Brought in with RA and the game in crisis, Clarke has moved swiftly to fill a troubling vacuum following predecessor Raelene Castle’s resignation two weeks ago, which led to a failed power play by would-be chairman Peter Wiggs before he quit.
The upheaval left a remodelled domestic competition to replace Super Rugby during the coronavirus pandemic among many tasks needing swift attention.
Melbourne Rebels boss Baden Stephenson said that Clarke had seized control and given the Super Rugby clubs confidence in the path forward.
A previous CEO of the Rebels and Brumbies who also had two stints as RA’s chief operating officer, Clarke was able to hit the ground running.
As well as his domestic rugby experience, Clarke has ties to NZ Rugby, has a personal relationship with decision-makers at rugby’s estranged broadcaster Fox Sports and has already had meetings with SANZAAR and World Rugby.
He briefed all of the Super Rugby heads last Thursday, providing timelines for a return to play on July 3. All players are set to return to training by May 18.
“That gave everyone a bit of comfort,” Stephenson said.
“Rob’s an experienced guy and he’s a relational leader and he will provide some good stability and decision making and he’s been clear on what he needs to get done.”
Stephenson said little was being achieved in the two weeks between Castle and Clarke.
“There wasn’t a lot of clarity and no-one could make decisions so there was a bit of frustration building away.
“I know Rob is keen to make sure the narrative around rugby and the communication around the game and how it’s progressing, and the transparency, will definitely improve.”
Wiggs sought to install former RA deputy and current Australian Olympic Committee CEO Matt Carroll as the new RA CEO under himself as new chairman.
But the board decided it needed to follow due process and check all options in the recruiting process, leading to Carroll withdrawing his interest and Wiggs quitting.
“We are a bit jealous looking at the NRL but it gives us hope that we aren’t too far away from getting to that point”https://t.co/4PTcOVYLDM
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 9, 2020
Carroll, whose rugby administrator experience goes back 30 years, told AAP on Saturday he and Wiggs believed they would complement each other and he was upset at claims of a perceived conflict of interest because they were friends from club rugby days.
“I think it was terribly unfortunate that there was some suggestion that my friendship with Peter Wiggs had any sort of problems because I played rugby with hundreds of people over the years and I consider quite a lot of them friends,” Carroll told AAP.
“Peter and I never had any business dealings or business connections whatsoever. We were in two totally different worlds, it’s just that I have great respect for his ability and he has great respect for mine.
“It was the combination of his business ability and my sports administration ability that would be proposed to the executive.”
Carroll said the only governance issue lay with RA, with repeated leaks meaning the media broke news of his proposal before he had a chance to tell the AOC.
“The most unfortunate thing was that we were told that it wasn’t good governance, but then I think board confidentiality is probably the best governance practice,” he said.
“The leaks from the Rugby Australia board … I’ve never in my entire life of sports administration experienced it, and I’ve experienced a lot of boards, so that was terribly unfortunate.”
– Melissa Woods
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