The truth and the sacking of McGrath

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

Here’s the thing. Someone wasn’t being upfront and that definitely was not the sacked coach of the Manu Samoa Sevens, Damian McGrath.

 You see folks; it is embarrassing enough to be sacked especially for someone who held such a high profile position like McGrath. But it’s quite another when your employers make up excuses that skirt around the truth about what really happened.

That’s precisely how the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U) handled the sacking of the former Manu Samoa Sevens coach, whom the Canadian Rugby Union has only been too happy to snap up. 

And now the Union’s “funny old ways” have once again been exposed ever so publically so that we really must ask the question of what these people are thinking. Worst still, did they really think everyone is an “idiot” who would be fooled so easily? 

Get this. Some time ago, the Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Rugby Union (S.R.U), Faleomavaega Vincent Fepulea’i, defended the Union’s decision. Speaking on the Tala o Ta’aloga programme, Faleomavaega said the decision to let go of McGrath and his management followed a review undertaken by an independent panel.

Fair enough. 

The C.E.O went to say that the outcome of the review based on the team’s performance was a major factor when the Board of the Union – chaired by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi – made the decision.

During the interview with Tala o Ta’aloga, Faleomavaega said the decision was strictly based on results. He explained that for every coach, there is a process to follow at the end of every season, which involves a review that considers results.

The same process was applied to McGrath. Asked if the Union has not learnt anything from over the years where they have sacked many Sevens coaches, Faleomavaega said results matter and that’s what decisions are based upon.

Again, fair enough. It sounds like the conditions of any other employment contract, which we are all very familiar with.

Last week, the Chairman and Prime Minister Tuilaepa added his piece. He said McGrath failed in his mission to coach Samoa to the Olympics in Rio and that’s why he received the boot. He said the S.R.U Board has guidelines to follow when it comes to the assessment of the coach’s performance.

 “The ultimate goal for the coach was to secure a spot in the (Rio 2016) Olympics and that did not happen so the Board thought his work was of no use anymore,” Tuilaepa said.

Tuilaepa said the decision should also be a warning to future coaches.

“It’s good that people are seeing this so that they know when one fails they get terminated rather than keeping them on when they are not succeeding,” Tuilaepa said. “Once they do not achieve the goals set for them, the axe falls on them.”

Keep in mind that while all this was being said, McGrath had stayed relatively quiet. Since he has initiated legal action against the Union for the way he has been sacked, McGrath has been saying nothing at all. 

That was until last weekend when he finally broke his silence during a heartfelt interview with the Weekend Observer. As if that wasn’t enough, McGrath then issued a detailed press statement telling his side of the story. It’s worth revisiting.

“Despite numerous attempts to contact the Samoan Rugby Union (S.R.U) I have still had no official response as to the reasons for my dismissal from the post of Samoa 7’s Coach,” he said. “However, during that time, there have been no shortage of public comments to the media by S.R.U personnel giving differing reasons for my removal. Despite being requested to desist by my solicitor, the slurs on my professional reputation have continued.” 

“These attempts to defame my character cannot go unchallenged. I feel I have no choice but to answer the points made. It is interesting to note that no other member of the coaching staff has undertaken any kind of review apart from me.”

 “One of the main reasons given by the C.E.O and the Chairman of the Board were the findings of a review undertaken by an independent panel. The results of this review, which my legal team has in their possession, make for interesting reading. “The Review is very supportive of me as the Head Coach and after outlining their meticulous work they published their “Findings and Recommendations. I have copied them below." 

Findings:

After having regard to all the available information the panel has come to the following findings:

1. Damian McGrath, Head Coach of Manu Samoa Sevens has satisfactorily met and in some cases exceeded the performance required of him under his contract with S.R.U

2. Damian McGrath has displayed that he is able to undertake the role of Head Coach of the Manu Samoa Sevens with skill, expertise and commitment and has assisted the S.R.U in progress towards achieving its strategic goal of ‘ Winning International Competitions’ particularly illustrated by the successful Cup winning performance in the Paris Sevens Tournament

3. That Manu Samoa Sevens are making clear and quantifiable progress towards the S.R.U’s overall goals for improvements in the International standing of its teams and the sevens have progressed from 10th in 2015 to 9thin 2016;

4. That the failure to qualify for the Olympics whilst disappointing for the team and the country, remains a future goal which money and better resources will make more viable.

Recommendations

Accordingly the Review Panel recommends:

1. That Damian McGrath continue his contract as Head Coach of the Manu Samoa Sevens and a further review be undertaken prior to the completion of his contract in August 2017

2. That the Head Coach recommend the appointment of the following positions for the 2016/17 sevens series:

• Assistant Coach

• Manager

• Physiotherapist

• Other staff

After discussion with the General Manager and the C.E.O (in respect of available resources) and also consider the need to encourage local counterparts for all positions;

3.  That new K.R.A and KPI are agreed by the S.R.U and the Head Coach prior to the commencement of the 2016/2017 Sevens World Series

4. That the Head Coach be commended for the development of Manu Samoa Sevens Rugby to date and be encouraged to improve every aspect of its performance over the next twelve months.

By the way, this is only a small part of a comprehensive review, which apparently heavily favours the sacked coach. It would certainly be interesting to get a full copy of this review.

In the meantime, McGrath also addressed claims by Tuilaepa about the team’s failure to qualify for Rio.

“At no time was this a condition of my contract,” said McGrath. “The only time it is mentioned is in March 2016 when I was presented with a bonus structure with the last 3 legs and Olympic qualification included.”  

“I would at no time have accepted the job if such a condition had been included.  To be given such a short lead in time, minimum resources and no strategic plan meant it was always going to be a tall order to qualify at such a late stage.”

Well there you have it ladies and gentlemen, whom do you believe?

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