There have been plenty of unexpected twists and turns in turbulent week at the ACT Brumbies, with plenty of questions left unanswered and loyalties divided.
Brumbies chief executive Michael Jones was stood down by the board on Monday, before Jones launched an injunction in the ACT Supreme Court to return to his job less than 24-hours later.
It was an unheard of scenario for a sporting organisation and sounds like a drama at Parliament House rather than a Super Rugby club, and more is set to become public when Jones returns to court on Tuesday.
The back-room dealings and power struggles have taken centre stage in a week where the Brumbies face a crucial clash against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
We try to break down the burning questions that face the club this week.
Why is Michael Jones hanging on?
Jones firmly believes his actions will be vindicated when the Australian Federal Police investigation is made public and he can break his silence on the matter. He says fighting for his job is not about money or any sort of payout he would receive if the board terminated his contract. If it was about money, he would have walked away quietly into the background. But he feels he has become the victim and that he done nothing wrong in trying to keep the Brumbies on track. The AFP investigation is looking at transactions at the Brumbies between 2009-13, the $11.375 million sale of the club's Griffith headquarters and all deals with the University of Canberra and ACT government. It's likely details will start to emerge from next week when Jones returns to court on Tuesday.
Why does the board want him to go?
Jones describes himself as an "agent of change" brought into the Brumbies to try to get better deals for the club. However, some of that has resulted in angst in the boardroom and with key stakeholders. The Brumbies board has held several meetings in recent weeks to discuss Jones' future and whether he would see out the final two years of his contract. The details and the exact reasons of why they stood him down remain murky. Jones' radio interview last weekend appears to be the last straw, with the board deciding on Monday to stand him down from duties. But there's plenty at play behind the scenes and the real details could come out in the courtroom. It remains unclear whether the board was feeling pressure from external stakeholders in dealing with Jones. But officials are yet to give any deep detail on their reasons for standing Jones down.
The legal stance?
Jones, almost immediately after Monday's dramatic events, took action in the ACT Supreme Court to thwart the Brumbies' attempts to stand him down. His case, urgently listed before Justice Richard Refshauge, sought the court to intervene and reverse the Brumbies' decision, until the matter could be fully heard by the courts. Court documents reveal he is also seeking damages. The chief executive relied on the ACT's whistleblower laws and an alleged breach of contract to take action against the Brumbies, the University of Canberra, vice-chancellor Stephen Parker, Joe Roff, and others. He alleged they had taken "detrimental action" against him after he made a disclosure in the public interest. The nature of that disclosure was not spelled out in detail in court, but Jones has previously referred transactions relating to the sale of the Brumbies' former Griffith headquarters to the police. His gripe against the University of Canberra appeared to relate to a threat of defamation action made by Professor Parker against Jones, which has not yet eventuated. It also alleged that Professor Parker's refusal to attend functions where Jones was present was a "detrimental action". Jones had an early win, securing an injunction against the Brumbies' decision to stand him down, and restraining the University of Canberra and the other parties from talking to the Brumbies about his employment, or about an email he sent in November last year, which discussed his referral of the Griffith sale to the police. But the case is far from over. Jones, although securing the injunction on Tuesday, will need to flesh out his claim and pursue it through the ACT Supreme Court.
How does it affect the players?
The Brumbies have been on the road for the past three weeks, playing games in Perth and Cape Town before moving to Bloemfontein on Sunday morning (AEDT). Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham and co-captain Stephen Moore have both insisted the drama has not been a distraction. But these things always have a knack of finding their way into the dressing rooms. The Brumbies met as a playing group to discuss the move to stand down Jones before turning their focus to their game against the Free State Cheetahs on Sunday morning (AEDT). Larkham has been juggling time between coaching and trying to stay up to date with all parties. It's been a near impossible task given the nine-hour time difference. The Brumbies are blessed with several senior players who will ensure drama doesn't seep into their game. However, flanker Scott Fardy is on the board and it will be hard to shield the players when they return to Canberra next week.
Where do loyalties lie?
Jones says he has received support from numerous sponsors, while the ARU insists it will step in to help the Brumbies if needed and Canberra club bosses gathered on Wednesday night for a last-minute meeting with Jones. It seems support and loyalties are split right down the middle given the strange turn of events over the past few days. Jones has supporters in his stance for the Brumbies and standing by his convictions, while there are those who have had their feathers ruffled and want change. ARU boss Bill Pulver was in Canberra earlier this week at the request of Brumbies chairman Robert Kennedy. Pulver stood by the Brumbies board's decision to stand down Jones. Kennedy has been one of Jones' biggest allies in recent times, continually batting away rumours about his future. But it's hard to see Kennedy and Jones joining forces again given the fallout of a tumultuous period. Any reconciliation seems a long way off, if at all.
Is there a way forward?
There are several more twists and turns left in the Brumbies saga before the club will be able to find its feet and get back on stable ground. Many people are still deciding which side they are going to take in the battle behind the scenes. Can the Brumbies board work with a chief executive that they tried to stand down? Can Jones work with a board that said it didn't want him? It sounds like dealings that belong in Malcolm Turnbull's office rather than Brumbyland. But only time will tell if all parties can stay together or if there's a breaking point around the corner where something's got to give.