Experienced rugby league administrator Shane Richardson has been charged with overseeing one of the NRL’s toughest jobs as he sets about resurrecting the besieged Wests Tigers.
Richardson was unveiled as interim chief executive at the Tigers on Tuesday after Justin Pascoe resigned from his role following a review into the club’s culture and governance.
Pascoe quit after eight years in the job, the last few months of which have led to him being under sustained pressure from the club’s supporters and board.
The board’s controlling faction – the Holman Barnes Group – ordered an off-season review into the Tigers troubles after they picked up a second successive wooden spoon, ending the 2023 season with just four wins.
Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis, along with the rest of the seven-person board, has been dismissed and will be replaced as chair by former NSW premier Barry O’Farrell on an interim basis.
Hagipantelis’ firm – Brydens Lawyers – are the Tigers’ major sponsor and it is not clear whether they will renew their deal beyond its expiration next year.
“Lee and Justin faced enormous challenges, but they have left a legacy which gives us a strong base for the future,” said Holman Barnes Group chairman Tony Andreacchio.
“In particular, they leave us with a world-class centre of excellence and the club is in a stronger financial position because of the relationships they established with sponsors and other supporters.
“But one thing is clear – this club is determined to provide the leadership required to be successful in the NRL.”
Both Hagipantelis and Pascoe have been under the microscope due to the Tigers’ long-running list of failures.
The club has struggled to be a major player in the NRL open market and the Tigers haven’t played finals since 2012, the longest-running drought in modern times.
New head coach Benji Marshall will be the fourth coach in six years when he steps into the role for round one of the 2024 season.
O’Farrell, meanwhile, will head a four-person interim board with representatives from Holman Barnes and the two merger clubs of Balmain and Wests.
But the biggest challenge falls to Richardson, one of the game’s most-respected administrators.
The Queenslander was chief executive during Penrith’s 2003 premiership success and held the same role with South Sydney for a decade.
Richardson spearheaded the Rabbitohs in the years of struggle following their reinstatement to the league and was at the helm when they lifted the 2014 premiership.
But the task awaiting him is large given Marshall’s eagerness to reinvigorate his squad.
The Tigers have been linked with moves for Warriors prop Addin Fonua-Blake and Penrith playmaker Jarome Luai, and Richardson’s alignment with Marshall will be critical in ensuring the club doesn’t repeat its previous mistakes.