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Hamish McLennan spills on 'power grab' at Rugby Australia that led to exit

Rugby Australia Chairman Hamish McLennan (L) speaks to the media next to newly appointed Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh (R) during a Media Opportunity announcing the appointment of Phil Waugh as the new Rugby Australia CEO at Allianz Stadium on June 06, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Claiming to be the victim of a power grab, Hamish McLennan believes his axing as Rugby Australia chairman will only create further division in a code already badly fractured.


McLennan was ousted following an extraordinary late-night board meeting on Sunday after six member unions, including the Brumbies and Queensland Reds – who are yet to commit to RA’s centralisation plan – demanded his resignation 48 hours earlier.

While insisting he’s not angry, McLennan was disappointed about the manner of his sacking and not being able to finish the job of fixing “a broken system”.

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Asked on 2GB radio on Monday if his ousting was due to a power grab by some states, McLennan said: “In my opinion, yes.

“They want to have a greater say. This is all about money and control at the end of the day, so we’ll see how it plays out.”

“There’s been a coordinated campaign to sort of smear me and that’s been fed back through me and other board members. That’s a complete cheap shot.

“I mean, we’ve won a World Cup (hosting rights) for the men and women in ’27 and ’29, we got broadcast deals done, we brought sponsors into the game and if you just look at some of the support where I had from former Prime Minister John Howard, John Coates, key sponsors, Cadbury (boss) Darren O’Brien …


“A lot of support out there and Andrew Forrest and Nicola Forrest. They’re not dumb people, they’re really smart.

“They know it’s a journey and, in life, any business takes time to fix.”

Replaced as chair by 1999 World Cup-winning Wallaby Daniel Herbert, McLennan turned down an offer to stay on as a director.

“When a board goes through a process like that, they obviously want change,” he said.

“I understand it was a bit of a split vote, which is sort of interesting, so I think what’s happened is actually going to create more divisions within rugby, not less as they talk about unity.

“They can’t lean on me to continue to help on broadcast deals and the Rugby World Cups in Australia and all the other commercial matters and still expect me to contribute in that regard.


“If you want to change the direction, you guys go for it.

“What I would say too is that three of the Super clubs that drive all the money into the game being the (Western) Force, the (Melbourne) Rebels and the (NSW) Waratahs were very happy with me to stay.”

McLennan’s departure comes two weeks after Eddie Jones, who McLennan parachuted in as Wallabies coach in January, walked away 10 months into his five-year contract, blaming a broken system for Australia’s diabolical 2023 World Cup campaign.

“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,” McLennan said.

“That’s what we were trying to do. It’s a long and hard process, it’s a federated model and you’ve got to work really hard and get the member unions to actually give up power and centralise.

“And that was the crux of the issue.”

McLennan insists he’s not bitter.

“I’m philosophical. It doesn’t matter,” he said.

“No one died at the end of the day and it’s just a game at the end of the day, an important one and one that I love.

“But there’s a war going on in the Ukraine. There’s a war between Israel and Hamas and that’s real stuff that really matters.”


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tedatsea 209 days ago

Now that McLennan has been dethroned can we all just get on with making Australian, Trans-Tasman and Pacific rugby in general better? Hopefully Australian Rugby will now get some adults in the room, calm the aggressive cheap sledging in the media and work harmoniously to strengthen rugby in Australia. NZR could assist with constructive dialog and effort to further rugby in our region.

Mitch 209 days ago

Hamish, shut up and leave with dignity.

Kara 209 days ago

Starting to sound like a sook.
Hamo - ask Dave Rennie if you can borrow some of his dignity.

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