McLennan says he was the victim of a rugby power grab

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 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".

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."

Daniel Herbert.
New RA boss Daniel Herbert said unity for the code could only be gained with a new chair.

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.

"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.

McLennan shakes hands with Jones at a press conference.
Hamish McLennan has worn criticism for Eddie Jones's ill-starred return as Wallaby coach.

"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."

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.


Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
AU$10
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
AU$5
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
AU$99
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

SEVEN DAYS FREE
Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store