The Rugby Australia (RA) governing body has replaced Hamish McLennan as chair with Daniel Herbert.
Following a late-night meeting on Sunday (November 19), McLennan was ousted as chair and then “resigned from the board" to be replaced by former national team (the Wallabies) player Herbert.
McLennan had come under increasing pressure in the days before the decision, with six Australian state member unions demanding his resignation. Up until an emergency board meeting on Sunday, he had resisted this attempted push but has now left the board entirely, opting not to carry on as a director.
The six unions – from Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory, and Western Australia – had co-written a letter to the RA board late last week, saying they had lost faith in McLennan, who had been chair since May 2020.
This followed the men’s national team’s poor performance at the 2023 Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France across September and October, in which they failed to make it past the group stage. Coach Eddie Jones, whom McLennan had pushed for during the selection process, has now walked away from the job.
Various state unions had also been set against the centralization proposals – under which RA would be responsible for most of the various top-tier state teams’ commercial and on-field operations – that McLennan had been involved in advocating for. Talks around converting various state unions to that model – where their teams would predominantly be handled by RA – are taking place currently.
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Now, RA has said in a statement that McLennan – the former chief executive of the Channel 10 broadcast operation – “departs the role of chair having been a central figure in Australia securing the hosting rights to major rugby events that will inspire generations of players and supporters, as well as delivering the current broadcast rights deal and helping to turn around the governing body’s financial position.”
During McLennan’s tenure, Australia secured hosting rights to the men’s RWC in 2027 and the women’s in 2029.
The six aforementioned state unions, meanwhile, have said of McLennan’s departure: “It is an honorable decision that recognizes his continued service had become a distraction to the game. Mr McLennan cannot be faulted for his energy or devotion to rugby, nor his tireless efforts for the game.”
Herbert, meanwhile, played 67 tests for Australia and won the RWC in 1999.
He has been on the RA board since 2020, while his current role is as chief executive at SSKB Strata Managers, a body corporate management firm. Across 2015 and 2016, he was the executive general manager at the Queensland Reds domestic rugby union side.
Herbert said: "It has never been more important for the Rugby Australia board, working with member unions, to come together and execute the reform we absolutely need for an aligned high-performance system and to deliver on the commitments we have made, including to invest in the community and women’s rugby.
“Australia will host the British and Irish Lions Tour in 2025, the men’s 2027 Rugby World Cup, the women’s 2029 Rugby World Cup, and the 2032 Olympic Games – the reform we progress now will underpin the competitiveness of our national teams, as well as building deeper engagement with the Rugby community and fans everywhere.”
RA, meanwhile, said in its statement that Herbert “is ideally suited to leading the development of the game from the grassroots to the elite level, across women’s and men’s rugby. In addition, he is well placed to lead the board’s continued and unwavering commitment to Rugby Australia’s strategy of aligning the game across the country.”
In June, former national team captain Phil Waugh came on board as the new RA chief executive, replacing Andy Marinos.