Heavy hitters in the Australian rugby landscape have moved to roll Raelene Castle, with a World Cup winner and former Wallabies captain poised to take over.
Heavy hitters in the Australian rugby landscape have moved to roll Raelene Castle, with a World Cup winner and former Wallabies captain poised to take over.

RA coup: Wallabies great poised to replace Castle

Raelene Castle's days as chief executive of Rugby Australia are numbered with former Wallabies captain Phil Kearns set to take over from next year.

Moves are afoot to roll Castle within days and replace her with an interim chief executive.

Heavy hitters in the Australian rugby landscape, sick of seeing the game plummet financially and in public appeal, are swiftly moving to save the code amid its greatest crisis.

The dissatisfaction with Castle has spread to the professional playing group, who are fed up with the lack of transparency over the game's finances, preventing them from agreeing to a pay-cut deal over the next three months.

RUPA has slammed Raelene Castle and Rugby Australia for failing to hand over key financial documents. Picture: Hanna Lassen/Getty Images
RUPA has slammed Raelene Castle and Rugby Australia for failing to hand over key financial documents. Picture: Hanna Lassen/Getty Images

RA announced a $9.4 million loss for 2019, but failed to provide players' union RUPA their financial statement. They also projected a "worst-case" scenario of $120 million in losses if no games are played the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions.

But Castle's failure to secure a broadcast deal before the coronavirus crisis hit, and continued evasiveness around the 2019 financial statement has made her tenure virtually untenable.

There is a growing belief that under a new regime, Australia would walk away from the SANZAAR alliance and play a domestic club competition from 2021, allowing several big-name players to head overseas but reconnecting with the beating heart of the XV-man code.

One of Castle's board allies, Pip Marlow, is now backing her removal. Castle's other supporters, Cameron Clyne and Brett Robinson stepped down at this week's board meeting.

Phil Kearns is poised to replace Castle. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty
Phil Kearns is poised to replace Castle. Picture: Jason McCawley/Getty

Kearns, who could not be reached for comment, has widespread support to take over after missing out on the RA top job to Castle in 2017.

However, it's understood work commitments will prevent him from doing so until 2021.

RA's ongoing stalemate with RUPA, who will advise players what percentage of a pay cut they should take once their financial advisor has combed the 2019 statement, has led Super Rugby franchises to consider their own radical move.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that if no agreement is reached by next week, some franchises will stand down their entire playing squads as some A-League football clubs have done.

For each day there has been a failure to get a deal done with players, RA has lost $100,000 and Super clubs have lost $25,000.

Given the perilous situation the embattled clubs are in, they're considering the mandatory stand-down, and then would compensate the players the difference once a RUPA agreement is reached.

This is 13 days after RUPA asked RA for the documents.

Players have been locked in a fight with RA. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
Players have been locked in a fight with RA. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

 

t is clear some RA board members are unimpressed with the situation and will move to sack Castle by the end of this weekend.

The strained relations between RA and its players was exposed on Friday when RUPA issued a forceful statement savaging their lack of transparency.

RA believed they'd given the players' union RUPA all the financial evidence they needed, when they presented a 90-minute conference outlining details on Thursday.

However, they did not allow RUPA to physically take the documents away so it could be analysed by their financial advisor, leading the union chief executive Justin Harrison to issue the following: "Australia's professional rugby players are awaiting the delivery of, and the opportunity to analyse, information detailing Rugby Australia's financial position. This has not been provided.

"The Rugby Union Players Association again emphasises the need for an open and collaborative approach from RA before we can properly understand our role in Australian rugby's restructure, for both short and long term transformation.

"Our players approach this long-term transformation with a collegiate and team approach and with an acknowledgment the game has to change.

"That is why RUPA is again respectfully requesting the financial data to fully digest before returning to the table for open and honest negotiations. We see no reasons why RA refuses to engage, despite the provision of protection under a nondisclosure agreement.

 

Raelene Castle with new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. Picture: Nikki Short
Raelene Castle with new Wallabies coach Dave Rennie. Picture: Nikki Short

 

"At a time when governing bodies in the other major football codes have been open and transparent with their players RA continues to refuse our requests.

"We look forward to reaching a position where we can work together, and share in the game's vulnerabilities, to find a solution for the benefit of all constituents of Australian rugby."

On Wednesday evening, Castle had issued a statement saying RA had given RUPA the information they needed.

"We believe the information we have shared, including information on future cash projections, provides the players with enough information to develop a position," Castle said.

Further discussions were held between the parties on Friday, however the 2019 financial statement was not forthcoming and RUPA refused to budge.

As long as this holds, the players continue to earn their full salaries while 75 per cent of RA's staff have been stood down until June 30.

That will cost RA an additional $200,000 just for this weekend.

Originally published as RA coup: Wallabies great poised to replace Castle


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