Australian rugby unions demand chairman's resignation

rugby18 November 2023 04:40| © AFP
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Hamish McLennan © Getty Images

Six state unions have demanded the immediate resignation of Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan in the wake of the failed tenure of former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones.

An open letter signed by six of the eight union chairs called for an extraordinary general meeting of the RA board to oust McLennan if he ignores their call to stand down, saying they have lost "trust or faith in his leadership".

The ultimatum comes in the wake of a miserable year for the Wallabies under Jones in which they won just two of nine tests and failed to reach the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time.

McLennan was a key driver in the January decision to replace former coach Dave Rennie with Jones, whose tumultuous tenure ended last month.

The letter, whose signatories include the heads of the powerful Queensland and ACT unions, accused McLennan of "acting outside his role as a director".

The union chairs stressed their call was unrelated to a recent push by RA for reforms that would create a more centralised structure.

"This is instead a deep concern about the performance of Mr McLennan as Chair, and the damage done to the game by his performance," the letter, released on Friday, read.

"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 (ninth), with all of the regrettable and public fallout that came with it."

The unions further accused the 57-year-old of ignoring the women's and community game.

McLennan, appointed to the role in May 2020 following a long career in the business world, vowed to fight the unions' proposal.

"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," he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"This is about principles. They (unions) are actually not putting the game first and it's about self-interest and parochialism."

The signatories to the letter say they didn't approach the NSW and Victorian Rugby unions due to their ongoing centralisation negotiations with RA.

The sport's player union was also not approached, they said, to avoid placing players in a compromised position.