Alarming new information has come to light about the ordeal Raelene Castle faced before last week stepping down as Rugby Australia CEO.
RA chairman Paul McLean staunchly backed Castle after the bombshell announcement, revealing she copped abhorrent bullying from "faceless people" during nearly three years in the job.
'CAN'T HAVE A WOMAN': Peter FitzSimons' ugly claims in Raelene Castle resignation
‘STAND ASIDE’: Former Wallabies' bombshell letter to Rugby Australia
However, it has now been revealed that Castle was the subject of a death threat from a supporter of Israel Folau, during the height of the ugly dispute between the former Wallabies star and Rugby Australia.
Folau was sacked by RA for his anti-gay religious post on social media, before eventually receiving a payout after a prolonged legal battle.
Citing sources close to Rugby Australia, The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that Castle received a death threat during Folau's code of conduct hearing last May.
The report goes on to say that the threat was taken so seriously that security had to be beefed up at RA headquarters and reviewed at Castle's home.
It was also reportedly feared at the time that the individual behind the threat "would try to make their way into RA headquarters".
As the face of RA, Castle copped a torrent of abuse and criticism over the Folau controversy - a saga in which Courier Mail journalist Jim Tucker asserts she "never recovered" from.
Castle's interim replacement at RA described her as someone who would run through broken glass for the organisation and that it was the criticism most did not see that lead to her decision to quit.
"Criticism is easy, being cynical is easy, but decision making is tough," McLean said.
"She was able to do that and do that with some clarity.
"She would run through broken glass to get things done, and she has done that."
Castle's handling of the Israel Folau settlement and her rejection of Fox Sports' initial broadcast deal beyond this season were a source of criticism from some quarters, while the code's financial plight has been laid bare by the coronavirus pandemic.
A group of 11 former Wallabies captains wrote to RA earlier this week demanding administrative change, while long-time critic Alan Jones doubled down on Friday morning.
"She knows nothing about the game," the former Wallabies coach turned broadcaster said on 2GB.
"It's like putting someone to become the first violinist in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who can't read music."
McLean said it was not the media criticism that stung though.
"It's the silent forces, the dark forces that upset me most," he said.
"It's the people who didn't ask, didn't know the facts or just one of those faceless people out there that was the damaging thing from her perspective and she shared some of that with me, which I found quite abhorrent.
"(If not for the) unwarranted criticism and, in fact, bullying, I think it might have been a different scenario."
McLean insisted most people in Castle's position would "have thrown in the towel ages ago" but that inevitably her departure had become the clear way forward.
He dismissed the impact of the former captains' letter, saying they could easily align with recovery efforts that were already underway.
"I've had numerous conversations with Nick Farr-Jones and, let's be clear here, it's a very small collective of (those) people who have been involved in the game of late," McLean said.
"The significance of that group is probably the people that aren't on the list."
Newly installed board member Peter Wiggs, fellow director and former Wallaby Daniel Herbert, and Phil Kearns - one of the ex-captains to put their name to the letter - are among those being touted to replace Castle.
Members of rugby community accused of sexism during Castle’s reign
Peter FitzSimons claims that part of the vitriol aimed at Castle is simply because she’s a woman.
Discussing Castle’s resignation on ABC News on Friday, FitzSimons said Castle was held to an unfairly higher standard because she’s a woman.
“There has been a lot of commentary to the effect that if she'd gone do Riverview and had captained the first 15 in 1978 she would have been one of them,” FitzSimons said in referrence to the ‘old boys’ club in the rugby community.
“From the moment she took over, there were serious people in the rugby community saying, ‘We can't have a woman in charge.’ There's no doubt about that.
“I go back to, for all the criticism of her, I'm not aware of a terribly wrong move that she made.
“She didn't turn rugby around [but] it's not the fault of Raelene Castle.
“We don't know who's going to take over now. But, for me, it isn't going to be a quick-fire solution. There will be a long time slowly building up again.”
Former Wallaby @Peter_Fitz says Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle shouldn't have gone in the manner she did.— News Breakfast (@BreakfastNews) April 23, 2020
And he's questioned a letter written by former Wallaby captains that criticised the governing body.
"It was very long on complaint, and very short on actual solutions." pic.twitter.com/lBe3k8wsS7
Alan Jones refutes claims of sexism against Castle
However one of Castle’s fiercest critics smacked down that theory on Friday.
After taking a scathing parting shot at the outgoing CEO, Alan Jones said Castle’s gender has nothing to do with it.
“It is insulting to say this is a matter of gender,” Jones said on 2GB Radio.
“It’s got nothing to do with Raelene Castle being a woman. It is totally related to the results and the effectiveness of the performance.”
Jones instead said Castle should never have been appointed in the first place because she simply ‘knows nothing about the game’,
“It’s an appointment that shouldn’t have been made,” Jones said.
“She knows nothing about the game. It’s like putting someone to become the first violinist in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra who can’t read music.”