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 launched a blistering attack on the ‘two-faced’ Queensland powerbrokers after he was given his marching orders on Sunday following a turbulent year for Australian rugby.
McLennan was ousted following an extraordinary late-night board meeting 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 wasn’t angry, McLennan said he was disappointed about the manner of his sacking and not being able to finish the job of fixing ‘a broken system’.
‘I’m profoundly disappointed,’ McLennan told News Corp.
Hamish McLennan claims he was the victim of a coup from rugby powerbrokers
‘I understand that things happen on boards but the double dealing, two-faced, nature of what’s gone on, it’s quite extraordinary.
‘This is well and truly a Queensland takeover. Make no mistake about it.’
Asked on 2GB radio on Monday if his removal 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,’ he said.
‘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 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 as a director.
‘If you want to change the direction, you guys go for it,’ 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.
McLennan was given the boot after overseeing a terrible year in charge of Rugby Australia
Daniel Herbert has taken over, but McLennan says he was ousted by ‘two-faced’ powerbrokers
‘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.’
Herbert, though, later on Monday disputed McLennan’s claim of a split vote, saying the decision would have been unanimous if the ousted chair didn’t vote to stay on.
McLennan’s departure comes three weeks after Eddie Jones, who McLennan parachuted in as Wallabies coach in January, quit 10 months into his five-year contract, blaming the system for Australia’s diabolical 2023 World Cup campaign.
‘The results of the World Cup were pretty poor, but 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 insisted he wasn’t bitter.
‘No one died and it’s just a game,’ he said.
‘An important 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.’
Herbert thanked McLennan for stepping into the hot seat during the pandemic, before taking a thinly-veiled shot at his predecessor.
‘I’m not not going to talk about Hamish per se, but working on the other side at times you just want to make sure that you’re not dictated to,’ Herbert said.
‘If you’ve got skin in the game, you want to make sure that people are listening to you because a lot of our good talent, not just playing talent, is in our clubs.
‘We feel that moving forward, the game requires everyone to unite. We felt that would only be achieved with a change of chair.’