Hamish McLennan has no regrets about being removed as chair of Rugby Australia in a late-night meeting.
Former Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan states that he stands by his decision to bring on Eddie Jones as the Wallabies coach and believes that his departure was a result of his efforts to improve the state of rugby.
Despite facing pressure from six member unions, including Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory, and Western Australia, McLennan remained determined to retain his position on Sunday. However, an emergency board meeting on Sunday evening resulted in the end of his attempt to hold onto his job.
On Monday, McLennan stated that certain individuals in Queensland have taken control of the game, following his attempts to centralize operations. This was met with opposition from associations such as Queensland Rugby and the ACT.
“They claim it’s not about centralization, but it actually revolves around money and power distribution. In my opinion, they aim to preserve a certain level of autonomy.”
The CEO of REA Group and former head of Channel 10 stated that the decision to hire Jones was appropriate at the time and supported by the entire board, despite being viewed as a mistake in retrospect.
“I take full responsibility for it, if it is believed to be a foolish decision by everyone. However, at that moment, it was clear that we needed to take action because [former coach] Dave Rennie’s win rate was only 36%. In life, you have to make choices and sometimes they don’t turn out as planned,” he stated.
Daniel Herbert, a member of the victorious Australian national rugby team (Wallabies) in the World Cup, has been chosen to take over for McLennan. Instead of staying on as a director, McLennan decided to completely step down from the board.
The six unions expressed their approval of McLennan’s decision to resign.
A statement released on Monday acknowledged that the decision to remove Mr. McLennan was a respectable one, as his presence had become a hindrance to the sport. The statement also praised Mr. McLennan for his passion and dedication to rugby, as well as his unwavering commitment to the game.
During McLennan’s leadership, Australia experienced their worst World Cup performance under Jones.
Last Friday, six members of the rebel union (including South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania) sent a letter to the RA board expressing their lack of confidence in McLennan due to the chaotic year experienced by the code.
The Wallabies’ unsuccessful 2023 season ended with their worst performance in the World Cup, as they were unable to advance past the group stage. Coach Jones also left his five-year contract after only 10 months.
The decision to appoint Jones after Rennie was fired in January was considered a “personal choice” by McLennan, despite his claim that it had the backing of the board.
The letter from the state unions stated that they do not think Mr McLennan has been working in the best interests of the sport. They also expressed that they no longer have confidence in his leadership or the direction he is leading rugby in Australia.
At first, McLennan resisted the request for change, stating that the states were prioritizing their own narrow-mindedness and personal gain over the sport.
Andrew and Nicola Forrest, the owners of the Western Force and one voting member of the Australian Rugby Union, publicly supported McLennan.
However, it was insufficient to spare him from the chopping block.
In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, McLennan was selected as the chairman of RA. The organization was facing severe financial difficulties at the time. However, since then, RA has successfully obtained the rights to host both the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s tournament in 2029.
Herbert participated in 67 matches for the Australian team and was a member of the Wallabies squads that emerged victorious in the 1999 World Cup, 2001 British and Irish Lions series, the Rugby Championship, and five consecutive Bledisloe Cup matches.
The 49-year-old is now tasked with the immense challenge of bringing together a divided system.
Herbert stated that it is crucial for the Rugby Australia board to collaborate with member unions in order to implement necessary reforms for a cohesive high-performance system. He also emphasized the importance of fulfilling promises, such as investing in community and women’s rugby.
In 2025, Australia will be the destination for the British and Irish Lions tour, followed by the 2027 Rugby World Cup for men and the 2029 Rugby World Cup for women. Additionally, Australia has been chosen as the host for the 2032 Olympic Games.
“Our current reform efforts aim to strengthen the competitiveness of our national teams and foster stronger connections with the rugby community and fans worldwide.”
“We recognize that the various member unions are not resisting Rugby Australia’s centralization plans and are still dedicated to promoting high-performance coordination.”
Herbert has served on the RA board since 2020.