Questions for the board of ACT Brumbies

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Andy Friend Brumbies

ACT Brumbies coach Andy Friend during a training session in Canberra. (AAP Image/Alan Porritt)

To the CEO and board of the ACT Brumbies, I have some questions for your organisation. Perhaps this might be an opportunity to answer some questions that have circulated since you made the decision to sack Andy Friend.

What was the reason why Andy Friend was removed as head coach of the Brumbies?

Are the Brumbies a dishonest organisation?

What does the Brumbies club intend to do to win back disenchanted supporters of the club?

Who is responsible for the results of the Brumbies in 2011 and the repercussions of the decision to sack Andy Friend?

Was your organisation driven by “player power” in 2011?

At the press conference, Andy Friend stated: “The best programs in sport are athlete-focused, coach-driven and admin-supported, and unfortunately that’s not the case at [the Brumbies].”

Allegations of player power initiating the move were raised in the media.

Fagan, you made it clear that it was your decision, in consultation with relevant parties. As an outsider, it would appear that the decision pampered to the discontent (valid or not) of the players, and egos of the some of the junior coaches in the club.

Eddie Jones commented in the media, “Last year, Andy Friend appointed a backs coach. The candidate signed his contract and started at the club. Some senior players were unhappy and raced to the board which overturned the decision.”

Is this true? The decision (if true) clearly demonstrates that the players ‘ran the show’. Did the senior players in 2011 have more clout than the head coach?

The board, including Geoff Larkham, appointed Steve Larkham in the job, which I assume both pleased and appeased the players. What process was used to select Steve Larkham?

Why was the decision to remove the coach taken after week two of the season? Was the decision fast-tracked as a consequence of a media leak (reportedly by a player) flagging unrest in the playing and coaching ranks, followed by a highly embarrassing loss to the Rebels in their second ever match?

When you stated that “it just wasn’t working” were you referring to your intervention plan that prevented Andy Friend from communicating directly to his players? Was this part of the restructure to best serve the organisation through a season lasting 18 weeks?

And when the players no longer received mixed messages as a result of the coaching restructure, were disencumbered with the opinions and coaching of Andy Friend; were playing for the pride of the Brumbies jersey and working for coaches they liked – what was their winning rate? It was 25 per cent. For the record, Andy Friend’s winning rate was 60 per cent.

If you were honest, the ‘cloak and dagger’ coup leaders just weren’t as good as they thought they were, were they?

Was the effort by the team, as Tony Rea stated, smoke and mirrors – a charade?

A really simple question: why was the decision not taken prior to the season if it was required? If the coach did not have the support of the playing group, or the senior players in the playing group, or his assistants, then why would a high performance professional organisation (sorry, I am referring to the Brumbies) not act to remove him prior to the season?

Andy Friend recently said that the Brumbies were a dishonest organisation.

In the week prior to the Rebels match, there were leaks in the media about team disharmony. A reporter at the press conference (announcing Andy Friend’s dismissal) commented, “You said to us – it went to air … ‘It is a non issue, the camp is a happy one…'”

He continued, “You say it’s a non issue, you say the camp is happy and here we are 72 hours later… you lied to the media, you lied to the members. How seriously can Brumbies members support you as the CEO, if their boss isn’t telling the truth?”

The camp was obviously not a happy one; it was obviously not a non issue. The rumour mill was obviously on the money.

In the media Wayne Smith commented that two players re-signed prior to the sacking of Andy Friend, neither of whom were advocates of the coach. Is it true that these players would not commit to the club if Andy Friend remained?

Is it true that in February, Andy Friend was already a dead man walking? Is it true that some players in February knew that Andy Friend would not be at the helm in 2012? Is it true as stated in the article that the players knew the Sunday after the Rebels match that Friend would not be at the club in 2012?

Is this what Andy Friend meant when he said the Brumbies were dishonest?

Week in week out throughout the season, the Brumbies captain and coach were telling the media and fans that the playing group were tight. After another embarrassing loss, this time to the Lions in week 13, the head coach Tony Rea unleashed and confirmed widely held views about the professionalism of the players; and the performance of the administration.

I am guessing that Rea’s comments about the administration were not a motivation tool for the players. Were these criticisms of the Brumbies organisation a brutally honest reflection of your organisation?

What does the Brumbies club intend to do to win back disenchanted supporters of the club?

This year your members and supporters have voted with their feet, wallets and purses. What does your organisation intend to do to woo back the disenfranchised members? 10,122 at Giteau’s 100th game. 10,311 to watch the second place Stormers (top SA team) play the Brumbies…

What are you going to do about the possibility that these crowds could be your norm next year? What do these numbers tell you about the support for your organisation? Are we all just fair weather supporters? Are we all too lazy to leave our winter warmth?

I was at both matches, in the member’s area, refusing to wear club merchandise – my protest for 2011. Do you think that this problem lies with the supporters or the organisation?

Your organisation was tagged ‘the Canberra Comics’ in a media article by Eddie Jones, a former Brumbies coach and consultant for 2012. Andy Friend labelled your organisation dishonest. Tony Rea aired publicly, “We have just too many people and an organisation that makes too many soft decisions too often and now they’re the bulk and the norm, it’s in the wood now.”

These coaches have all been senior Brumbies insiders. If this is their opinion of the Brumbies administration, then what perception do you think the average rugby fan on the street has?

What is being done to openly and honestly facilitate lines of communication with the members? There is a lot of unrest in the ranks, yet the Brumbies seem to be hiding from the issues that have fractured the supporter base. Do you think we are all just going to get over it?

Who is responsible for the results of the Brumbies in 2011 and the repercussions of the decision to sack Andy Friend?

What players have the Brumbies signed for 2012? How many players with Super Rugby and international experience have signed with the Brumbies since March? Is it possible that no-one of any stature in the game is prepared to take a risk on signing with the Brumbies in 2012?

How many sponsors do you believe will be lost from 2011?

Fagan, at the time of the sacking of Andy Friend you stated, “I made the decision.” Are you willing to be held to account for that decision and the performance of the organisation in 2011?

Spiro Zavos commented in March, “There is only one way the decision to sack Friend can ever be justified. The Brumbies must make the finals this year… If they fail, the board, the CEO and the coaching staff… should resign.”

CEO of the Brumbies, members of the board, I agree with you on one thing: when you’ve got an untenable environment, you’ve got an untenable environment.

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