

Perhaps weary of his nomadic life of late, Giteau yesterday declared: "I don't want to be a utility player". But if Connolly does persist with his bold halfback experiment at the World Cup, Giteau would prefer more time to prepare.

"If I was training there for a while it would okay. If I was thrown in tomorrow it would be scary," Giteau said. "It's something I'm trying not to think about because (halfback) is not a position I will be playing with Force."

The Beale Deal

Giteau's duel tomorrow night with Waratahs opposite Kurtley Beale shapes as the most intriguing one-on-one battle this season. Although Beale only made his run-on debut last start, the teenage five-eighth clearly boasts enough X-factor to rapidly challenge Giteau as the game's brightest drawcard.

"I will definitely be studying his game. There's a bit of footage to watch" Giteau said.