Hamish McLennan.
Hamish McLennan has been asked to step down as RA chairman by six of his own member unions. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby union

Rugby Australia chair urged to quit by his own unions

Justin Chadwick November 17, 2023

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan has been given an ultimatum to quit his post by six of his own member unions, including the Queensland Rugby Union, ACT Rugby and RugbyWA.

The six unions, which also include South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, sent a letter to McLennan and the board of RA demanding the resignation.

The signatories to the letter did not approach the NSW or Victorian bodies due to their ongoing negotiations with RA.

The Rugby Union Players’ Association also wasn’t approached, so as to not put players in a compromised position.

But the fact the Reds, Brumbies and Western Force are all united in wanting McLennan to quit has put huge pressure on the besieged rugby boss.

If McLennan refuses to fall on his sword, the six member unions will request an extraordinary general meeting of RA to pass a resolution to remove him.

The dramatic turn of events continues a tumultuous period for Australian rugby, with their woes highlighted by a disastrous World Cup campaign that was overseen by coach Eddie Jones, who has since departed.

The appointment of Jones as coach, which some dubbed as McLennan’s ‘captain’s pick’, proved to be an utter failure.

But concerns from the six rebel unions stretch much deeper than just the Jones’ appointment.

“We do not believe Mr McLennan has been acting in the best interests of our game,” the letter reads.

“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.”

The six unions calling for McLennan’s resignation say they are not opposed to RA’s centralisation proposals.

Instead, they want to ensure a strong leader is in place to drag the game out of the doldrums.

They say McLennan has damaged the sport due to his performances, and they have decided to take action to protect the “reputation and future of our game”.

“During the past 12 months Mr McLennan has made a series of calls that have harmed the standing and reputation of our game and led us to question his judgement and his understanding of high-performance sport,” the letter states.

“His decisions and ‘captain’s picks’ have directly led to an historic failure at the men’s Rugby World Cup and a Wallabies international ranking (of No.9 in the world) at an historic low, with all of the regrettable and public fallout that came with it.”

They also claim McLennan’s use of player poaching to threaten other sports and boost rugby’s own stocks alienates RA from having collaborative conversations with the other major sports to improve participation across the Australian community.

The six unions fear that if RA can’t capitalise on the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the men’s World Cup in 2027 and the women’s World Cup in 2029, it could cripple the sport.

“If we don’t make the necessary changes to the leadership of our game now, these opportunities will be lost and our game will continue to flounder for decades to come,” the letter adds.

Queensland Rugby chair Brett Clark, ACT Rugby Chair Matt Nobbs, and WA Rugby chair John Edwards were all scathing of McLennan’s leadership in the release that was sent out on Friday evening.