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The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) is on the brink of civil war with Queensland accusing New South Wales of an underhanded, “gutless” board-room betrayal.

Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) chairman Peter Lewis has launched an explosive attack on senior ARU and New South Wales Rugby Union (NSWRU) officials for the Thursday dumping of Queensland director Terry Jackman from the ARU board.

According to the Australian Associated Press (AAP), an irate Lewis claimed fellow directors “assassinated” reformer Jackman in a “kangaroo court” ambush to ensure Canberra-based director Peter McGrath won the vacant ARU chairmanship.

He also laid blame at the feet of a NSW faction and was upset by chairman Arvid Petersen allegedly reneging on an interstate deal which originally saw Queensland support him to be ARU chairman.
An offended Petersen fired back by describing the claims as “simply ridiculous” while seething ARU heavyweights were meeting in Canberra tonight to decide on a response.

The ARU vote has been postponed for three weeks after the QRU refused to replace Jackman, reportedly punished for leaking information about the board’s decision to axe chief executive Gary Flowers last week.

Flowers had denied he had been tapped on the shoulder while outgoing chairman Ron Graham refused to comment on board moves.

The nine-man board, needing to replace Flowers, now only numbers six active directors with Queensland needing to name two nominees after a second director, David Usasz, resigned yesterday.

The QRU board last month held a vote of no-confidence in Usasz who, at the time, refused to budge from the ARU board.

Jackman, handpicked and injected as a board headkicker by Lewis 12 months ago, last night vowed to continue his push for reform in the troubled code.

He said his support for friend and former ARU supremo John O’Neill to return and lift the game out of the mire had seen him ostracised.

“They (the ARU board) are terrified of change,” Jackman said.

“I’ve received more than 100 calls, including many from ex-Wallabies and people I don’t know saying ‘you’ve got to stay, you’ve got to get things sorted out’.

“I’m going to fight to improve rugby from the outside and that suits me.”

Jackman described his punishment for speaking with a Sydney-based journalist and confirming details the reporter already knew was “like capital punishment for a driving offence”.

Lewis saw Thursday’s vote of no-confidence in the director as a ploy to give McGrath the board-room numbers.

“This campaign was orchestrated, I believe, to ensure that Peter McGrath becomes the chairman of the ARU,” he said.

“(Thursday) was a remarkable ambush with no notice to Queensland. Terry was hijacked and ambushed at the meeting where it was like a kangaroo court.

“It was extraordinary behaviour and gutless in my view.”

Lewis apportioned blame to three factions, led by the “NSW Right Wing” – containing Graham and fellow board member Mike Brown – which is vehemently opposed to O’Neill.

“To half these people he (O’Neill) is Hitler’s child,” said Lewis, who added NSW needed to get its act together.

“They have a very poor constitution that seems to reward failure and lack of success.

Petersen slammed Lewis’ claims and denied NSW reneged on an agreement with Queensland to support each other’s delegates.

“Historically we have supported member union nominations but it’s a whole new ball game when an eight-man independent ARU Board passes a vote of no-confidence against a director,” he said.

“This is not about deals; its about good, strong governance.”

AAP

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