- Comment: What on earth is going on at the Brumbies?
- Rift emerges between Uni of Canberra and Brumbies
ACT Brumbies chief executive Michael Jones says negotiations with captain Stephen Moore and his management left a "sour taste" after they were prepared to lose "six players" and had "moved heaven and earth" to try to keep the Wallabies skipper beyond the 2016 season.
But a bitterly disappointed Jones was adamant Moore's decision to join the Queensland Reds in 2017 was unrelated to the turmoil surrounding the club.
Reds chief executive Jim Carmichael was "particularly surprised" his Brumbies counterpart had "undermined" Moore.
Fairfax Media was unable to contact Moore, who is currently holidaying in Thailand.
Jones said he thought the Brumbies had reached an agreement with Moore to remain in Canberra until the next World Cup.
He said they had met a number of Moore's "unique demands", including a deadline, even at the expense of losing several players as a result.
Jones said he had spoken with Moore last week and had been left with the feeling the Brumbies captain would re-sign.
"Just the way that his agent and he conducted [negotiations was disappointing]. We moved heaven and earth to basically get them a deal and it's very disappointing," he told Fairfax Media on Thursday.
"We did everything they asked for, got them the offer against an incredibly tight time frame that was imposed by them.
"We had to juggle our roster and potentially lose up to six players in order to fit it into the program for 2017 and 2018.
"I don't have an issue at all with the player's prerogative to look after himself, his family and his career, but the way this was done has left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth."
The 32-year-old started his career with the Reds and played 46 Super Rugby games over six seasons before joining the Brumbies in 2009.
He has played more than 100 games for the Brumbies and will get his 150th Super Rugby cap in the opening round next year.
It is believed Moore had been in negotiations with at least five clubs overseas, including Gloucester and Munster, about a potential move to Europe. Moore has played 102 Tests and is eligible under new ARU rules to play abroad without sacrificing the right to play for Australia.
Carmichael was surprised by Jones' comments because agreed protocols between the Australian Rugby Union and Super Rugby provinces was for a simultaneous three-way announcement if a player switched clubs.
"I'm particularly surprised that the Brumbies CEO Michael Jones seems to have undermined the current Wallabies captain by suggesting he is leaving the Brumbies to join another Australian franchise over money," Carmichael said in a statement.
"All Australian Super Rugby provinces must abide by the ARU's national contracting rules, to ensure that no team can pay more than another when it's a nationally contracted player.
"From our perspective, we believe that Stephen has rejected overseas offers to play out his career in Australia and remain a proud Wallaby."
Jones said it would be up to Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham whether Moore would retain the captaincy.
While he felt they could cover Moore's loss as a hooker, he said the loss of his leadership skills was much bigger.
Moore played a crucial role in uniting the Wallabies from a fractured group in 2014 to World Cup finalists this year.
The Brumbies have Josh Mann-Rea, Robbie Abel and Albert Anae - a prop they are trying to turn into a hooker - as back-ups for Moore.
"I don't think we lose anything from the playing perspective, but you lose a lot from the experience and calmness of Steve," Jones said.
"He was a very calming influence and a very good leader and everyone saw that at the World Cup.
"That's going to be the hard thing to replace and not necessarily the hooking."
It caps off a bad week for the Brumbies, where in-house fighting with major stakeholders has spilled into the public arena.
The Brumbies and the University of Canberra have played out a public spat this week, which threatened to spill into legal action, with tensions stemming from the ongoing ACT Policing investigation into the Brumbies' controversial sale of their Griffith headquarters.
But Jones said Moore's decision was unrelated to the off-field drama plaguing the club.
"I think this is just poor timing, I don't think that they're vaguely related and all those comments about us having a few disagreements are all overstated and are all in relation to the Australian Federal Police [investigation]," he said.