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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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • July 8th 2011 @ 8:26am
      Dave said | July 8th 2011 @ 8:26am | ! Report

      In a way the Brumbies appear to be the flip side of the Hurricanes. While the Brumbies apparently have a player power movement that will turf any coach they don’t get on with, meanwhile in Mark Hammet the Hurricanes have a board backed coach who is determined to run rough shod over any player who doesn’t agree with him no matter who they are. At present it doesn’t seem as though either approach has been particularly successful for their respective organisations. I view the arrival of Jake White with great interest.

      • July 8th 2011 @ 8:43am
        Capital said | July 8th 2011 @ 8:43am | ! Report

        It is interesting, the Brumbies certainly have form in the player power stakes. And I admire the Hurricanes for having the commitment to making some pretty unpopular and tough decisions.
        Jake White has done pretty well to date, and I expect will have the full support of the Board after last years performance. His four year deal is pretty well a commitment to the future, and he has made some good young signings. It will be good to see young guys playing with heart at the Brumbies, and develop their own legacy.

        • July 8th 2011 @ 10:29am
          mudskipper said | July 8th 2011 @ 10:29am | ! Report

          The difference between the Brumbies and the Hurricanes was it was Canes Coach mark Hammet’s first season as coach where it was Friends last on his 3 year contact. The BIG difference here is Friend had made himself untenable by his own performance. The Canes had to back a first season coach.

          Already the signings Jake White has gathered are an improvement. Just needs a senior lock, a second scrumhalf and an outside back. A Youth policy in an environment where we now have 5 super teams competing to sign players is the smart call. Talent is not as rare as opportunity. Sign the talent and coach them, back them and they will do well in time just like McKenzie’s Reds.

          Next seaon will be a rebuild for the Brumbies and I’m looking forward to it already.

          • July 8th 2011 @ 10:57am
            Capital said | July 8th 2011 @ 10:57am | ! Report

            I think they have some good young players, and it will be the start of something new.
            And let me add Mudskipper, I have not been great fans of Fisher or Friend – as coaches. Fisher got four years and accept that Friend would be going. But Week 2 is … stupid. Pre Season or bite the bullet and make the best of the situation – which was never going to happen with the personalities at the Brumbies.

      • July 8th 2011 @ 11:06am
        Warren said | July 8th 2011 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        If Jake White was able to navigate the politics of South African rugby, then the Brumbies should be a walk in the park!

    • July 8th 2011 @ 8:33am
      turbodewd said | July 8th 2011 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      I just want to know why they ditched ‘ACT’ from their name? I am not a fan of this absurd idea at all. If anyone can show me anywhere in the world where this has shown to be a good idea Ill take notice. The purpose of sports teams is to represent an area, usually a city. CA Brumbies? Luckily Canberra starts with the same 2 letters.

      • July 8th 2011 @ 9:23am
        Capital said | July 8th 2011 @ 9:23am | ! Report

        I deliberately did not call the Brumbies the CA Technology Brumbies in this opinion piece – as it is a call to accountability for the Board, not a shot at the sponsors.

      • July 8th 2011 @ 10:20am
        Brett McKay said | July 8th 2011 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Turbo, naming rights aside, I can partly answer this – about five or six years ago, a good chunk of southern NSW rugby realligned themselves with the ACTRU, leaving the NSW Country RU. For a time, the new body became known as ACT & Southern Inland RU (ACTSIRU), but was then shortened to the generic ‘Brumbies Rugby’. The body takes in rugby in NSW from the south coast (but not Illawarra) all the way to the western edge of the Riverina, and to the Victorian border.

        So while I can understand your point about teams coming from an area or city, Brumbies Rugby happens to be that area the team represents..

        • July 8th 2011 @ 10:53am
          turbodewd said | July 8th 2011 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          fair enuff

    • July 8th 2011 @ 9:06am
      cinematic said | July 8th 2011 @ 9:06am | ! Report

      As an impartial observer it’s been fascinating to watch the implosion of the Brumbies over the last 3 or 4 seasons.

      Clearly the Friend decision stinks to high heaven and destroyed the Brumbies season. It’s not the first of its sort for the club. The appointment of Jake White is a weird but is surely a move to dilute player power.

      Surely throwing Board support behind Friend would have achieved the same?

      • Roar Guru

        July 8th 2011 @ 10:42am
        Who Needs Melon said | July 8th 2011 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        cinematic the timescale you mention is interesting.

        In 2004 the Brumbies finished 1st
        In 2005 the Brumbies finished 5th

        From then on the Brumbies results have been:
        In 2006 the Brumbies finished 6th
        In 2007 the Brumbies finished 5th
        In 2008 the Brumbies finished 9th
        In 2009 the Brumbies finished 7th
        In 2010 the Brumbies finished 6th
        In 2011 the Brumbies finished 13th

        Keep in mind that the competition has expanded over this period. There were only 12 teams in 2004 so it wouldn’t have been possible for them to come 13th!

        Now you could say their 2005 result shows they were already slipping and Fagan needed time to turn things around – you know, a glorious 5 year plan – but clearly he is NOT doing that. How long do you persist with a leader who is clearly not taking the organisation in the direction it wants to go – either via on-field or off-field results?

        I can’t imagine a CEO of a professional company that would not have been replaced after this record. REGARDLESS of whether he is at fault, from a shareholder perspective, a time of change is needed. Continuing with Fagan seems to give the impression (to me at least) that the Brumbies are NOT actually a professional organisation but are more akin to a ‘club’ – the sort of club children form in treehouses. Whilst boys might love to be in a club like this, to those on the outside they look pretty ridiculous and I’d be surprised if sponsors continue to provide cash to them and associate themselves with them.

        • July 8th 2011 @ 11:27am
          cinematic said | July 8th 2011 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          Good points. It will be interesting to see how Whites international experience translates to a week to week S15 coaching role.

        • July 9th 2011 @ 7:38pm
          Capital said | July 9th 2011 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

          2006 crowd average – 17831;
          2007 17,814;
          2008 14,271;
          2009 16,625;
          2010 15257;
          2011 13083 average.

    • July 8th 2011 @ 9:15am
      Brumbyjack said | July 8th 2011 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      It is common knowledge in Canberra, that the only chance of financial survival that the Brumbies have …will co-incide with the sacking/resignation of Andrew Fagan.

      • July 8th 2011 @ 9:29am
        Capital said | July 8th 2011 @ 9:29am | ! Report

        There certainly needs to be accountability somewhere, and a rebuild at Board level. Because they have severely damaged their (as JOC would say) brand this year. And I admire the die hards, Brumbies till I die – but my money stays with me if there are not significant changes to their management next year.

    • July 8th 2011 @ 9:18am
      Matthew Skellett said | July 8th 2011 @ 9:18am | ! Report

      I think that the whole schemozzle of the Brumbies NOW was sown way way back when mortlock , larkham, gregan , roff and other prominent wallabies were part of the team . I noticed as the years passed from when the Wallabies were No 1 to No 6 or worse , the same old formula was offered to the rugby-going public and the nation. We all knew from experience that no matter how indifferent or badly Gregan or Larkham or some of the others played at any given time , at any given test ; they would still be starters of the first fifteen and one mediocrity of a coach after another (after Rod Macqueen), stuck to this tired old formula , even though they knew it was only producing more defeats and further descent down to the also-rans UNTIL we ALL rejoiced when Mr Jones’s Wallabies lost to Wales we could see the light at the end of da tunnel and MAYBE NOW with Mr Deans we might be on the way up again 🙂

      • July 8th 2011 @ 1:56pm
        snowman said | July 8th 2011 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

        Gregan was good in his early years, he just stayed for a few seasons to many. Roff retired at the top of his game. Mortlock only started to fade 2 years ago through injury and Larkham was brilliant to the end.
        The failure was the lack of succession planning – it was obviouse that these guys had to retire at some point. That is Fagan’s failure no forward planning in developing the next generation

    • July 8th 2011 @ 9:37am
      Br Bob said | July 8th 2011 @ 9:37am | ! Report

      Great article, this story will not go away until either the top resign or tha Brumbies dissapear under a financial load. My wife and I used to pay aour memberships on the return mail when we received them. Not any more. Next season we will be staying home.

      If Fagan and his cronies go then we may come back. Unlike Capital, I wore my cap but I refused to stand when the team ran out onto the ground. My protest. I did let off a few boos during the Lions game. I was not alone.

      We all want our Brumbies to be competitive. We do not want them run by the power welded by mediocre players. And believe me, history shows them to be just that.

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