Rugby Australia boss Hamish McLennan is facing a plot against his chairmanship as a war erupts behind the scenes.
A letter released by a united group of six state member unions on Friday night called for McLennan to step aside following 12 months that has left the game on its knees.
As first reported by The Daily Telegraph, the member unions will call for an Extraordinary General Meeting in the next fortnight — having given McLennan until 5pm (AEDT) on Saturday to resign.
McLennan has told the newspaper he is digging his heels in — setting the scene for an extraordinary board room showdown between the under-pressure chairman and those plotting against him.
The move against McLennan is yet another explosive development in what is being described as the most catastrophic 12 months in the history of Australian rugby.
Former coach Eddie Jones sensationally quit three weeks ago with the 63-year-old brought in to replace Dave Rennie just months before the 2023 World Cup. That appointment was described as a “captain’s call” made by McLennan.
Picking an entirely experimental team for the tournament, Jones’ young Wallabies crashed out in the group stage for the first time.
Jones’ tenure was doomed from the start, winning just two of the nine Tests he coached.
It may cost McLennan his position.
The letter released on Friday night shows McLennn has lost support from Queensland, ACT, Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory and Tasmania union bodies.
According to News Corp, those member unions have the numbers to oust McLennan — even without support from NSW and Victoria.
“We are giving Hamish the opportunity to step down with dignity,” a figure behind the move told the newspaper.
“But if he decides not to, we will have the votes to move him on. He is a dead man walking.”
McLennan has since indicated he will not be leaving his position unless voted out.
He told The Sydney Morning Herald: “This will be the defining moment for the battle of rugby. It’s all about money and control and we have been failing for years. We live in interesting times.
“This is about principles. They are actually not putting the game first and it’s about self-interest and parochialism.”
The newspaper reported the rogue state members first held discussions about their growing concern surrounding McLennan’s leadership before the World Cup even began.
Full open letter sent by Rugby Australia plotters
We, the undersigned Member Unions of Rugby Australia, are calling for the Chair, Hamish
McLennan, to immediately resign as Chair and Director of Rugby Australia.
We do not believe Mr McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game.
We no longer have any trust or faith in his leadership, or the direction in which he is taking
rugby in Australia.
Additionally, we believe Mr McLennan has been acting outside his role as a director,
exerting an undue influence on the operations and executives of Rugby Australia.
This is not the best practice governance that we expect from leaders in our game.
Should Mr McLennan not resign, this letter serves as notice for Directors to convene an
Extraordinary General Meeting at the earliest possible opportunity, as per clause 4.1c of the
Rugby Australia Constitution.
This request is not about opposition to Rugby Australia’s centralisation proposals – we
remain committed to supporting high-performance alignment.
This is instead a deep concern about the performance of Mr McLennan as Chair, and the damage done to the game by his performance.
We have not made this decision lightly.
After deliberation and discussion, we decided we must take action in order to protect the
reputation and future of our game.
Governance and high-performance sport are about judgement – good judgement.
During the past 12 months Mr McLennan has made a series of calls that have harmed the standing and reputation of our game and led us to question his judgement and his understanding of high-performance sport.
His decisions and “captain’s picks” have directly led to a historic failure at the men’s Rugby World Cup and a Wallabies international ranking at a historic low, with all of the regrettable and public fallout that came with it.
In addition to this, Mr McLennan’s use of player poaching to threaten other sports and boost our own stocks and performance alienates us from having collaborative conversations with the other major sports to improve participation across the Australian community.
It also disenfranchises our budding professional female and community rugby participants, by only focusing on elite men’s participation, which is a small component of our national game.
There has been much discussion about required changes within rugby to improve the overall performance of our national teams.
The member unions are not shying away from this change and can see the long-term benefits that national high-performance alignment can bring.
But this will only happen if we have trust and faith in the leadership at Rugby Australia, and there is a clear strategy that outlines the process to achieve this.
To date, despite months of media speculation and commentary from Rugby Australia, the Board and executive have brought us no substantive strategy or any outline of how centralisation would work.
Over coming years there are a range of opportunities off which our game can prosper, including the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the Mens’ Rugby World Cup in 2027 and the Womens’ Rugby World Cup in 2029.
In order for us to seize these opportunities, our game must focus on growing our participation base in community, schools and women’s rugby.
This will require trust and collaboration across the game.
If we don’t make the necessary changes to the leadership of our game now, these opportunities will be lost and our game will continue to flounder for decades to come.
We are supportive of an independent recruitment process for a new Chair, one that involves consultation with all Constitutional Members.
Source website: www.foxsports.com.au