RA responds to new threat
Rugby Australia has responded swiftly to a new threat to their power base.
RA said it is seeking emergency crisis talks with 11 disgruntled former Wallabies captains who have called for a leadership overhaul at RA.
World Cup-winning captain Nick Farr-Jones is understood to be the driving force behind an extraordinary vote-of-no-confidence letter delivered to RA boss Raelene Castle and the board on Tuesday.
Fellow former Test captains George Gregan, Stirling Mortlock, George Smith, Michael Lynagh, Simon Poidevin, Stephen Moore, Jason Little, Rod McCall, Nathan Sharpe and Phil Kearns – a leading candidate to take over from Castle – have also signed the letter.
Tellingly, though, dual World Cup winners John Eales and Tim Horan, as well as grand slam-winning Wallabies captain Andrew Slack, were among those ex-skippers not to sign it.
“Rugby Australia has today [Tuesday] received a letter signed by 11 Wallabies captains raising their concerns over how the game has been administered in recent years,” RA said in a statement.
“Rugby Australia respects and values the opinions of these former Wallabies leaders and statesmen and has welcomed the group to meet with the board at its earliest convenience.
“Rugby Australia also welcomes the involvement of the group in its current process to review the rugby landscape as it navigates the effects of the global COVID-19 health and economic crisis.”
Former Wallabies captain and RA chairman Paul McLean said he had been in contact with a member of the group on Tuesday and offered to arrange a meeting with the full board as soon as was “reasonably practicable”.
“These are respected former Wallabies captains and the board would value their input as we work through the challenges that rugby has faced over the last few years and that have been amplified by the coronavirus pandemic,” McLean said.
“The board is also prepared to work with the group to provide them access to the information requested in the letter.
“The board had commenced the process of establishing a review group to investigate a whole of rugby review that includes professional rugby, semi-professional rugby, and community rugby.
“The board would welcome the input of the signatories of the letter into the review process.
“It is intended that input for the review would be sought from a wide range of stakeholders including current and former players.
“Now is the time for us to come together in the interests of the entire rugby community.”
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According to the Australia media the letter reads: “As Wallaby captains we feel privileged to have represented our country and led our respective teams into battle, facing difficult situations together.
“We lost some but we won many. Win or lose, every time we pulled on the gold jersey we were driven by the desire to earn the respect of Australian supporters across the country and around the world. We wanted them to be proud of Australian rugby and what Australian rugby stood for.
“In recent times, the Australian game has lost its way. It is a defeat inflicted not by COVID-19, or an on-field foe, but rather by poor administration and leadership over a number of years. Our rural clubs, junior clubs, sub-districts and community clubs have been let down and we firmly believe transformation is needed across the game in this country. There’s no time to waste.
“We speak as one voice when we say Australian rugby needs a new vision, leadership and a plan for the future. That plan must involve, as a priority, urgent steps to create a much-needed, sustainable, commercial rugby business.
“No doubt there are now good people with good ideas and we must include them in the renewal. There has also been considerable work done in the background to quickly establish a list of urgent initiatives and action items.
“A number of highly experienced rugby and business leaders are standing by to mentor and lead. Our schools and clubs are populated with an army of amazing mums and dads and volunteers, and players of all shapes and sizes, who must have a game run for them. Our youth deserve to be inspired. They need to see a pathway and to feel a connection with the Wallaby jersey.
“It is with this in mind we ask the current administration to heed our call and stand aside to allow the game to be transformed so we emerge from this pandemic with a renewed sense of unity and purpose.
“There is only one question that needs to be answered at club level, at state level and at national level: Is this decision in the best interests of Australian rugby? Only when we can answer that question openly, honestly and transparently at all levels can we restore Australian rugby to greatness.”