Mark Reason: The madness of Hamish McLennan and why NZ Rugby is joyful

 VIEWS: After a weekend of total mayhem in sports, Rugby Australia’s chair, Hamish McLennan, was voted out of office during an urgent board meeting. An autopsy conducted soon after the revelation indicated that McLennan’s death was most likely caused by a brass neck, which stopped blood flow to his brain.

Though unconfirmed, there have been rumors of an unplanned champagne celebration held at the New Zealand Rugby headquarters. The businessman, an aggressive Australian, was reportedly as well-liked by the NZR leaders as a rabid possum.

One source remarked, “The similarities are remarkable.” “Among the biggest dangers to our natural environment is a pest,” says one. The other is a nocturnal marsupial with big, pointed ears and a protruding nose. The agreement will have ended. They require two or three more teams from the Americas, Japan, and possibly South Africa in addition to fewer Australian teams.

McLennan would have impeded such progress, even with the financial gains he had brought to Australian rugby. Rugby Australia’s CEO, Phil Waugh, is regarded as more progressive. Everyone can now proceed.


On the surface, McLennan’s fate seemed to be sealed when a letter demanding his prompt resignation was sent by six of RA’s member unions. The Queensland, ACT, NT, Rugby WA, Tasmania, and South Australia rugby unions, among others, claimed that the chairman had been operating outside of his authority and against the interests of the sport.

All of it, according to McLennan, was “a cheap shot,” “rubbish,” and “a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.” Declaring that he was the victim of a smear campaign, he said that this would be the turning point in the rugby match. It all comes down to control and money. This has to do with values. In reality, they are prioritizing their own interests and local interests over the game.

It was then claimed that Australia’s NRL boss, Andrew Abdo, had choked on his schooner of milk and honey. Abdo questioned whether the man who was ranting on about morals, money, control, self-interest, and parochialism was the same person who had earlier in the season taken league player Joseph Sua’ali’i from the Roosters.

When the NRL had protested such blatant poaching—a purported $5 million agreement that some had labeled “insane” and indicative of a “identity crisis”—McLennan referred to the opponents as “a bunch of cry-babies.”

The Australian chair then went all in, suggesting that RA might target league pin-up boy Nathan Cleary next. McLennan described the idea of the NRL star “running out in front of 85,000 people wearing Wallaby gold at Stade de France” as “mind-blowing.” It certainly blew the mind of Andy Marinos, the then-CEO of Rugby Australia, who resigned, considering the amount of money spent on Sua’ali’i to be absurd and predicting that it would start a turf war with the NRL that Rugby Australia would lose.

Marinos saw the Roosters approach Wallabies wing Mark Nawaqanitawase in what was called a clearly an act of revenge. The NRL also identified Waratahs teenager Max Jorgensen as a target. Abdo has confirmed that salary cap relief could potentially be granted to facilitate such moves. There is no way that RA could win a fiscal shoot-out against the NRL.

Many of Australia’s unions were now becoming increasingly disgruntled. They had considered a smear campaign, but decided it was unnecessary as McLennan was doing such a capable job all by himself. The chair’s other moment of utter idiocy had been to sack Dave Rennie as coach of Australia and replace him with Eddie Jones, a coach who had just been fired by England because he was viewed as past it and divisive.

Rennie’s Australia had been going through an unprecedented injury crisis in 2022, but despite that they had still beaten South Africa, Wales and Scotland, lost to France by a single point and lost to Ireland by three points. They would also have turned over the All Blacks in Melbourne but for Bernard Foley’s crazy delay in taking a penalty. Rennie’s Australia were clearly building something good.

McLennan and Jones between them smashed that edifice to smithereens. It was noticeable how bad both Samu Kerevi and Marika Koroibete were at the World Cup whereas under Rennie the pair had been world beaters. It took Jones a matter of weeks to lose the players as he bombarded them with information and riffled through one captain after another. And this bloke was the saviour according to McLennan when he made his “captain’s call”.

When Australia predictably imploded and became the laughing stock of the World Cup, we all thought that McLennan would do the decent thing and resign. When Jones was alleged to have held clandestine talks with Japan during the tournament, we all thought McLennan would do the decent thing and resign. When Jones did the decent thing and resigned, we all thought McLennan would follow him out the door.

The Wallabies after a 40-6 loss to Wales at the Rugby World Cup.
The Wallabies after a 40-6 loss to Wales at the Rugby World Cup.

That was certainly the word on the ground in France. And when six of the unions then collectively came after McLennan, surely the chairman would now finally act with a shred of honour and resign.

That was to underestimate a chairman with the biggest brass neck in the business. Was such sane acceptance of fate really so likely in a weekend world of chaos where a Grand Prix is held in Las Vegas, cars are destroyed by something akin to a pop-up sprinkler and a lawsuit is consequently filed on behalf of 35,000 ejected fans, alleging breach of contract, negligence and deceptive trade practices.

Was it likely in a weekend world of chaos where an Aussie wearing a t-shirt saying “Stop bombing Palestine” is able to scale a 3m wire fence, avoid 6,000 police and reach the world’s most famous cricketer in the one day final of the sport.

Was it likely in a weekend world of chaos where pro golfer Joost Luiten hurls his driver up a tree after a poor drive at the ninth, chucks two more irons up the tree which also get stuck in the branches, kicks his bag in disgust, and continues his round three clubs short of the full set. That act of angry self-destruction somehow seemed like a metaphor for the whole crazy world of sport at the moment.

Even after the board of Rugby Australia held an emergency meeting and unanimously voted out their chair, McLennan was unrepentant. He observed that “sometimes life isn’t fair” and “the grapevine works in mysterious ways”, an oblique reference to Marvin Gaye perhaps that is currently puzzling music scholars.

Anything is possible. Maybe the past few months have really all been part of a smear campaign dreamed up by a global conspiracy that finally got its man when it brought down McLennan. Maybe Winson Peters is made of halloumi, as I feel sure I read in a newspaper somewhere.

Right now the only constant that we seem able to hold onto is chaos.

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