Why defiant McLennan is standing his ground
Hamish McLennan has vowed to stay on as Rugby Australia Chairman, despite being given an ultimatum to step down by six state unions.
Led by powerhouse Queensland, the unions sent a letter to McLennan and RA’s board demanding his resignation after a calamitous year which culminated in the Wallabies crashing out of the World Cup at the group stage for the first time.
The signatories, which include ACT Rugby, Rugby WA, NT Rugby, Tasmania Rugby and South Australia Rugby, did not approach the NSW or Victorian bodies due to their ongoing negotiations with RA.
If McLennan refuses to fall on his sword, the six member unions will request an extraordinary general meeting of RA to pass a resolution to remove him.
McLennan, who has been contacted by AAP for comment, has reportedly said he plans to fight to hold on to his position.
“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,” McLennan told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“This is about principles. They are actually not putting the game first and it’s about self-interest and parochialism.”
The dramatic turn of events continues a tumultuous period for Australian rugby, with their woes highlighted by a disastrous World Cup campaign overseen by coach Eddie Jones who has since departed.
The sacking of coach Dave Rennie and appointment of Jones, which some dubbed as McLennan’s ‘captain’s pick’, proved to be an utter failure.
McLennan also came under fire for contracting young NRL star Joseph-Aukuso Sua’ali’i in a deal reportedly worth AU$4.8 million, putting many current Test players off-side.
“We do not believe McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game,” the letter reads.
“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 McLennan has been acting outside his role as a director, exerting an undue influence on the operations and executives of Rugby Australia.”
The six unions calling for McLennan’s resignation say they are not opposed to RA’s centralisation proposals but want a new leader to oversee the transition.
“During the past 12 months 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,” the letter states.
“His decisions and ‘captain’s picks’ have directly led to a historic failure at the men’s World Cup and a Wallabies international ranking [of No.9 in the world] at a historic low, with all of the regrettable and public fallout that came with it.”
The six unions fear if RA can’t capitalise on the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s World Cup in 2029, it could cripple the sport.
“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,” the letter adds.