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New beginnings are great; that sense of a new hope, a new day, and the levity and renewed spirit a new start brings is just so uplifting. Now everything will be just fine.
What am I talking about? As we all know, Rugby Australia dumped their chairman Hamish McLennan over the weekend and ex-Wallaby Dan Herbert was anointed into the still-warm chairman’s chair in his place. This also meant there’s now a free chair at the big table for some fresh blood, some new vision and perhaps a chance to return some dignity to the RA board. We all know that this change is what’s needed to ‘right the ship’, this was the fix needed. There’ll be an ad on LinkedIn, maybe one on Seek. For sure there’ll be a bit more than just a cursory scout around the carpark for someone new. Now all will be good in the world, won’t it? Yeh, right.
First things first, I believe McHamish had to go and I was vocal in saying so. For that I’m unapologetic. From my perspective, McHamish was finished the morning I listened to him on ABC Radio National trying to justify the sacking of Dave Rennie and the hiring of Eddie Jones, all while CEO Andy ‘Lex’ Marinos was out of the country. Now I was just as wild about the northern tour results as everyone else was. But this direct intervention approach was a gross overstepping of his mark, moving beyond his strategy role in the boardroom into the operational executive management realm. That sort of play wasn’t his job and, despite the niceties of words otherwise, was certainly the catalyst behind Lex leaving the shop, and in doing so, costing our game a proven and competent executive manager. But further, it was not just a demonstration of poor governance and keeping of faith with separation of duties principles by the very person who should understand it best, but it also demonstrated a riding roughshod hubris that was only further cemented by the ‘Kumbaya’ cheap shot he took at Dave Rennie in the same interview. For mine, that crass and snide swipe was an unforgivable, purely nasty jab made at an honourable guy who had no means by which to return fire or defend himself. And in my life, such utterances generally demonstrate the true nature of those who utter them. You can’t give that sort of person your loyalty and service any sooner than your trust. And they certainly cannot be your leader.
Let it not be said that McHamish was a complete commercial muppet though. He did secure an almighty sponsor in Cadbury. He did shepherd the game along the edge of financial extinction during Covid. And he did stand his ground when he had to against presumptive and condescending Kiwis over Super Rugby cash allocations. But frankly, that was his job. So well done Hamish, you at least did your job there.
Where McHamish is due some accolades that some may not recognise, was in getting Twiggy Forrest to come back into the Aussie Rugby fold. After Twiggy’s Global Rapid Rugby fell over with Covid, after NSW told him in no uncertain terms to sod off in 2018 over his plans to put an outfit in western Sydney and after John Eales and Co told him to stick his $50 million bail out deal up his cloaca in 2017, after years and years of him quietly underpinning the national Under 21 outfit, I wouldn’t’ve blamed Twiggy for telling all and sundry in Aussie rugby to ‘go get bent’. But Twiggy is now underpinning the Force and my mail is that McHamish was pretty instrumental in mending that relationship. So full balls to him on that front. Hopefully Twiggy will take that vacant chair at the RA board table.
But for what it’s worth, the accolades McHamish got for ‘winning’ the granting of the men’s and women’s World Cups aren’t really earned in my opinion. My understanding is that WR is genuinely concerned over the ongoing viability of rugby down here in Aus. And so the World Cups coming to Aus were whispered by many to be ours as a veritable gift from WR to try and inject some cash and thus chance of life into the code, provided we could put up a competent bid. How that gels with Phil ‘Lightning’ Kearns then leading the charge I don’t know. But the praising of McHamish over that achievement isn’t really fair dinkum in my opinion.
But all that’s dust in the wind now. After a weekend of boardroom cut and thrust in places unseen, McHamish is gone. Now it’s ‘Long live Dan Herbert!’ instead. How will that go? Well we now have our 10th chairman since 2000, so there’s an accomplishment of sorts. Here’s hoping King Herbie has a better batting average than the 2.5yrs his predecessors set. But sarcasm aside, my understanding is that Dan is a much more ‘quiet hand behind the scenes’ person than McHamish, which is at least more becoming the role. But that said, an aircraft carrier’s flight deck would have been quieter than McHamish, so that isn’t saying much.
Personally, I hear mixed messages about Dan, particularly about his impact on the QRU. And certainly our own correspondent Brisneyland Local wasn’t backward in coming forward in his opinion . What concerns me most is the usual line about footy players turning administrators. The old cliche of ‘a good teacher doesn’t always make a good principal’ worries me. And that now applies double as new CEO Phil Waugh is in a similar teacher v principal bracket. Together, are they a pair of aces? Or a pair of jokers?
What shall be interesting to view from the cheap seats will be the states facta non verba. Whether they like it or not, the states are now well and truly in the crosshairs regarding their commitment to a true national rugby programme. I think pretty much everyone sees, agrees and comments on the success a nationalised development, contracting and High Performance pathway would bring, with New Zealand and Ireland being the heralded examples. But just saying things doesn’t make them so. The ‘saying’ must be accompanied by the ‘doing’. And given the states were quite willing to use the popularity of the centralisation issue as the catalyst to trigger the downfall of McHamish in their now famous letter, this speaks to their belief in the necessity of such centralisation. And surely that means the states must now genuinely commit to the concept of centralisation, or be unmasked as the blinkered, myopic, self-serving, ivory-tower isolationists many of us believe them to be.
Time will show us the fibre of their fabric.
Around the grounds…
Again, I mostly had to look to our northern friends as they’re the ones ‘inseason’. And so here are some tidbits to be found about the interwebs from the week just gone:
Firstly, here’s a fantastic bit of acknowledgement for now retired referee Wayne Barnes. Apparently found while finally unpacking his kit bag from the Bill final, therein was the fulltime match ball, gifted to Barnsie after the final by World Rugby and signed by captains Siya Kolisi and Sam Cane along with coaches Ian Foster and Jacques Nienaber. I guess it’s only a shame the head water boy Rassie didn’t scrawl on it as well.
A big thumbs up and genuine plug needs to go to The Steelmen of Ebbw Vale Rugby Football Club, a bit to the north of Cardiff in sunny Wales. Read the blurb I stumbled across on Facebook below and you’ll get it. Search it and tip a quid in if you can.
Speaking of Christmas feeds, I did get a chuckle out of Exeter rugby having to source a 7XL (yep, that’s a 7XL, no misprint) jersey to accommodate the portly frame of 137kg Ehren Painter. The 25yr old tighthead is apparently in very good shape. Remembering of course that round is indeed a shape. Frankly, I’m luvin’ the big man. If he genuinely is only 25yrs old, and already endowed with a dad-bod like that, I can’t wait to see him at 50yrs old with a few kids in tow. He’s a man after my own heart and I’ve already sent him an invite to our club’s Fronties Forum.
And to close out today, hats must be lifted and pints be bought for 63 year old Phil Walker, a Feltham RFC stalwart turning out for the opposition of the day, Old Caterhamians RFC 2nds, to make sure the game could be played in the Middlesex Country RFU 2nds competition. Seriously lads. He’s a 63 year old No8 and he rolled out for the opponents. That’s rugby if ever I saw it.
That’s enough for me this week, comment away as you see fit. By the way, if you want me promoting your club in the pics, or if you come across something worth noting, just send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to use them.
Anyway, was McHamish hard done by? Is Dan Herbert our saviour or just a naughty little boy? Does a good teacher make a good principal? Give us your thoughts below.