Jones: Nine blunders that ruined rugby
Passionate Israel Folau supporter Alan Jones has slammed Rugby Australia (RA) for its handling of the cross code superstar's saga and also hit out at the governing body's failings in a host of other areas.
Broadcaster Jones, who coached the Wallabies in the 1980s, was scathing of RA CEO Raelene Castle and outgoing chairman Cameron Clyne for taking the game to the brink of oblivion with a series of poor decisions.
At various times throughout the Folau ordeal, which was finalised on Wednesday when the 30-year-old and RA agreed to a confidential settlement after the fullback filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination when he was sacked for saying on Instagram "hell awaits" gay people, Jones has been highly critical of Castle.
She has been in the top job for nearly two years and Jones wrote in a column for The Australian that "the lady is surely delusional" if she intends to steer the ship for the next four years to complete a "strategic overhaul" of a sport that's in crisis.
Jones also took a swipe at Castle over her time as CEO of NRL club Canterbury, accusing her of being responsible for "ludicrous back-ended contracts" that crippled the club's salary cap, and again took aim at her treatment of Folau.
Jones wants the current administration gone, and highlighted nine core issues he believes show exactly where rugby's top decision makers have gone wrong. These mistakes include:
- SPENDING a reported $1.8 million to recruit Melbourne Storm rugby league winger Suliasi Vunivalu to the 15-a-side game;
- OVERVALUING what the sport's broadcasting rights are worth and threatening a loss of millions of dollars with the next TV deal;
- HAVING a board nominations and appointments process that ignores grassroots rugby and instead caters only to the elite;
- HIRING New Zealander Dave Rennie as the next Wallabies coach to take over from Michael Cheika, despite the Kiwi's involvement in the Chiefs' Mad Monday controversy in 2016;
- PLACING an over-reliance on New Zealand's rugby influence to the detriment of the development of homegrown coaches whose opportunities are limited in Australia;
- ALLOWING Director of Rugby Scott Johnson to be involved in team selection and appointing coaches when he should instead be focused on coach and player development;
- NOT ALLOWING Australians playing overseas to represent the Wallabies unless they have played at least 60 Tests and served Down Under for seven years;
- CLINGING to Super Rugby when RA should instead be focused on bringing back fans by developing a national competition where games are played in prime time; and
- NOT DOING enough to ensure the best young rugby talent is kept in the sport rather than lost to rugby league.
Jones accused Rugby Australia of "behaving like a second-tier rugby country with no World Cup pedigree", but Castle is determined to see the sport through the stormy seas ahead.
Despite settling, Castle said RA made the right call in sacking Folau in April for his religiously-motivated but inflammatory anti-gay social media posts.
"We made the right decision in calling out Israel on his posts and inappropriate messaging, that remains the same," she said.
"We stuck to our values that inclusiveness is core to the key of rugby.
"Taking this conversation further into a court situation was not helping the game and so we made a decision that gave us cost certainty that put us in the best financial situation in entering the new year in a positive way."
Castle said she felt she was still the right person to lead RA, and backed the way she and the board had handled the Folau matter.
"I do because at the end of the day this has been very difficult - there's not a business leader that leads an organisation that I've spoken to that hasn't looked at this situation and gone, this is a very difficult thing," Castle said.
"Ultimately we've had extensive support from the rugby community and also from the wider business community."