Claiming to be the victim of a power grab, Hamish McLennan believes his axing as Rugby Australia (RA) chairman will only create further division in a code already badly fractured.
- Six member unions demanded Hamish McLennan stand down as Rugby Australia chairman on Sunday night
- The Force, the Rebels and the Waratahs were all in favour of McLennan staying to continue RA’s centralisation
- The departure comes two weeks after Eddie Jones walked away as Wallabies coach 10 months into a five-year contract
McLennan was ousted following an extraordinary late-night board meeting on Sunday after six member unions, including the Brumbies and Queensland Reds — who are yet to commit to RA’s centralisation plan — demanded his resignation 48 hours earlier.
While insisting he is not angry, McLennan is disappointed about the manner of his sacking and not being able to finish the job of fixing “a broken system”.
Asked on 2GB radio on Monday if his ousting was due to a power grab by some states, McLennan said: “In my opinion, yes.
“They want to have a greater say. This is all about money and control at the end of the day, so we’ll see how it plays out.”
“There’s been a coordinated campaign to sort of smear me and that’s been fed back through me and other board members. That’s a complete cheap shot.
“I mean, we’ve won a World Cup [hosting rights] for the men and women in ’27 and ’29, we got broadcast deals done, we brought sponsors into the game and if you just look at some of the support where I had from former prime minister John Howard, John Coates, key sponsors, Cadbury [boss] Darren O’Brien …
“A lot of support out there and Andrew Forrest and Nicola Forrest. They’re not dumb people, they’re really smart.
“They know it’s a journey and, in life, any business takes time to fix.”
Replaced as chair by 1999 World Cup-winning Wallaby Daniel Herbert, McLennan turned down an offer to stay on as a director.
“When a board goes through a process like that, they obviously want change,” he said.
“I understand it was a bit of a split vote, which is sort of interesting, so I think what’s happened is actually going to create more divisions within rugby, not less as they talk about unity.
“They can’t lean on me to continue to help on broadcast deals and the Rugby World Cups in Australia and all the other commercial matters and still expect me to contribute in that regard.
“If you want to change the direction, you guys go for it.
“What I would say too is that three of the Super clubs that drive all the money into the game being the (Western) Force, the (Melbourne) Rebels and the (NSW) Waratahs were very happy with me to stay.”
McLennan’s departure comes two weeks after Eddie Jones, who McLennan parachuted in as Wallabies coach in January, walked away 10 months into his five-year contract, blaming a broken system for Australia’s diabolical 2023 World Cup campaign.
“The results of the World Cup were pretty poor, but I think we’ve got to look at the underlying reasons, and the fact is the system’s broken and we’ve got to fix it,” McLennan said.
“That’s what we were trying to do. It’s a long and hard process, it’s a federated model and you’ve got to work really hard and get the member unions to actually give up power and centralise.
“And that was the crux of the issue.”
Jones copped most of the heat for the dismal World Cup performance, including reports coming out during the tournament that he had already had an interview with Japanese rugby bosses about becoming the Brave Blossoms’ coach once more.
McLennan said he was meeting with Jones on Tuesday to get to the bottom of the months-long saga, saying if the reports are true “that’s terrible and appalling”.
“Especially when you’re leading into a World Cup and your focus should be on the team, [but] I haven’t seen the proof. I want the absolute proof,” he said.
“I’ve been promised that I’ll see the proof at some point and it’ll come out and I just want it to be 100 per cent confirmed that it happened in the fashion in which it was reported.
“So, yes, if he did do it, terrible form, especially when you’re coaching a national team. But let’s wait and see the evidence.”
Through the entire messy saga, McLennan insisted he is not bitter.
“I’m philosophical. It doesn’t matter,” he said.
“No-one died at the end of the day and it’s just a game at the end of the day, an important one and one that I love.
“But there’s a war going on in the Ukraine. There’s a war between Israel and Hamas and that’s real stuff that really matters.”
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