George Gregan and Phil Kearns are among the captains who signed the letter.
George Gregan and Phil Kearns are among the captains who signed the letter.

‘Stand aside’: Wallabies legends’ incredible RA demand

Eleven former Wallabies captains have co-signed a powerful letter calling for the current Rugby Australia leadership to "stand aside" because they believe the game has "lost its way".

Rugby Australia interim chair Paul McLean was on Tuesday sent the explosive statement from the Wallabies greats, who called for the "current administration" to step down to allow the game to be transformed.

The 11 captains have also asked for a "cabinet" to be formed to help resurrect the game, financial transparency and a special general meeting to be held before the end of the month.

In an unprecedented move, some of Australia's most decorated captains - including World Cup winning captain Nick Farr-Jones and the most capped Wallaby George Gregan - have called for big changes from top to bottom, saying there is "no time to waste".

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"In recent times, the Australian game has lost its way. It is a defeat inflicted not by COVID-19, or an on-field foe, but rather by poor administration and leadership over a number of years," reads the letter.

"Our rural clubs, junior clubs, subdistricts and community clubs have been let down and we firmly believe transformation is needed across the game in this country. There's no time to waste."

"We speak as one voice when we say Australian rugby needs new vision, leadership and a plan for the future. That plan must involve, as a priority, urgent steps to create a much-needed sustainable, commercial rugby business."

The letter, obtained exclusively by The Australian, is signed by Wallabies greats including

Gregan and Farr-Jones, Phil Kearns, Simon Poidevin, Michael Lynagh, Rod McCall, Jason Little, Nathan Sharpe, Stirling Mortlock, George Smith and Stephen Moore.

The captains' letter comes just weeks after Rugby Australia recorded a $9.4 million loss in their "unaudited" 2019 report, while giving themselves a 72 per cent on an "internal scorecard" and with CEO Raelene Castle in line to receive a $114,000 performance bonus.

 

Nick Farr-Jones has been vocal in his criticism of RA.
Nick Farr-Jones has been vocal in his criticism of RA.

The Wallabies captains, which include many World Cup and Bledisloe winning players, have spoken privately for months about the dire state of the game, which is facing insolvency, before deciding to put their names to the letter.

They write about reviving the game for the fans in Australia and call for a collaborative approach. The captains say the game is worthy of a brighter future.

"Our schools and clubs are populated with an army of amazing mums and dads and volunteers, and players of all shapes and sizes, who must have a game run for them," it reads.

"Our youth deserve to be inspired. They need to see a pathway and to feel a connection with the Wallaby jersey.

"It is with this in mind we ask the current administration to heed our call and stand aside to allow the game to be transformed so we emerge from this pandemic with a renewed sense of unity and purpose.

"There is only one question that needs to be answered at club level, at state level and at national level: Is this decision in the best interests of Australian rugby?

 

Former Wallabies captain Rod McCall. Photo: Claudia Baxter
Former Wallabies captain Rod McCall. Photo: Claudia Baxter

"Only when we can answer that question openly, honestly and transparently at all levels can we restore Australian rugby to greatness."

The captains also call for:

• The release of the numerous reviews into Australian rugby and the establishment of a cabinet to implement the best recommendations from those reviews.

• The convening of a special general meeting, no later than April 30, 2020, to table the 2019 annual accounts and any other business put before that meeting."

" • The convening of a Special General Meeting, no later than April 30, 2020, to table the 2019 annual accounts and any other business put before that meeting."

RA chairman Paul McLean, himself a former Wallabies skipper, said the views of past captains were valued and should be heard within the planned code review process.

"I have been in contact with a member of the group (on Tuesday) and have offered to arrange a meeting with the full Board as soon as is reasonably practicable," McLean said.

"These are respected former Wallabies' captains and the Board would value their input as we work through the challenges that rugby has faced over the last few years and that have been amplified by the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

Rugby Australia chairman Paul McLean.
Rugby Australia chairman Paul McLean.

 

"The Board is also prepared to work with the group to provide them access to the information requested in the letter.

"The Board had commenced the process of establishing a review group to investigate a whole of rugby review and would welcome the input of the signatories of the letter into the review process.

"Now is the time for us to come together in the interests of the entire Rugby community."

 

RA has failed to secure a new broadcast deal and it has left the code in Australia facing insolvency.

As revealed by The Australian last weekend, the game owes more than just $9.4m than disclosed by RA. It is understood debts have increased to around $16m with bills yet to be paid in full.

Law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, who acted for Rugby Australia in their long-running battle with Folau, is awaiting payment of more than $1m for their services.

RA also does not have a broadcast deal.

 

Embattled Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
Embattled Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

 

It is hoping for a rescue package from World Rugby in the order of $16m. The COVID-19 pandemic sees RA facing a $120m financial black hole.

RA are required to submit audited accounts to the Australian Securities Investments Commission (ASIC) by the end of the month.

Pre-COVID-19 the Wallabies were seventh in the world with declining TV ratings and crowds.

While former players have voiced their concerns, the current playing group have also called for "transformation" in the game.

After agreeing to a 60 per cent pay cut on Monday, Rugby Union Players' Association boss Justin Harrison called for "immediate attention"" to be turned to the long-term sustainability of the game and said there was a "need for "transformation".

Originally published as 'Stand aside': Wallabies legends' incredible RA demand



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