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The Roar


'Easy to throw stones': RA chairman hits back at mudslingers' 'hypocrisy' after calls for AGM board cleanout

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23rd April, 2024
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As calls grow for the entire Rugby Australia board to be overthrown, new chairman Daniel Herbert described the agitators behind the movement as hypocrites and mudslingers.

Ahead of next week’s Annual General Meeting, a collection of former Wallabies, ARU coaches and directors, who call themselves the Supporters of Australian Rugby Reform, called for a total cleanout of the RA board.

The recent calls come after Herbert, as well as RA chief executive Phil Waugh, sat on the board and were involved in the high performance committee that presided over the Wallabies’ worst World Cup campaign last year. The duo were also involved in the discussions that led to Dave Rennie being sacked and Eddie Jones sensationally returning as Wallabies coach less than two months after being sacked by the Rugby Football Union.

Rugby Australia chairman Daniel Herbert has hit back at those calling for the current board to stand down, describing them as mudslingers and hypocrites. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

Former Wallaby Russ Tulloch, who wrote his second column in as many weeks on The Roar on Tuesday, is leading the charge calling for the cleanout.

As first reported by The Roar, Tulloch has been joined by former Wallaby and ARU coaching director Dick Marks, former Western Force boss and ARU board member Geoff Stooke and convenor Paul Jonson.

On Tuesday, the SOARR group doubled down on their initial calls.

“We want a Board selected by the rugby population of Australia. A Board of the best people Australian rugby people can find,” Tulloch wrote in The Roar.


“The closed shop process allowed under the present constitution has delivered a Board of financiers, bankers, eg Phil Waugh, and professional Board operatives. We need people with the skills to develop and financially sustain the game from the grass roots up to the revenue-earning Wallabies.”

He added: “Without a total change, a full cleanout, only more of the same will occur. Talk of stability and experience is fatuous, these are the people that have created the crisis. A definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

The Wallabies’ World Cup flop has led to many to question the current Rugby Australia board’s credentials. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

On Tuesday, Herbert hit back and said the latest airing of dirty laundry was doing nothing to help get Australian rugby back on track.

“We have gone through this bloodletting for a long, long time,” Herbert told the Inside Line podcast.

“The article I read this morning I think I have probably read about 10 times over the last decade. There are always these little groups of agitators who tend to pop up in our game and this is no different.

“You understand they wait for the opportunity when things don’t pan out. They very rarely offer any viable solution but just want to throw a lot of mud.


“The overarching thing for me with any of these types of things that occur is: why, if you love a game and you support a game, would you go publicly and do something like that? That doesn’t serve to protect or enhance the reputation or the interests of the game?

“And then it’s just the hypocrisy, of some of the people involved, annoys me as well. Some of these people have been involved in the administration and made some of the mistakes, going back some way. It’s very easy now to sit on the outside and throw stones in. It is more self than it is game.”

Herbert said he had spoken to several of the figures involved with the SOARR group, who on Monday placed advertisements in newspapers calling for the RA board to be overthrown.

“And there were a few other things as well. I had that conversation and that wasn’t taken particularly well,” he said.

“Sometimes people see themselves as the solution and if you don’t share that same point of view then sometimes they don’t like that.”


The calls also come after members of the SOARR group feel that they weren’t listened to after being invited to comment on aspects of Australian rugby in recent years.

Indeed, Stooke and Marks were part of a National Technical Advisory Committee put together in 2020 by former RA chairman Hamish McLennan, to advise on coaching and pathway matters. Other members included Nick Farr-Jones, Bob Dwyer and Roger Gould.

Yet, the group essentially stopped meeting after feeling their commentary wasn’t being heard.

For many, the fact Herbert and Waugh both sat on the board and were involved in discussions with McLennan on several matters – Jones’ return, the multi-million-dollar signing of Joseph Suaalii, and the overspend on last year’s World Cup campaign – means they can’t wipe their hands clean of their roles of last year’s disaster.

Herbert once again indicated that the current administration wasn’t necessarily aligned with the former leadership.

“What I would say is you don’t always get your way. There are always divergent views on a board or in a selection committee and whatever decision is ultimately taken you have to move forward with that,” he said.

“There was certainly strong debate over a lot of those decisions but going back to the change that came about in November, what drove that and remembering what was said by the member unions: lost trust, the chair (McLennan) acting outside of his role with undue influence and judgement, and player poaching of players from another code, were things that I also agreed with.”


There are five directors up for approval at next week’s AGM.

Two new directors are needed to replace Waugh and McLennan, while Matt Hanning, Karen Penrose and Jane Wilson are seeking re-election. A fourth, Pip Marlow, will stand down in the coming months.

While it’s unlikely the entire board will be overthrown by the 14 member unions – they need a 50 per cent vote to move a motion of no confidence – Hanning, the founder of Barrenjoey, in particular, is under threat.

Several member unions remain furious that they have been led to the edge of the financial cliff after having yearly $1.7m grants taken away from them by RA since the onset of COVID-19 in 2020.

The April 29 AGM falls just days after the Melbourne Rebels’ voluntary administration lapses this week, with a report into their future to be presented on Friday. It’s believed the report will advise that the Rebels should continue to run as a Super Rugby franchise in 2025.