'Nobody turns up': Peter FitzSimons publicly calls out Wallabies greats

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, former Wallabies player and media identity Peter FitzSimons.
Peter FitzSimons took aim at a group of disgruntled former Wallabies captains. Pic: Channel Nine

Peter FitzSimons has challenged a number of prominent former Wallabies captains to match their hard-hitting words with meaningful actions.

FitzSimons, who is a former Wallabies player himself, took exception to a letter signed by 10 former Wallabies captains calling for drastic changes to the Rugby Australia board.

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Led by 1991 World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones, the captains are proposing the establishment of an Australian Rugby Review board to dissect the next governance model as well as every other aspect of the game.

The extraordinary letter preceded the sudden resignation of Raelene Castle, however, it's not understood to be the reason why the former CEO quit her post.

The Sydney Morning Herald claims the catalyst for Castle's resignation came after she became aware of moves within the RA board to remove her, despite being assured that she had their backing.

It followed the extraordinary vote of no confidence in her and the RA board by the 10 former captains, which FitzSimons says lacked any clear solutions to the crisis facing Australian rugby.

Speaking on Channel Nine's Sports Sunday, FitzSimons challenged the group to offer answers, rather than simply outlining problems.

“I want to say to those 10 captains, who are my friends … they’re in it for rugby, OK, so there is a good spirit behind them and they’re doing what they think is the best for rugby,” FitzSimons said.

“But I’ve got to say to you blokes, there’s a space right here for one of you to talk on a Sunday morning, to argue your case.

"If you’ve got the solutions, if you know better than the current board what to do, love to hear it.

“We asked you, nobody turns up.

“Tell us your case. We need to hear it.”

Several prominent former Wallabies captains such as Tim Horan, John Eales and Andrew Slack declined to put their signatures on the letter calling for RA's board to be overhauled.

In an article for The Courier Mail, Slack explained his reasons for not signing it, agreeing with FitzSimons that a clear vision needed to be presented, not just criticism.

“Among those who signed are some who have done absolutely zero for the code since they were the feted ones showing off their talents on the field and getting nicely recompensed for their efforts,” Slack wrote.

“I have no issue with that. We all make our choices as to how we spend our time once retired from the game, and it does not deny the right to have an opinion, but it does make it less easy to accept their legitimacy for a ticket on this Captain’s Bandwagon.”

Wallabies greats propose rugby review board

Stirling Mortlock, one of the other ex-Wallabies captains who signed the letter, acknowledged the group of captains - which also includes George Gregan, George Smith, Simon Poidevin, Stephen Moore, Jason Little, Rod McCall, Nathan Sharpe and Phil Kearns - didn't have all the answers.

But they share a collective burning desire to find the solution through the creation of the Australian Rugby Review board.

It's understood the independently chaired think-tank panel would consist of delegates from all stakeholders in Australian rugby.

"So it will be quite a big board but they will be tasked with overhauling both the governance structure and every facet of the game," said Mortlock, who rejected the notion that Farr-Jones was the orchestrator behind the captains' call to overthrow Castle.

Seen here, former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock was among those to call for change at Rugby Australia.
Former Wallabies skipper Stirling Mortlock says change was needed at Rugby Australia some time ago. Pic: Getty

"The reality is there's been a lot of us talking behind the scenes for a long period of time.

"I think we all have a view on some forms of the solution but this is not about (immediate) solutions.

"It's about empowering fresh thinking from all the member unions and all the stakeholders to basically use this as an opportunity to get it right."

Mortlock said now was not the time to play the blame game for Australian rugby's disconnection with fans and the Wallabies' slide to seventh in the world rankings, but rather a chance to move forward and repair the damage.

He said it would be cruel to single out Castle for criticism.

"This is not a witch hunt, this is not about individuals," he said.

"It's about transformational change that we can put into our game for the greater good and making rugby great again in Australia."

with AAP