Phil Kearns Just Sealed His Fate… Hopefully

Image of Phil Kearns

Phil Kearns, you know… The monotonous, one-eyed, bleeds blue commentator we’ve been subjected to for the last 15 or so years? Unless you’re from NSW (and even if you are) I’m sure you’ve noticed it too.

It’s no secret that Mr Kearns has been after the Rugby Australia CEO job ever since being overlooked in 2017. It’s been reported that he finished in second place behind castle after he interviewed poorly for the role. While Castle was subject to 7 interviews improving each time to beat out Kearns fair and square. What hasn’t been reported is that there were two additional candidates early in the process who were preferred over Kearns. They were dismissed because of their unwillingness (or inability) to relocate full-time to Sydney. 4the place isn’t bad I guess?

In all this, the irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone. A man who finished 4th in a race for RA’s CEO has spent the better part of the last 2.5 years complaining about the mediocrity of the administration. Last time I checked, 4th place while certainly, commendable is in fact mediocre.

Last week he co-signed a letter to Rugby Australia demanding change at the top. Along with Stephen Moore, Nick Farr-Jones, George Smith, Rod McCall, Michael Lynagh (who has since removed his name), Stirling Mortlock, George Gregan, Simon Poidevin, Jason Little and Nathan Sharpe. The “former Wallaby captain’s” letter largely outlines everything they’re unhappy with but offers no real solutions. Additionally, the letter only addresses the Wallabies. It doesn’t make mention of the under 20s program, the NRC, Super Rugby, Australian 7s or women’s rugby. All of which RA is a key stakeholder.

The contents of the letter outline that those writing it are not equipped to run the organisation. Their inability to see beyond the Wallabies shows that, let alone the lack of solutions offered in the letter.

Never the less, the captains got what they wanted. Raelene Castle has stepped down from the role as CEO and the search for an interim CEO has begun. But I’ll ask you this question. What have the individuals above done for the game since retiring? They were all fantastic footballers and I enjoyed many hours watching them play. But, what have they done for the game since finishing their playing days?

Let’s start with Rod McCall. The only member of the group to have maintained a deep connection with the game. Rising to the ranks of QRU chairman in 2009 only to leave the organisation in 2015 with a $2.1 million deficit.

What about George Gregan? We see him all the time on the TV. A job he was offered largely because of his success as a footballer. Mr Gregan was asked to present the 1st XV jerseys at his old high school. St Edmunds College in Canberra. After agreeing and presenting the jerseys he then sent the school an invoice for his time. A source within the school reveals that the invoice remains unpaid.

What about the others? Have you seen Farr-Jones, Moore, Smith, Poidevin, Little or Sharpe attend a game without being paid to be part of a panel? Or, purchase a membership? Or volunteer to coach their junior or senior club?

You see there’s nothing wrong with stepping away from the game completely once finished playing. There’s also nothing wrong with ex-players wanting to be part of the solution to help the game (especially former Wallaby captains). But don’t complain about the state of the game when you haven’t shown a willingness to support it unless there’s something in it for you. Even in this case, where they had a real opportunity to be part of fixing the game. The payoff for them is to get Phil Kearns into the CEO’s seat.

The board now needs to ask themselves. Is this the type of individual we want running our game? A man who has used his platform to insult the administration and co-signed a letter that didn’t show any critical thinking, provide any real feedback to the organization or present any solutions to the challenges the game is currently facing.

We have an opportunity to rebuild the game from the ground up. In order to do that we need out of the box solutions and new perspectives. These may come from consulting the current and former playing groups and is an important part of the process. But we’d be doing the game a disservice if we didn’t cast the net far and wide to see what kinds of minds are out there to help.

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