Former Rugby Australia chair claims a ‘smear campaign’ behind his axing

Colin Newboult
Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan during a press conference.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan during a press conference.

Hamish McLennan has labelled his departure from Rugby Australia as a “cheap shot” and claimed that there has been “a coordinated campaign to smear me.”

He was ousted as chairman on Sunday after six states, led by Queensland, demanded that he resign.

The motion was started on Friday as those union members wrote a letter handing him an ultimatum.

Although McLennan stood firm and refused to step down, it went to a vote and it was decided that former Wallabies centre Daniel Herbert should take over in the interim.

Power grab

“They want to have a greater say. This is all about money and control at the end of the day, so we’ll see how it plays out,” McLennan told 2GB radio, once again insisting that he is the victim of a ‘power grab.’

“There’s been a coordinated campaign to sort of smear me and that’s been fed back through me and other board members. That’s a complete cheap shot.”

McLennan also defended his record, despite a difficult year for Australian rugby which culminated in the Wallabies being ousted from the Rugby World Cup at the pool stages.

“I mean, we’ve won a World Cup [hosting rights] for the men and women in ’27 and ’29, we got broadcast deals done, we brought sponsors into the game and if you just look at some of the support I had from former Prime Minister John Howard, John Coates, key sponsors, Cadbury [boss] Darren O’Brien,” he said.

“A lot of support out there, and Andrew Forrest and Nicola Forrest. They’re not dumb people, they’re really smart.

“They know it’s a journey and, in life, any business takes time to fix.”

McLennan was asked to stay on as a director, but he decided to turn that down and has opted to quit the board entirely.

“If you want to change the direction, you guys go for it,” he said.

“I understand it was a bit of a split vote, which is sort of interesting, so I think what’s happened is actually going to create more divisions within rugby, not less as they talk about unity.

“They can’t lean on me to continue to help on broadcast deals and the World Cups in Australia and all the other commercial matters and still expect me to contribute in that regard.

“What I would say too is that three of the Super franchises that drive all the money into the game being the [Western] Force, the [Melbourne] Rebels and the Waratahs were very happy with me to stay.”

No bitterness

Despite the past few days proving to be difficult for McLennan, he insists that he holds no bitterness towards those that axed him.

“No one died and it’s just a game,” he added.

“An important one that I love, but there’s a war going on in the Ukraine. There’s a war between Israel and Hamas and that’s real stuff that really matters.”

READ MORE: Hamish McLennan resigns as Rugby Australia chairman as former Wallabies centre takes over