McLennan ousted as Rugby Australia chair amid backlash from state unions
Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan was ousted on Sunday night amid ongoing disputes among state unions regarding significant centralisation plans for the sport.
Facing resistance from six state unions, McLennan rejected calls to resign by 5pm Sunday. However, an extraordinary general meeting later voted to remove him from his position. McLennan chose to step down entirely from the board rather than continue as a director.
The move follows Rugby Australia’s proposal to unify the sport’s structure in response to Australia’s World Cup disappointment. The plan involves creating a centralised high-performance program and taking control of the commercial functions of Super Rugby franchises.
While NSW Rugby, Rugby Victoria, and the owners of the Western Force supported the plan, it faced widespread criticism, particularly targeting McLennan and his decision-making. One major point of contention was McLennan’s unilateral selection of Eddie Jones as the Wallabies coach, replacing Dave Rennie just months before the 2023 World Cup.
Dan Herbert, a former Wallaby with 67 caps and a key figure in Australia’s 1999 Rugby World Cup victory, will immediately take over as the new Rugby Australia chief. Herbert, renowned as one of the world’s finest outside centres, has been involved with the Queensland Reds and Queensland Rugby Union. After retiring, he held commercial roles with sportswear brand Skins and is currently the CEO of property services company SSKB. He has served on the Rugby Australia board for three years.
The board’s public statement read: “The board considered that Herbert’s experience is ideally suited to leading the development of the game from the grassroots to the elite level, across women’s and men’s Rugby. In addition, he is well placed to lead the board’s continued and unwavering commitment to Rugby Australia’s strategy of aligning the game across the country.”
Former Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has blamed a co-ordinated smear campaign by the state unions for his ousting and believes the decision was one made due to “money and control”.https://t.co/CLWboOv4Cr
— Brisbane Times (@brisbanetimes) November 19, 2023
Herbert, in his statement, expressed: “It has never been more important for the Rugby Australia board, working with Member Unions, to come together and execute the reform we absolutely need for an aligned high-performance system and to deliver on the commitments we have made, including to invest in Community and Women’s Rugby.
“Australia will host the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the Men’s 2027 Rugby World Cup and the Women’s 2029 Rugby World Cup and the 2032 Olympic Games – the reform we progress now will underpin the competitiveness of our national teams, as well as building deeper engagement with the Rugby community and fans everywhere.
“We note that the different Member Unions are not opposing Rugby Australia’s centralisation proposals and remain committed to supporting high performance alignment.”
On Friday, McLennan received a letter of no confidence from several state unions, citing concerns about his leadership and governance.
It read: “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.
“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.”
The path ahead involves not only fostering competitiveness in national teams but also building stronger connections with the rugby community and fans, echoing a commitment to the sport’s growth and success on both national and international stages.