Test centurion Sharpe part of Wallabies review panel

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Ex-Wallaby Nathan Sharpe and former Cricket Australia executive Pat Howard will form part of the panel charged with reviewing the 2019 Wallabies season.

Sharpe, Howard and four-time Olympic rower Bo Hanson will work alongside Rugby AU director of rugby Scott Johnson to unpack all elements of the international program.

In a letter sent to stakeholders on Wednesday, obtained by RUGBY.com.au, Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle confirmed that this panel would not be involved in the selection of a new Wallabies coach, after Michael Cheika's resignation last month. 

Castle confirmed in the letter that the appointment would be made by the end of 2019 and that work had already been done to investigate candidates who could fit in the new high performance structure headed by Johnson.

When Cheika announced his resignation, he voiced his frustration with the newly-implemented structure saying that he preferred to be in control of all aspects of his team's workings.

Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle says work has already been done to find the best candidate for the Wallabies job. Photo: Getty ImagesIt is expected an appointment would be made by December 20, when Rugby AU's offices close for the end of year break.

The selection of the review panel was done with a view to garnering independent voices.

Test centurion Sharpe retired from international rugby in 2012 but has stayed closely linked to the game and has worked in the media in recent years.

Howard is a former Wallaby who has transitioned into a long-term career as a high performance administrator, having worked at Cricket Australia for seven years before being moved on last year.

Hanson is the lesser-known of the trio from a public point of view but is well-respected within the sporting industry.

A three-time Olympic medallist, Hanson has moved into the corporate sphere as a consultant on leadership in sport in business.

The group will interview all 2019 Wallabies players and staff members with the view to recommending steps forward in all realms of the program, ranging from coaching and planning to the selection process.

This is a continuation of a review process conducted in 2018, that saw the introduction of a three-person Wallabies selection panel, a greater integration of programs from Wallabies to Super Rugby and the establishment of clearer representative pathways.

Rugby Australia did not specify a timeline for the review in its statement, but its recommendations are expected to be made public once it concludes.

Pat Howard spent seven years at Cricket Australia. Photo: Getty Images"Twelve months ago Rugby Australia completed a restructure of its High Performance environment and whilst we’ve made significant progress in a number of areas, the new structure is only in its early stages and still needs time to bed-in completely and show long-term results," Castle said in a statement.

“The review of the recently-completed Wallabies season will be led by a three-member panel who combined will offer significant expertise and experience from both within and outside the sport, and from both an on and off-field perspective.

“Pat Howard has experienced rugby at the highest levels as a player, coach, and High Performance leader both in Australia and overseas, and will also bring extensive learnings from his time at Cricket Australia, having completed dozens of post-campaign reviews.

“Bo Hanson is one of the country’s leading high performance experts and has led similar review processes across several sports, including Rugby, over the past two decades.

“Nathan Sharpe is one of the most accomplished players in the history of our game and was universally-respected as a player and an on-field leader. He brings recent experience in the Wallabies program having retired from international Rugby in the past seven years and has maintained a close involvement with the game through his role with Network Ten.

“Having these three individuals leading the process will provide a well-rounded perspective on the Wallabies program and enable us to take forward any key learnings for delivery into the major tournament preparations of all of our national teams over the next four-year cycle.”