RIP Leo Williams – an anecdote

RIP Leo Williams – an anecdote

Sad news during the week that a pillar of Australian rugby – Leo “the Ram” Williams – died aged 68. Leo had played for the Reds, been president of the QRU, Chairman of the ARU and Chairman of the Rugby World Cup Ltd from 95-00.

To go with these achievements, Leo was clearly a character. In his autobiography It’s Only a Game, John O’Neill recounts his job interview with Leo. 

It had been a long time since I’d been for a job interview. Some 24 years, I remember thinking. So there were some nerves as I took my seat and waited for the grilling from Leo. Instead, he walked over, dumped his papers on the desk and said, ‘Well, we’ve got only one fucking thing to talk about – money. And I don’t know if we can afford you”.

…about half an hour into the chat, Leo suddenly stood up and bellowed, “Jesus! Let’s go and put the chaff bag on.”

Not long after JO’N got the job, this happened,

Only a few weeks after starting, I took a call from Leo Williams. He said, “We’ve recruited Alec Evans.”

Given I had not been consulted, the frustration would have been evident in my reply. “What for?”

“He’s the new director of coaching.” said Williams

“We’ve already got on in Dick Marks.”

“Sack him”

“I can’t do that”

“Yes you can”

Leo was a lifelong friend of Marks. He didn’t want the job of sacking him, so I had to make him redundant…..I was annoyed at how much rugby was being managed on the run, and the invidious position it was leaving me in.

“I’m the CEO and have no say in some key decisions,” I said

Leo was succinct before putting down the phone. “Get stuffed, just do it.”

I was stunned, insulted and not willing to let the matter rest, certainly not under those circumstances. I rang Williams back. “Now hang on a moment Leo -” I started.

“Listen, you little dickead, don’t you get the message?” And the line went dead again.

So I called back a second time. I was furious. “Don’t you ever refer to me as a little dickhead again.”

“Okay, you’re a big dickead.”




Matt started G&GR just before the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been enslaved ever since. Follow him on twitter: @MattRowley

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