Richard Graham has lost one of his biggest backers at Ballymore with Queensland Rugby Union chairman Rod McCall officially stepping down from the role with immediate effect.
The Super Rugby club say McCall, who was appointed in 2009, made the decision for personal reasons, but it was reportedly prompted by a longstanding neck injury stemming from the former Wallaby’s playing days.
QRU board member Damien Frawley, an ex-Queensland and Australia second-rower, is the new chairman.
“It has been a privilege to have played a part in helping Rugby in Queensland grow in all areas since late 2009, however I feel now is the right time to hand over to Damien, who will provide excellent leadership to the organisation, given his background in business and sport,” McCall said in a statement issued on Thursday morning.
McCall’s support was perhaps the major reason why Graham was re-appointed as Reds coach for this season, despite coming off a four-win year in Super Rugby and with a woeful 28 per cent winning percentage in the competition.
The blowtorch has always been on Graham due to an undercurrent of fan discontent, but without McCall in the boardroom, a bad start to the season for Queensland could prove fatal to his career.
Graham, whose Reds face the Waratahs in Saturday night’s season opener, admitted he felt under pressure – but not moreso than any other coach.
“It’s the nature of sport. The chairman quits, I’m under pressure,” he said.
“The reality is every coach (in) every game in Super Rugby is under pressure.
“For me, there was an independent review eight months ago, I probably haven’t thought about it since then.
“I can control 15 staff, 40 players and you get on with it, do your best.”