‘Headless chook’: Jones savages Castle

Raelene Castle’s days as Rugby Australia CEO appear numbered, a growing number of reports suggesting there is mounting pressure for a leadership change within the struggling sporting organisation.

RA has been widely condemned for its unjustified self-praise during Monday’s Annual General Meeting, where they announced a 72 per cent performance rating for 2019. In the same meeting, RA declared a preliminary $9.4 million loss for the financial year.

During a 12-month period which featured a lacklustre Rugby World Cup performance, the Israel Folau saga, drastically low attendance numbers and several high-profile players abandoning the Super Rugby competition, a 72 per cent rating seems unreasonably high.

“They must be kidding. Gave themselves a score of 20/25 for participation … For igniting passion in the game they gave a score of 21/25,” a correspondent told The Australian.

“They really are delusional.”

Another source told The Australian, “People are amazed (Castle) has hung on this long, everyone knows it has to come to an end soon,” and the coming few days could be pivotal for the RA CEO.

Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle speaks to the media.Source:Getty Images

Castle released a statement on Friday, assuring fans “rugby will survive” the COVID-19 outbreak, pleading for everyone in the rugby community to “support each other” during the crisis.

“Rugby has been hit hard by the shutdown, and this has forced Rugby Australia and our State and Territory Member Unions to make some extremely difficult decisions to protect the long-term viability of our game,” Castle wrote.

“We must reduce costs, because once we get through this, and we will, we need rugby to be ready to return and bring us all back together on the field and in the stands.

“I, along with the staff still working, are committed to supporting you all during these challenging times, and we are 100 per cent focused on delivering a plan for the game’s survival.”

However, radio presenter Alan Jones argued the COVID-19 outbreak is just a “distraction” from larger issues within the RA.

“McLean and Castle, and the board of Rugby Australia, cannot blame their financial mismanagement on a virus that had no impact on the 2019 financial figures,” Jones wrote in The Australian on Friday.

“This game was bankrupt, both morally and possibly financially in 2019, well before COVID-19.

“They have been the architects of their own demise … Castle is now running around like a headless chook talking about setting up think-tanks to consider possible scenarios.

“If you spend all your money on the roof and nothing on the floor, the house collapses.”

Media personality Alan JonesSource:News Corp Australia

On Tuesday, Castle announced 75 per cent of RA’s staff had been stood down until July due to the coronavirus epidemic. Meanwhile, New Zealand Rugby only enforced a 25 per cent pay cut on their staff.

A report from The Australian claimed a person present at Tuesday’s meeting — where Castle broke the devastating news to staff — described the chief executive’s address as the “most appalling corporate cluster f*** I have witnessed in a long time”.

Castle revealed on Monday she would concede a 50 per cent cap cut to assist RA’s financial recuperation during the coronavirus shut down. However, the CEO will still earn approximately $400,000 per year on the revised salary, a sum considerably larger than most professional Australian rugby players.

On Thursday, Wallabies legend Phil Kearns told Fox Sports News Castle and RA “backed themselves into a corner” with their questionable salary stance.

The unprecedented COVID-19 outbreak could inflict more financial strain on the struggling organisation – if no rugby union is played in 2020, RA will suffer an estimated $120 million loss.

Former Wallaby Rod Kafer – who worked for RA in elite coaching development from 2017 to 2019 – labelled the organisation’s management a “train smash” during an explosive interview on Fox Sports News.

“When the CEO comes out and says we’re looking down a $120 million hole — how did we find ourselves in that position? How does a board allow the game to get into that position?” Kafer asked on Wednesday.

“We know rugby was sick a long time before the coronavirus came along … Rugby has been sick for years.

“People have been calling for change and it hasn’t occurred, and yet the same people who have taken it off the cliff are still there, still employed.

“There’s no knowledge about what actually is going on … Everybody has been kept in the dark at the moment.”

The Wallabies were knocked out by England during the 2019 Rugby World Cup quarterfinal.Source:Getty Images

New Zealand sports reporter Scotty Stevenson defended Castle, tweeting on Friday, “She inherited a mess, has had to steer the ship through an even bigger mess.”

RA reportedly rejected a $20 million-per-year offer from Foxtel for broadcast rights, the proposal being $37 million a year less than the current deal.

The infamous Israel Folau ordeal also resulted in RA handing over an unconfirmed amount to the disgraced Wallaby in an out-of-court settlement – however, The Daily Telegraph reported in December the sum was approximately $8 million.

Australia slipped to their lowest position in history on the World Rugby rankings last year, at one stage dropping below minnows Japan. National coach Michael Cheika was axed following the Wallabies’ quarterfinal World Cup exit.

The Super Rugby season, the Super W competition and all community rugby have been suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

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