In the wake of a disappointing and gut-wrenching last second loss at home to the New Zealand All Blacks and a fortnight of intense scrutiny, Ewen McKenzie has announced his retirement as head coach of the Australian Rugby Union team.
In an emotional post-match press conference for the Wallabies organisation, McKenzie explained that he had sent a letter to CEO Bill Pulver, stating his resignation from the national side on Saturday morning.
“I’ve written to the board that I’ve been unhappy with a bunch of things, the easiest thing was to exit stage left and I’ll leave you guys to ponder, speculate. I’ll write a chapter in my book and you’ll know all about it,” McKenzie announced.
“I’ve only just told the team … it’s been a disappointing time for many reasons, I’m not going to go into the detail,” McKenzie commented.
Pulver, who described the treatment of McKenzie by the media over the last fortnight as ‘character assassination’, explained during the press conference that he spoke with McKenzie soon after receiving the letter and that he tried to talk him out of his decision.
“Despite clarification around the circumstances, the attack on Ewen was relentless and essentially left him with the view that he couldn’t continue in the role because it was just too far back to achieve the level of support from the playing group and his support staff that he needed to be an effective Wallaby coach,” Pulver explained.
Clearly disgusted with the ridicule McKenzie has received on his management skills, particularly in the last two weeks after an altercation between Kurtly Beale and Wallabies business manager Di Patston, Pulver reflected respectfully on McKenzie’s ability as a coach and qualities as professional, leader and as a person.
“We have quite a challenge on our hands, the squad leaves for the Spring Tour on Friday and we are without a head coach, so we will fairly urgently review the options available.
“When considering the criteria for selection if you like, we clearly want someone who is capable of leading the Wallabies to a winning world cup,” Pulver outlined.
McKenzie, who began his international represntation as a player (1990-97) and continued into coaching as an assistant to Rod Macqueen in 2000 and later to Eddie Jones who won two Tri-Nations trophies and a series against the British and Irish Lions in 2001, leaves the role with a record of:
Played 22 – Won 11 – Drawn 1 – Lost 10
Sadly, the record can be the sole indicator for most people on the ‘success’ during a coaches tenure, but McKenzie seems to have fallen victim to more off-field pressure and drama than on. A coach who is regarded highly by Australian Rugby identities, players and fans just seems fed-up with the politics of doing his job.
The Wallabies leave for their Spring Tour on Friday and look to fill McKenzie’s position by this time.