Former Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennanhas connected his ousting to a premeditated smear campaign by the state unions, based on “money and control”.
McLennan’s tumultuous time as chairman of the governing body came to an abrupt end after he was voted out of his role during an emergency board meeting on Sunday night.
Speaking on 2GB Sydney’s Ben Fordham Live on Monday morning, McLennan labelled the tactics of the six rebel state unions as “rubbish” and “a cheap shot”.
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“I think this is all about money and control at the end of the day, so we’ll see how it plays out,” he said.
“I just think there’s no doubt there’s been a coordinated campaign to smear me.”
McLennan had been on borrowed time after the six state unions sent a letter of no confidence in his leadership.
Queensland, ACT, Western Australia, Tasmania, South Australia and Northern Territory were the six unions.
McLennan had previously declared his defiance towards the letter of no confidence, vowing to stay on as chairman.
He also said that his removal would do more to create division within Rugby Australia, not less.
“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” he said.
“I’m philosophical. It doesn’t matter. No one died at the end of the day, and it’s just a game. At the end of that important one, and one that I love.
“But at the end of the day, there’s a war going on in Ukraine, there’s a war between Israel and Hamas. And that’s real stuff that really matters.”
Former Wallabies centre Dan Herbert was voted in as interim chair.
“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 the community and women’s rugby,” Herbert said in a statement.
“Australia will host the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the men’s 2027 Rugby World Cup, 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.”
Rugby Australia’s meeting on Sunday was its fourth in two days after a horrific year that included being bundled out of the Rugby World Cup in the pool stages and the resignation of Eddie Jones last month.
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Jones replaced Dave Rennie as coach only months before the World Cup.
“We do not believe Mr McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game,” the state unions’ letter to the RA board read.
“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. We have not made this decision lightly.”
The board had previously been split on McLennan’s tenure but a majority vote ended his time as chairman.
McLenna’s replacement, Herbert, played 67 Tests for Australia and has been on the board since 2020.