Finegan: Dynamic duo may reunite once more

by Owen Finegan

With all the turbulence in the nation’s capital. Five Prime Ministers in the last five years and an upcoming election I am hoping the next five years at Brumbies Rugby is smooth sailing.

Joe Roff and Stephen Larkham wowed the fans and community of Canberra for almost a decade as rugby players. Is this the dynamic duo what Brumbies Rugby need to get back on track?

For the off field staff at the Brumbies, outside the coaching and playing roster, this leadership battle between the board and CEO would have been an unwelcome distraction, a real period of uncertainty, low morale and interrupted leadership.

A nightmare for any media and communications manager with the constant negativity, bad press and social media coverage. Equally frustrating for a marketing team that would be trying to promote the game and a Brumbies team still in contention for top of the Australian conference.Michael Jones will stay at the Brumbies helm for a little bit longer. Photo:Getty ImagesThe commercial team would have been overwhelmed with correspondence keeping current and potential sponsors updated and business development would have been extremely difficult.

Even the community rugby team would have their own difficulties at a grass roots level. There was even division at the Canberra club level with two separate special meetings being held by participating ACT clubs in two separate location across the capital.

The finance team will also now be reeling after the warring parties have parted ways and they look to stem the recent financial losses. The sentiment in the community in my last trip to GIO Stadium was negative with the majority of conversation revolving around the off field performance and strained relationships with key stakeholders.

Right or wrong a decision has now been made by the Brumbies board and the challenge is for the Brumbies board to recruit a new CEO that can put the recent turmoil behind them and lead Australia's most successful Super Rugby team both on and off the field.

After 13 years with the Brumbies I have an intimate understanding of the passionate Brumbies fans. They may have lost a bit of faith in the executive but their support of the team on the field would be unwavering. This is evident in the growth in attendance at this year’s games.Fans feel it most. Photo: ARU Media Stuart WarmsleyThere is a strong tribalism at the Brumbies. Every time I attend a game in Canberra I bump into these faithful supporters and they love their team. There is a strong local rugby supporter base and the regional NSW areas continue their long-time fond connection with their Brumbies. 

I have already commented that I believe Stephen Larkham is a future Wallaby coach in waiting and he has injected a more positive and entertaining style of rugby than his predecessor Jake White. Joe Roff has been touted as a potential option as the new Brumbies CEO.

Joe's playing record gives him a firsthand understanding of what is required on the field by the players and what his good mate Stephen and his coaching, training and medical team needs in term of a high performance environment.Joe Roff during his time at Oxford University. Photo: AFPJoe's education, business acumen and time on the Brumbies board allows him to understand the strategic goals and direction of Brumbies Rugby, the divided Canberra rugby community, the difficult domestic sporting environment in which they operate, what the organisation actually requires and expect from their new CEO.

Strong leadership, motivating what I believe would be a pretty deflated back office team, communicating more transparently and re-engaging Canberra's passionate tribe needs to start immediately with the interim management team and then be continued by the new CEO.

Although I believe Joe Roff is a very suitable candidate with all the background and recent issues it is also necessary for the Brumbies to go through a diligent process to see who is available for the role and best suited to what will be a challenging transformation.

Some senior players were also recently dragged into the crossfire and the whole squad would be happy a decision has been finalised and they can just get on with their rugby. Brumbies love a challenge.

In what has been a tough season this talented group of rugby players will continue to do their bit and a season defining challenge looms over the next two weekends against the Bulls at home this weekend and in a fortnight when the Brumbies take on current Australian conference leaders the Rebels in Melbourne. Go the Brumbies!

A former Captain of the ACT Brumbies, Owen Finegan played 90 matches for the Brumbies and 56 Tests for the Wallabies. He is currently the CEO of The Kids' Cancer Project Australia.

The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the ARU.