Taranaki Rugby boss Neil Pennington has dropped a bombshell by walking out the door after 18 months in the job.
Pennington shocked staff when he revealed he would be finishing tomorrow, citing the loss of an employee on his coastal farm as the major reason for his sudden departure. "It was sudden and a really tough decision," he admitted yesterday. "The board were kind enough to let me not see out the notice period but I'm only half an hour away from there to support the guys if they need anything." Despite the poor on-field results this season, Pennington felt he would be leaving the union in a strong position.
"I've got to tell you, this is one of the toughest decisions I've ever had to make," he said.
"We've had an amazing year and that will come out in time.
"I know it has been difficult for supporters with a couple of results but that's sport and everyone is moving on and working really hard."
Taranaki Rugby chairman Lindsay Thomson admitted he was shocked by the sudden resignation but was adamant there was nothing sinister in the move.
"I would like to stop any speculation and stress this decision has nothing to do with team performance," Thomson said.
Taranaki have won three of their eight matches in the national provincial championship this season and are still under threat of relegation from the premiership.
Their last match ended in a 12-6 loss to championship side Manawatu when they failed to add to the 10 tries they have scored this season - the worst attacking record out of all 14 NPC teams.
"We [the board] will sit down at the end of the season and do our normal review process, and look at where we might have got things wrong and address those issues," Thomson said.
Since taking over as chief executive from former All Black Mark Robinson, Pennington oversaw a financial loss of $88,632 last year.
However, he has made sure a relationship with China has burgeoned; he was in charge when Taranaki made the NPC semifinals for just the third time; and he helped spearhead a potential deal with the Chiefs that is likely to see a partnership signed off shortly to bring two Super Rugby matches annually to Yarrow Stadium.
Thomson said any deal would in no way be in jeopardy because of Pennington's departure.
"The Chiefs deal is totally unrelated to Neil's position and that is something that is hopefully coming together."
Thomson also dismissed any speculation over Pennington's own performance.
"Neil has done some really good stuff, in terms of strategic direction, and he has formed some really strong relationships which will benefit the union moving forward."
The board had yet to announce an interim chief executive or when the position would be advertised.
Commercial manager Geoff Hitchcock did the job between Robinson's departure and Pennington's arrival, a period of about three months.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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