Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis left the fundraising lunch for former coach Daniel Anderson after Alan Jones called for the removal of the club’s board. The incident occurred during the Unite for Daniel Long Lunch function at the Queen Elizabeth II Grandstand Ballroom of Royal Randwick Racecourse. Jones, who coached Balmain from 1991 to 1993, openly criticised the club’s struggles and called for a change in leadership. The crowd of approximately 400 people, including representatives from all 17 NRL clubs, witnessed the controversial remark. The lunch was organized to support Anderson, who became a quadriplegic following a body-surfing accident last year.
Hagipantelis, who was sitting with coach Tim Sheens and other Wests Tigers directors, decided to leave the event a full hour early. Sources reported that Jones’ criticism of the club’s powerbrokers prompted Hagipantelis’ departure. The Wests Tigers currently sit at the bottom of the NRL ladder, having suffered a humiliating 74-0 loss to the Cowboys in their most recent match. This defeat was compounded by another loss to Cronulla on Thursday.
Confirming that Jones had indeed criticised the club, Hagipantelis refrained from making any further comments regarding the issues involving him and his fellow directors. It is worth noting that Tigers had spent nearly $10,000 to support Anderson and attend the luncheon, demonstrating their commitment to the cause.
This publication has sought comment from Alan Jones regarding the incident. Throughout the year, Jones has been spotted at numerous rugby league games, often seen alongside Canberra coach Ricky Stuart and former Tigers coach Michael Maguire. Stuart, who has a longstanding relationship with Jones, invited him into Canberra’s inner sanctum for a game during Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in May. The connection between Stuart and Jones dates back 38 years, when Stuart attended a rugby union camp at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra after his time with the Australian Schoolboys team.
Stuart himself owes his life to Alan Jones. In 1998, Stuart had collapsed multiple times, including once during training. Initially, doctors did not consider it serious. However, after Raiders CEO Don Furner visited Stuart and realized the severity of the situation, he immediately sought assistance from radio personality John Fordham. Subsequently, Jones was contacted for help.
Stuart revealed that he had been suffering from encephalitis, a brain inflammation that left him in grave condition. Thanks to Alan Jones, who arranged for Kerry Packer’s private jet to fly him to St Vincent’s Hospital in Canberra, Stuart received the life-saving treatment he needed. Stuart expressed his gratitude, stating that if it weren’t for Jones’ intervention, he doesn’t know what the outcome would have been.
Overall, the incident at the fundraising lunch sparked controversy within the Wests Tigers community and raised questions about the stability and leadership of the club. The conflicting views and tensions surrounding the situation have created a challenging environment for the team.