Queensland Reds Super Rugby franchise the Reds have released head coach Richard Graham from his contract with immediate effect.
Graham, who was head coach for the past three seasons, will be replaced by co-interim head coaches Matt O’Connor and Nick Stiles.
Stiles has been the Reds’ forwards coach since 2014 and also led Brisbane City as head coach to back-to-back titles in the National Rugby Championship.
O’Connor joined the Reds as attack coach ahead of the 2016 season after spending the last seven years coaching in Europe, most recently as head coach of European Cup semi-finalists Leinster.
The QRU have confirmed that they will start a worldwide process to appoint a head coach for the 2017 Super Rugby season and they expect this to take up to 120 days once they formally go to market.
QRU Chairman Damien Frawley said: “I’d like to thank Richard for his contribution over the past number of years. Richard is a proud Queenslander who has spent his life in Rugby and while he hasn’t achieved the success we all would have wished for during his time as head coach, he leaves with our gratitude for his service to the game.
“QRU conducted a high-performance review in the middle of last year and as a result implemented significant change across our Rugby department. At that time the Board made the decision to reappoint Richard as head coach for a year, but we always said there would be periods within the 2016 Super Rugby season where we would take stock of how the team was performing.
“We believe, through our high-performance review process, we have implemented the necessary changes to support both interim head coaches during the 2016 season and whoever takes on the head coach role in 2017.”
QRU CEO Jim Carmichael said: “Richard’s loyalty to the organisation is beyond question and we thank him for all he has done during a difficult time for the Reds.
“He has helped identify, develop and nurture many future stars of the Reds which fans will come to know and love in time as this young side reaches the potential we know it possesses.
“As he has done through his time at QRU, Richard handled this difficult decision with characteristic humility and stoicism.”
Graham said: “I’m naturally disappointed. I loved my role with the Reds and enjoyed my time with the QRU. I am in a high-performance environment and the results haven’t been to a satisfactory standard. I have to accept that and move on.
“I wish everybody the best and want to formally thank the competent and dedicated support staff I have worked with over the last three years for their tireless efforts.
“I really hope the team and Reds coaching staff have success going forward.”
Reds captain James Slipper said: “It’s disappointing it has to end like this for someone who cares so much about the place. Richard has always had the best interests of the players and the team in mind and we’ve always had respect for him and the genuine care he has for the Reds and Queensland Rugby.”