WACA chief executive Christina Matthews insists she never had any “stand-up barneys” with cricket legend Dennis Lillee as the organisation deals with the shock resignation of its golden figurehead.
Lillee abruptly quit as WACA president on Tuesday night, just two days before the release of a report on how much cricket should be moved from the WACA Ground to Perth’s new $1.2 billion stadium at Burswood.
Matthews and Lillee were rumoured to have a strained relationship during their time working together to secure the long-term future of the WACA Ground.
But Matthews played down any talk that a serious rift played a role in Lillee’s decision to leave.
“We got on fine,” Matthews said on Wednesday.
“We’ve never had any stand-up barneys or not talked to each other or anything like that.
“There’s always differences of opinions on how you do things but, other than that, it was fine.”
Matthews said the WACA was still in the dark as to why Lillee quit, describing it as a bolt from the blue.
“I was surprised, as was everyone this morning,” Matthews said.
“There had been some discussions around the traps that he wouldn’t see out his full term, but we had no indication he would be stepping down today.
“There was nothing in the note he sent to us about why.”
The WACA’s future has been up in the air since the 2013 collapse of the $500 million project to build high-rise apartments and a business precinct around the ground.
That failed bid, which was largely masterminded by Lillee, ended up costing the WACA around $7 million.
The WACA’s Vision 2030 Report will be unveiled on Thursday.
It’s likely to recommend Test cricket remains at the WACA, but most forms of limited-overs cricket – including Big Bash League matches – be moved to the new Burswood stadium, which will open in 2018.
Any such decision would bring into question the viability of the ageing WACA Ground, with potentially only Test cricket and Sheffield Shield matches to be held at the venue.
No other major Australian sport uses the ground.
“I cannot stand by and watch what is happening at the WACA,” Lillee was quoted as saying in The West Australian.
“I do not wish to be part of it any longer.”
It’s understood Lillee flew out of Perth on Wednesday on a pre-arranged trip.
Matthews said Lillee would always be welcome at the WACA, and was confident the iconic Perth venue would survive.
“We have always been very firm that there is a place for the WACA in the future of cricket in this state,” Matthews said.