The campaign against Raelene Castle and the current Rugby Australia administration has intensified, with a group of 11 former Wallabies captains signing a letter calling for those at the top of the governing body to “stand aside”.
The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the group is led by World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones, who has been one of Castle’s most strident critics in recent weeks.
Phil Kearns – who lost out to Castle when she was appointed CEO and has been touted as an alternative by Farr-Jones – has also signed the letter, as have George Gregan, George Smith, Stirling Mortlock, Michael Lynagh, Simon Poidevin, Stephen Moore, Jason Little, Rod McCall and Nathan Sharpe.
However, Australia’s only other World Cup-winning captain, John Eales, has not signed the letter, nor have the highly regarded Tim Horan and Andrew Slack.
According to the Herald, the letter contains the following:
“As Wallaby captains we feel privileged to have represented our country and led our respective teams into battle, facing difficult situations together.
“We lost some but we won many. Win or lose, every time we pulled on the gold jersey we were driven by the desire to earn the respect of Australian supporters across the country and around the world. We wanted them to be proud of Australian rugby and what Australian rugby stood for.
“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.
“Our rural clubs, junior clubs, sub-districts 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.
“No doubt there are now good people with good ideas and we must include them in the renewal. There has also been considerable work done in the background to quickly establish a list of urgent initiatives and action items.
“A number of highly experienced rugby and business leaders are standing by to mentor and lead. 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.
“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?
“Only when we can answer that question openly, honestly and transparently at all levels can we restore Australian rugby to greatness.”
The Australian reports the letter also calls for “the release of the numerous reviews into Australian rugby and the establishment of a cabinet to implement the best recommendations from those reviews.”
New Rugby AU chairman Paul McLean, who received the letter this afternoon, has offered to arrange a meeting between the board and the former captains “as soon as is reasonably practicable”, after the former captains demanded a special general meeting by April 30 to table the 2019 accounts and other business.
“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,” McLean said.
“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… The board would welcome the input of the signatories of the letter into the review process. It is intended that input for the review would be sought from a wide range of stakeholders including current and former players.
“Now is the time for us to come together in the interests of the entire rugby community.”