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Andrew Fagan is leaving the Brumbies top job with no regrets

It cost him a friendship but Andrew Fagan is happy with his work at the helm of the club, Chris Dutton writes.

Departing ACT Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan will meet with NRL head of football Todd Greenberg next week as he explores opportunities in rugby league, rugby union and Olympic sports.

Fagan finishes his 12-year tenure at the Brumbies on Friday, quitting the last year of his contract to pursue a new challenge in Sydney.

In his departing interview as chief executive, Fagan said:

■ Sacking coach Andy Friend early in the 2011 season was the right decision, but the toughest of his career.

■ The death of player Shawn Mackay in 2009 would haunt him forever.

■ Coach Jake White's stint was an ''undeniable success'', despite the South African quitting with two years left of his contract.


■ The club would be defunct and broke had it not been for its on-field success from 2000 to 2004.

■ The Brumbies' move to the University of Canberra and sale of their Griffith headquarters would help set the club up for the next 40 years.

The future

Fagan has spent more than a decade with the Brumbies, starting as general manager before taking over as chief executive in 2005.

It's understood Fagan has been contacted about potential jobs in the NRL and union as well as opportunities with Olympic sports.

He was a strong candidate to take charge of NRL club the Canterbury Bulldogs this year, before they appointed Raelene Castle.

''I'm exploring a number of opportunities, some that I haven't been able to pursue properly because I've been at the Brumbies and some that have been presented in recent weeks,'' Fagan said.

''I've worked in professional sport for 22 years. It's what I do and I want to continue doing that.''

Fagan will meet with good friend and former Bulldogs boss Greenberg in Sydney next week, although Fagan said they hadn't spoken about future employment.

''Hopefully I can take six to eight weeks off first and then commence something in the new year. There are some exciting opportunities that I'm looking forward to.''

Andy Friend

The Brumbies hit their lowest point in 2011 when they sacked coach Andy Friend after just two games of the season.

It triggered the worst campaign in the club's history and Fagan, who recommended to the board that Friend be sacked, copped the brunt of criticism.

It was one of the most controversial rugby decisions of Fagan's tenure. Fagan and Friend haven't spoken since.

''It was just the right decision,'' Fagan said. ''It ultimately ended that friendship.

''It was hard because the organisation was doing it tough and it was hard because of the personal vitriol.

''That was a confronting time. I sit back now proudly looking at the period saying we weren't where we needed to be and we had to make some hard calls.

''They were good decisions that ultimately led to us having a leading rugby program again.''

Despite attracting controversy and enemies, Fagan said he would leave Canberra with no regrets.

''All controversy and attacks make you harden up. I've got no regrets for the tough decisions I've made. I've made unpopular decisions but they've always been in the best interests of the Brumbies.''

Shawn McKay

Mackay's death is one of the saddest moments in Brumbies history.

He was hit by a car in Durban on a night out with the Brumbies on their tour of South Africa in 2009.

Mackay was put in an induced coma while his teammates flew back to Australia, but by the time they landed in Sydney, Mackay had had a cardiac arrest and died.

It rocked the Brumbies community and Fagan was the point of contact for Mackay's family.

He gets emotional remembering the phone calls he made to tell parents, John and Leonie, that Mackay had been in an accident.

''It was difficult. To get that phone call, to have to call his parents. You don't want to lose someone on your watch,'' Fagan said.

''That will sort of haunt me forever and I'm sure others in the organisation are the same. It just shouldn't happen.''

Financial stability

The Brumbies have operated at a financial loss for the past two years, but are forecasting a profit this year with details to be revealed at their AGM next week.

Fagan said the organisation would not exist had it not been for the success from 2000 to 2004, during which the club won two championships and played six home finals.

''To be frank, the performances of those teams in that successful era kept the organisation afloat,'' Fagan said. ''It's really, really challenging. It's not just Canberra. The grants that come from the ARU to the states has probably reduced by about $2.5 million a year, less when you include inflation.''

Fagan and the Brumbies have been working for the past six years to get approval for a $30 million, 130-apartment building at their traditional Griffith base. It created controversy for Fagan, but was finally approved this year.

The Brumbies will move to the University of Canberra in March.

''Selling Griffith is without doubt the largest strategic project in the organisation's history,'' Fagan said.

''It came with controversy and I made some enemies along the way, but it provided the organisation with a balance sheet we've never had.

''It cleared out debt and we invested in new facilities that will give us a new home for at least 40 years.

''People will realise in the future how important the partnership with the University of Canberra is.''

Jake White

South African coach White shocked the Brumbies when he abandoned the last two years of his contract, just two months after guiding the club to the Super Rugby final.

Fagan recruited White to rebuild the Brumbies after the disaster of the 2011 season.

White signed a four-year contract to transform the club back into a powerhouse. In his first season the Brumbies fell one win short of the play-offs.

In his second season, the Brumbies beat the British and Irish Lions, ended a nine-year finals drought and lost the Super Rugby final.

White's tenure was plagued by constant speculation he would leave to return to international coaching. ''Jake was a change agent, he was the perfect man for the job and his tenure was undeniably good,'' Fagan said.

''We needed someone who could restructure the entire program, a strong character who knew they'd face challenges. We needed someone with street cred who would demand the respect of the playing group and community.''

Bring back ACT

The Brumbies removed ''ACT'' from their name in 2005 in an attempt to expand their brand beyond Canberra and into southern NSW and Victoria.

They are the only Australian club without a reference to its base in its name. But Fagan admitted it could be time to reintroduce the ACT Brumbies.

''I've expressed my view to the board that the ACT should remain on the table, but maybe be done in consideration with the new structure of the competition in 2016,'' Fagan said.

''It was about trying to expand into that south-east corner of Australia. There's no right and wrong, but decisions aren't forever.

''Given the changes that have happened in the competition, I think (bringing back ACT) should be on the agenda moving forward as a possible return.''

Brumbies jerseys still bear the capital's coat of arms and ''Canberra'', but the move to drop ''ACT'' left loyal supporters disgruntled.

There was speculation the Brumbies were considering a move to Melbourne, but Fagan denied that was discussed.

''There is no doubt this is Canberra's team. We were never going to relocate the team,'' Fagan said.

''[Removing the ACT] did cause some angst but that was rubbish, there was never a single conversation about the Brumbies playing anywhere but Canberra.''


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