11 Oct 2016

Sport: Damian McGrath breaks silence on Samoa 7s sacking

8:29 am on 11 October 2016

Damian McGrath says he's still waiting to be told why he was sacked as Manu Samoa sevens coach, a month after his dismissal.

The Englishman, who led Samoa to a ninth place finish in the 2015/16 World Sevens Series, has broken his silence on his dumping, saying he can no longer let attempts to defame his character go unchallenged.

But, in a statement released over the weekend, Damian McGrath said despite numerous attempts to the contact the Samoa Rugby Union he still has not been given a reason why he was sacked.

"However, during that time, there have been no shortage of public comments to the media by SRU personnel giving differing reasons for my removal. Despite being requested to desist by my solicitor, the slurs on my professional reputation have continued," he said.

"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."

Samoa sevens coach Damian McGrath.

Damian McGrath was sacked as Samoa sevens coach and will take charge of Canada in 2016/17. Photo: Facebook / Manu Samoa

McGrath took part in a end of season review, conducted by an independent panel, but said he never saw his dismissal coming.

"I received a call one Thursday evening, about 9:30pm. I was watching TV and the CEO called to say the board meeting has just finished and we decided to readvertise your role," he said.

"Obviously I asked why and he said "I will tell you tomorrow" so I went into work the next day, I was given a letter that simply said, "your contract has been terminated with immediate effect".

"I asked the CEO for a reason and he said, "oh it's not for me to tell you. It's a board decision so it's a board matter. From that moment I'm still awaiting any official confirmation. All I know is what I read regularly in the press where they're making statements about different things.

"No one's been in touch from that moment on - you can't do that, can you, in modern employment law, which is why I handed the matter over to a solicitor in New Zealand, who felt we had a case for redress.

"I've kept my counsel since then but obviously the SRU, through the CEO and quite recently through the Prime Minister, have constantly made comments in the press and it got to a point last week where the Prime Minister made a detailed statement which sullied my reputation.

"In any walk of life your reputation is what you live by - I felt it got to a point where I needed to make some kind of statement in reply so consequently I put out a release over the weekend."

Samoa in the changing rooms after winning the Paris Sevens.

Samoa beat Fiji in the final of the Paris Sevens in May. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima

McGrath said one of the main reasons cited by the SRU in media interviews were the findings of a review undertaken by an independent panel.

But he said the review was in fact very supportive of his position as head coach and recommended in their findings that he continue his contract as head coach.

The review findings also stated McGrath "has satisfactorily met and in some cases exceeded the performance required of him under his contract" and that the Manu Samoa sevens team "are making clear and quantifiable progress towards the SRU's overall goals."

Samoa Rugby Union Chief Executive Officer Faleomavaega Vincent Fepuleai told RNZ International last month that McGrath was dumped, following an independent performance review, because of Samoa's failure to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

But Damian McGrath said Olympic qualification was never a condition of his contract.

"The only time that is mentioned in my contract is I was given a bonus structure to work towards. I would have received a financial bonus for different things and it is one line where it says "qualification for Rio I would receive 'X' as a bonus if that happened" but nowhere is it stated as a Key Performance Indicator or a major objective," he told RNZ International.

"I certainly wouldn't have taken the job on that if that had been the case because with only ten months to try and do something, going into an organisation with no strategic plan to try and make that happen, very little in the way of resources - it was always going to be a tall order at best.

"We came agonisingly close but at no time was that a major objective of the job."

Damian McGrath has since been appointed head coach of Canada's men's sevens team, while the Samoa Rugby Union says it will announce McGrath's replacement sometime this week.

Samoa captain Faalemiga Selesele can't stop Ignacio Martin from crossing for the winning try.

Spain scored in the final play of the game to deny Samoa a place at the Rio Olympics. Photo: World Rugby / Martin Seras Lima