The depth of Australian cricket’s sexual harassment scandal has been laid bare amid claims a female administration worker was driven to the verge of suicide by constant crude comments.
Renee Ferguson has filed a workplace sexual harassment claim against Cricket Tasmania in which she alleges ‘relentless and systemic’ harassment in her time as a receptionist in 2017.
Cricket Tasmania is a member association of Cricket Australia – the national governing body for the sport in Australia.
Court documents show Renee Ferguson (pictured) struggled with suicidal thoughts while demeaning comments and messages allegedly came from at least three four CT employees
The woman at the centre of the sexting scandal that ended the career of Aussie captain Tim Paine (pictured announcing his resignation on November 19) claims she did not consent to receiving photos of his genitalia, a court has heard
The fallout from the shocking saga that threatens to tarnish the reputation of cricket in Australia’s most southern state for years to come has already claimed the scalp of former Australian cricket captain Tim Paine.
Paine quit in disgrace last November after he learnt word of a series of X-rated text messages he sent to Ms Ferguson had made their way into the hands of a Melbourne reporter.
Paine had been elevated to the captaincy after the Australian team’s involvement in what is now deemed one of Australian sports darkest moments.
That scandal, which began when opener Cameron Bancroft was caught by South African cameramen tampering with the ball, saw he, Steve Smith, David Warner, Darren Lehmann and the rest of the Australian team labelled ‘cheats’ and condemned around the world.
A supposedly squeaky clean Paine had been brought in by Cricket Australia in an attempt to clean up Australian cricket’s tarnished reputation.
It did so in full knowledge Paine had been embroiled a year earlier in the grubby sexting exchange with the Cricket Tasmania worker.
‘We want to build a culture that makes people want to be better and produce not only better cricketers but better people,’ Paine said after taking over from Smith following the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal.
‘We know what’s right and we know what’s wrong. We know what Australian cricket expects of us.’
Paine’s behaviour, which he had hoped had been swept under the carpet in 2017, has been well documented in the months since his resignation.
Just days after he quit in tears, Ms Ferguson lodged an application with the Federal Court’s Australian Human Rights Commission outlining just what it was she claimed he had done.
Paine’s wife Bonnie (pictured with her husband and son Charlie) was aware of the sexting scandal from 2017 – but chose to stand by her husband
It makes for disturbing reading.
In court documents released to Daily Mail Australia, it can be revealed Cricket Tasmania’s own human resources department is accused of sexually goading the woman after she reported alleged vile abuse by a senior boss.
A text exchange between former Australian captain Tim Paine and Cricket Tasmania employee Renee Ferguson
‘At least he has good taste in women,’ HR boss Merv Saltmarsh allegedly told her in 2016.
Ms Ferguson had been complaining about the behaviour of acting CT membership manager Jon Adams, who she stated had made lewd sexual claims about her.
‘Hey everyone, Renee will be naked in my apartment at 11 today. Get your binoculars out and I will open the curtains,’ he allegedly said while in the presence of staff and ground curators.
On another occasion, Mr Adams allegedly went on to detail a story about him having sex with a waitress while a taxi driver watched on through the open window.
Then there was the time his mate had participated in sex with a bloke using a bottle of fake tan as lubricant, court documents stated.
‘He would stand very close to me, which I found uncomfortable and intimidating,’ Ms Ferguson told the commission.
‘I did not encourage the comments and they were unwarranted.’
Ms Ferguson stated when she tried to tell other people in positions of power, including at least one woman, she was closed down.
‘From my observation of other employees at Cricket Tasmania, it seemed like making comments of sexual nature or sending messages with sexual content was accepted in the workplace,’ she stated.
Paine’s brother-in-law, Shannon Tubb (pictured), allegedly also sent lewd messages to Ms Ferguson when he worked with her
Cricket Tasmania’s former general manager of venue operations Stephen McMullen (pictured) is accused of making highly suggestive comments to Ms Ferguson, court documents revealed
Former Cricket Victoria HR boss Merv Saltmarsh allegedly dismissed sexual harassment complaint with one of his own
Paine, his brother-in-law Shannon Tubb, and CT’s ex general manager of venue operations, Stephen McMullen, have all been named in the court documents.
Tubb, who was CT’s high performance manager at the time, texted her ‘I want to put my c*** between your tits.
‘Oh, you need two bananas, do you?’ Mr McMullen allegedly said to Ms Ferguson.
Mr McMullen is also alleged to have asked if Ms Ferguson had ever previously engaged in a threesome.
By August 2017, a demoralised Ms Ferguson was put on a ‘performance improvement plan’ after her work began to suffer under the strain.
In November, she was issued with a formal warning and told if she did not lift her game within the month she would be sacked.
A meeting with CT’s ‘people and culture’ boss Zoe Rohner further ended in disappointment.
‘I was not here, I cannot manage [this] historically or retrospectively. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, but you need to move forward,’ Ms Rohner allegedly told her.
The meeting had taken place just two days after the text exchange with Paine.
The following month Ms Ferguson was accused of theft by CT and she resigned.
She was subsequently charged by police and has pleaded not guilty in the Hobart Magistrates Court to 63 counts of stealing and two counts of dishonestly acquiring a financial advantage through the procurement of CT and Hobart Hurricanes memberships.
The charges date back to September 2017, more than a year after she allegedly made her first sexual harassment complaint, and a month after she was placed on the performance improvement plan.
Australian cricketer Steve Smith was captured on camera ball tampering during a 2018 test in South Africa
Tim Payne and his wife Bonnie Paine pose for a photograph on arrival for the Allan Border Medal award ceremony in Melbourne in February 2018.
Tim Payne had been portrayed as the poster boy for decency by Cricket Australia despite its knowledge he had sent a series of lewd text messages to a staffer
Court documents state Ms Ferguson struggled with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts due to the stress of working at CT.
Mr McMullen denied any wrongdoing in an affidavit filed with the court and obtained by Daily Mail Australia.
In it, the married father of two – who is currently working with the Tasmanian Government on a ‘high-level confidential project’ – claims he had a ‘positive professional and working relationship’ with Ms Ferguson.
‘I deny making the comments attributed to me and deny ever making inappropriate comments (sexual or otherwise) to the applicant at any time,’ he stated.
Mr McMullen further denies ever sending Ms Ferguson any inappropriate text messages or participating in crass conversations.
‘At no stage during her employment with the respondent did the applicant make any complaint about comments I made to her or my attitude to her,’ he stated.
Mr McMullen claimed he had suffered mental anguish since 2018 when the allegations first surfaced internally at CV.
‘I suffered from anxiety and often felt depressed, particularly as the allegations are not true and I pride myself on being a respectful and hardworking person,’ he stated.
‘After Cricket Tasmania found that I had not engaged in any inappropriate conduct towards the applicant, my family and I were able to heal and move on from what was an extremely trying time in our lives.
‘Now that the allegations have resurfaced, my mental has deteriorated and I often feel anxious and depressed as a result.’
Tim Paine, pictured with his wife, sent an unwanted photo of his genitals to Renee Ferguson
Ms Ferguson wants $100,000 in compensation and an apology from CT for her hurt and humiliation.
Paine made an emotional public apology after his role in the scandal went viral last year.
In one text he allegedly wrote: ‘Will you want to taste my d**?? F**k me, I’m seriously h***.’
Days after news of the scandal broke, Paine claimed an earlier internal investigation had exonerated him and cleared him of a breach of the Cricket Australia code of conduct.
He also called the texts a ‘private conversation’ and referred to the texts as ‘flirtatious’.
‘One text was sent that was a little open-ended, and it became a flirtatious exchange that should never have,’ Paine said.
But court documents reveal Ms Ferguson tried to steer the text conversation away from a sexual nature and that when Paine sent the explicit photo she was allegedly ‘taken aback’ and offended.
So worried was she about the exchange, she attempted to assure Paine she would not disclose his behaviour in the hope that he would stop.
‘One thing I can guarantee you, I am a vault. Never repeat a thing,’ she texted Paine at the time.
An intermediary between Ms Ferguson and CT claimed she had not intended for the matter to go public and in mid-2018 had asked for an apology and money to cover her legal fees – amounting to $40,000 at the time.
The hearings continue.