‘No longer have any trust or faith’: Rugby Australia chairman told to resign by SIX states, EGM looms with ‘gloves off’

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan says he won’t bow to pressure to resign despite a move against his leadership on Friday evening. But he might have to.

After weeks of working in the shadows, six state unions, led by Queensland Rugby Union chairman Brett Clark, made a move against McLennan and urged him to stand aside following a disastrous year, which culminated in the Wallabies missing the World Cup finals for the first time.

Clark was supported by ACT Rugby, Rugby WA, NT Rugby, Tasmania Rugby, South Australia Rugby when the Queensland chair phoned McLennan to inform his counterpart of their position.

McLennan, who last month told The Roar he is “not a quitter”, rejected the request.

Contacted by The Roar on Friday night, McLennan reiterated his stance.

“This is divisive by nature and pits state against state, parochialism over unity and centralisation,” McLennan told The Roar.

“It’s going to be an interesting battle.”

Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan has been urged to stand aside. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

McLennan is not out of the woods yet, with the states set to call an Extraordinary General Meeting unless he stands aside. It will only take two state unions to call an EGM.

He has been given until 5pm AEST on Saturday to step aside, with sources telling The Roar “the gloves are off”.

If the states do call an EGM, RA must hold the meeting within 60 days where a vote would take place to determine whether there is a change of leadership.

The agitators believe they have the numbers to vote McLennan out, needing nine of the 16 votes at the table.

There are 13 voting members of Rugby Australia – each state or territory has one vote, each Super Rugby licensee gets a vote, and the Rugby Union Players Association also has a vote. The Queensland Reds and NSW Waratahs get an additional vote for having 50,000 players registered in their states.

Despite the NSW Waratahs aligning together earlier this week, the traditional rich rugby state will hold onto their three votes until January 1, 2024.

The Roar has been told that the agitators have nine votes in writing, with the possibility of a 10th to come.

It’s also believed McLennan has lost support from other influential figures around him, including Josephine Sukkar.

It’s believed Sukkar told RA board member and World Cup-winning Wallaby Daniel Herbert that McLennan had to step aside over the past 48 hours.

Several replacements for McLennan have been discussed for more than two months, but it’s believed more will come forward now a move on the current chair has been made. No replacement candidate will be named any time soon, it’s understood.

The Wallabies react after losing to Fiji at the Rugby World Cup. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

The states feel have felt increasingly aggrieved throughout the year after a number of so-called “captain’s calls”, including the decision to fire Dave Rennie less than nine months out from their World Cup opener and the mega deal to sign Joseph Suaalii from the NRL.

The Wallabies’ embarrassing performance at the World Cup, Eddie Jones’ resignation, the withholding of money to the Super Rugby franchises and the inability to secure a private equity deal has also left several states feeling angered and lacking trust in the game’s leadership.

On Friday night, six state unions called for McLennan’s resignation in an open latter.

“We as member unions of Australian Rugby have a duty to protect the reputation of our game,” Clark said in a statement. 

“Some of the leadership decisions that have been made over the past few years demonstrate the current Chair is not the right cultural fit for how we want our game to be represented in our country and globally. 

“That is why we are asking Hamish to stand down from the Chair role, as we believe it’s in the best interests of our game.”

Clark was supported by ACT Brumbies chairman Matt Nobbs:  “We have had concerns over the fiscal management of the governing body for some time and when we get to a place where the Chair of Rugby Australia is now threatening his own members in the media, then something needs to give. 

“We have lost confidence in his ability to lead that the game and it is clearly evident through a series of recent and historical decisions that he is not the right person for the job anymore.  We are asking Hamish to stand down now for the good of our game.”

The letter to the Board states:
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 an historic failure at the men’s Rugby World Cup and a Wallabies international ranking at an 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.


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