Kurtley Beale shouldn't get away with his offensive texts to Di Patston

Stood down: Kurtley Beale faces an independent ARU inquiry into messages he sent about Di Patston in June.

Stood down: Kurtley Beale faces an independent ARU inquiry into messages he sent about Di Patston in June. Photo: Cameron Spencer

It can't be easy for a woman working in male dominated Australian sporting institutions. Sports involving balls and men in this country seem to be particularly dogged by the kind of sexist incidents that are regularly found in arenas where toxic masculinity prospers.

In recent weeks, the Australian Rugby Union has been dealing with its own embarrassing player behaviour. A fortnight ago, it was reported that the Wallabies star player, Kurtley Beale, had been involved in a mid-air 'incident' with the Team Business Manager, Di Patston, while en route from South Africa to Brazil. Although not much was revealed at the time, it was clear that the verbal argument was masking more serious issues. Patston returned home two days later, with Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie declining to elaborate on what prompted the argument, only referring to the situation as 'complicated'.

Di Patston in a Wallabies team photo at Manly in June.

Di Patston in a Wallabies team photo at Manly in June. Photo: Facebook

By now, you may have heard that the 'complicated' situation was actually in reference to a serious incident of sexual harassment that had been perpetrated a few months prior. Back in June. Beale sent a group text message to his teammates depicting the images of two naked obese women with the accompanying words, "Would you hit it?" and "Di - who wants a go fucking this?" It seems clear that although the images were not of Patston, they were intended to be representative of her.


So you can imagine how hurtful and degrading it must have been for Patston when she was accidentally copied in on the texts and given an insight into how her colleagues spoke about her. Leave aside for a moment the utterly inappropriate and offensive nature of sending sexualised images designed to denigrate women (and fat women specifically) to your professional colleagues - that Beale considered this a humourous way to talk about a core member of the Wallabies team is horrendous.

After receiving the initial images, Patson replied and the following exchange occurred:

Patston 1.08pm: I am sitting here in the team room doing my job and I can't stop crying. What did I do to you? You have barely known me a day. I can't stop crying I am so humiliated by this. Don't you think my job is hard enough without this? This is how the only female staff member is treated? I am so embarrassed by this I am leaving for my room I can't stop crying thanks a lot.

Beale 1.12pm: I was layin on my bed I didn't send it to anyone I sent it to myself. Youve done nothing wrong youve been so good to me & your such a lovely lady. We all see how hard you work for us. I just do stupid things for no reason. I was laying here getting ready for lunch & training mucking around. I hate I have done this to you & I am so sorry di.

Patston 1.15pm: Leave me alone please. I've come to my room. The team room is full of players I know you've sent it on to them but I'll never know to who. Just leave me alone this is not ok. Do you realise the situation you've put me in? I have earned this job and I am proud of being a female at this level. If I complain then I make it hard for women in Rugby and it puts the reputation of the entire squad at stake. Do you realise the situation I am? Just leave me alone please. I don't want to hear from you until my distress has settled.

Beale 1.17pm: Ok I feel so bad.

Patston 1.23pm: You may feel bad but if you did not accidentally send them to me how many more would there be? Are you sorry you did it or just sorry you got caught? Think about that.

Beale 1.42pm: I just don't know what to do. I'm so sorry.

Patston's distress at having her femaleness singled out for humiliation purposes is clear, as is the stress apparent at not knowing exactly which of her colleagues have been invited to join a misogynist chorus of laughter at her expense.

Of course, it's unsurprising that some narratives have sought to turn Patston into a troublemaker. Speculation about the relationship shared between Patston and McKenzie has forced the latter to publicly deny rumours of anything less than professional being shared between the two.

Meanwhile, in a column written by Rebecca Wilson, Wilson referred to Beale as "troubled, but brilliant" while calling the circumstances of Patston's employment into question and claiming she was 'deeply unpopular with team members'.

Wilson closed her column by saying that if Beale was lost to rugby, shame should fall on "Bull Pulver, Ewen McKenzie and, above all, Di Patston". According to Wilson, they should all know better.

But better than what? Better than to appropriately discipline workplace and sexual harassment when they not only see it, but are also the target of it? Better than to continue dismissing the misogynist behaviour of highly paid sporting figures who are given long leashes to misbehave because this is 'Straya mate, and we love our footy here?

Let's be clear on this: Patston has absolutely nothing to apologise for, and she certainly shouldn't be made to feel like Beale's fall into disrepute is her fault. We have words for those things. They're called victim blaming and rape culture. And women's integrity is still routinely undermined and mocked by both.

Patston's not the first woman to be targeted by the overwhelmingly male codes that surround her, and she certainly won't be the last. But while the ARU has announced that Beale's actions will be investigated, what is especially distressing is news that Patston has since resigned due to stress.

The Wallabies have now potentially lost not only an excellent employee, but someone who goes a small way towards bringing gender diversity into an arena that is in desperate need of defragging from the obnoxious retro-sexism and misogyny that proliferates therein.

13 comments so far

  • Kudos to Patston for the way she handled the situation. Says far more about her resolve than Beale, who let's face it, appears a sandwich short of a picnic.

    Date and time
    October 14, 2014, 9:15AM
    • I know the writer doesn't choose the Headline, but what exactly has Kurtley Beale "gotten away with"?

      His disgrace has prevented him from representing his country and he has been told that his ARU contract will not be renewed next year. He has essentially lost his job, lost everything he has built professionally during his 9 nine year career and he has been labelled as a disgrace to rugby union all of which is more than justified.

      I completely agree with the sentiment of this article, in that Kurtley's disgusting behaviour is indefensible; but don't make it out as though Kurtley has "gotten away with it" when that is so far from the truth...

      Date and time
      October 14, 2014, 10:12AM
      • This sorry saga... is just that.

        Beale's behaviour is deplorable, unacceptable, demeaning... put simply... it's wrong. And it doesn't matter whether the target was male or female... it's still wrong.
        Unfortunately, and sadly, this young man wouldn't have had a clue as to that, except possibly now, having been caught out. And, I think, he genuinely tried to make amends. As the txts state, Patston accepted his apology with maturity and compassion.
        But my real concern here, having said all that, it the author's statement in conclusion...

        "The Wallabies have now potentially lost not only an excellent employee, ...."

        Sorry, but that's not factual,at this point in time, and also goes to the heart of this sorry saga !

        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        October 14, 2014, 10:36AM
        • This is an over simplification. There's no question Beale's texts are not to be defended. That much is clear. But the fact of the existence of the texts does not mean that Patson somehow is a valuable employee or even good at her job. Beale and teammates might have been so frustrated with the set-up that he reacted in the only way he knows how -- and yes, the manner of reacting was ignorant and, given his previous indiscretions, perhaps unforgivable. And yes, rugby codes need to have more women of the calibre of Raelene Castle who, as CEO of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, is doing a brilliant job and reportedly has the full respect of all staff and players. But the Wallabies have also lost respect for the coach and that is part of this equation. The rumours of the weirdness around Patson's professional relationship with Mackenzie are not new -- they existed when they were at the Reds -- and it equally does not reflect well on him. The only reason Mackenzie himself is not being replaced (and Patson would have gone with him anyway) is because they cannot afford the money payout.

          Date and time
          October 14, 2014, 11:34AM
          • "There's no question Beale's texts are not to be defended"

            ..but now I shall proceed to defend them on the grounds that maybe Patston was so bad at her job that Beale and his team-mates were "frustrated" and had no option other than to "react the only way they know how".

            The Claw
            Date and time
            October 14, 2014, 12:30PM
          • The Claw, I wasn't defending Beale's actions at all. I was pointing out that the broader story itself may have been misrepresented in the article. Again, just because Beale acted horribly it doesn't mean there was no problem with Patson herself in the overall set up. The fact that he lashed out like that has no excuse. But don't use his stupid actions to paint her as being necessarily valuable in the set up. That kind of approach is very Murdoch.

            Date and time
            October 14, 2014, 2:13PM
          • Patston may not have been suitable for the position, and the ARU are no doubt a mess. The players may also have been frustrated with her, and her suitability to perform her duties. I appreciate that you make the point that these issues don't excuse the behaviour of Beale, but if that's the case they are probably best discussed in a separate forum. They're valid points of discussion, but let's just focus here on the abuse.

            The thing is, Patston could have been the most useless employee ever to have graced the rugby ranks - it's irrelevant, as is Clem's suggestion rugby may have lost an 'excellent' employee. To put it simply, no one deserves to be treated in such a manner. I don't care how sorry Beale is, behaviour of that sort should never be tolerated, and he needs to cop whatever punishment they hand out to him and learn from the experience. It may be a very expensive lesson - if so, fair enough.

            More worrying is the fact he was sharing these images with team mates. Sadly for rugby, the best case scenario for them is that Beale acted alone, and this was the first time he had shared such toxic text messages with the group. It's probably worth asking what role his colleagues had in the sorry affair though. Because IF his team mates received the text and IF they did nothing, the problems at the Wallabies run deeper than Beale. It points to a truly toxic culture indeed.

            The Gobbledok
            Date and time
            October 14, 2014, 2:41PM
          • On the whole, you're right Gobbledok, whatever else is going on around the whole sorry saga, there is no excuse for the texts. There's a whole lot going on in that team at the moment, it would seem to be something of a shambles, but nothing excuses what he did.

            In defence of the ARU though, there is a thorough investigation happening and I have little doubt that Beale will be heavily sanctioned. That may mean he decides to leave rugby or leave Australian rugby (both of which have been rumoured for years) and I think they'll (the ARU) be ok with that. They've shown their unwillingness to do 'whatever it takes' to keep marquee players when they tore up James O'Connor's contract. They may even do the same with Beale's contract.

            Yes, rugby is still a very blokey world, it's a very blokey sport, but it's much more progressive than most. Australia recently hosted the Bingham Cup - the world championships for gay rugby - which was heavily supported at all levels of the sport. And for every Beale you have many more like David Pocock who (with the complete support of his partner of course) refuses to get married until there's marriage equality. For men who run full force into other men with the force of a car crash for a living, rugby puts the other football codes to shame in terms of the progressive thinking of (most) the players.

            Harvey KTel
            Date and time
            October 14, 2014, 3:58PM
        • This whole business is disgraceful and Patson seems to be the one being made the scapegoat. What a toxic environment this must be.

          Date and time
          October 14, 2014, 11:43AM
          • I'm wondering whether any of the recipients of the foul texts rebuked Beale or whether they also should be counseled for their inaction. This is deeper than just Beale's behavior.

            Date and time
            October 14, 2014, 12:42PM

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