Rugby Australia chairperson Paul McLean has slammed the ‘dark forces’ that made life difficult for outgoing CEO Raelene Castle.
Embattled chief executive Castle resigned on Thursday, ending a tenure marked by a series of crises and escalating financial problems.
Castle and Rugby Australia have been under fire for some time due to perceived maladministration as the governing body has headed into financially dire straits, which have been further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The criticism was brought to a head when a letter signed by 11 former Wallabies captains – calling for considerable leadership change in the governing body – was leaked to the media.
However, one of the signatories – Michael Lynagh – asked to be removed from the letter as he had not been fully briefed on its contents. Wallabies great John Eales spoke out against the letter and supported interim chair McLean.
In a media briefing held after Castle’s resignation, McLean expressed his own disappointment in how she was treated – saying she had been attacked in a ‘vicious and vitriolic way’, particularly on social media, by ‘silent forces, dark forces’.
‘She shared some of that with me, which was, you know, I found quite abhorrent,’ McLean said, before dismissing the letter.
‘Let’s be clear here, it’s a very small collective of people who’ve been involved in the game of late. The significance of that group is probably people that aren’t on the list.’
Castle was the first women to lead any of Australia’s major sports.
McLean – a former flyhalf who won dozens of caps for the Wallabies – paid tribute to the New Zealander.
‘One of my greatest concerns with her was her welfare and how she was on a daily basis. A lesser person would have thrown the towel in ages ago.
‘So the discussion that we had to have as a board was, what is the succession plan if Raelene walked in, rang me one day and said Paul “I’m gone, I can’t do this anymore”?
‘So we’d had some broader discussions about that over the last six months and I suppose it crystallised with some new eyes around the board table.
‘And it probably crystallised with the circumstances that we’re all facing with the general economy and how we’re living our life at the moment
‘It’s great that people want to put their hand up and get involved but they need to be a part of the process.’
Photo: Don Arnold/Getty Images