RATHBONE: Australian rugby lacks depth, but not for long
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Melbourne Rebels players celebrate after defeating the Auckland Blues. AAP Image/Joe Castro
The depth of talent in Australian rugby tends to polarise opinion. It’s even been suggested by Roar columnists that the poor performances of Australian teams should be attributed to poor coaching rather than poor depth.
For a country hosting just 23 million people, Australia represents an incredible pool of sporting talent.
On a per capita basis, we produce a truly amazing number of world-class athletes across a vast array of disciplines.
And while Australia’s sporting accomplishments are just cause for great national pride, we should remain conscious of the side affects of our sporting landscape.
For starters, competition for athletes across the football codes has intensified to the point that eventually rugby may well be engaged in a zero sum game with rival codes.
Football, Rugby, League and AFL surely cannot thrive simultaneously.
We simply don’t have the numbers to stream world-class talent so broadly. Add to the mix the poaching efforts of cricket, athletics and swimming, and the bun fight over athletes is brought more sharply into focus.
There is a grassroots war currently being waged and rugby cannot afford to become complacent.
Humour me and try a simple exercise that places the depth of Australian Rugby in context.
The next time you’re watching a Super Rugby match, ask yourself if the weakest members of our teams would feature in the match day squads of Kiwi or South African sides. I think you’ll notice, as I have, that we have a lot of players in this country fortunate to list rugby on their CV.
And while it might seem that five competitive Australian Super teams is out of reach for the time being, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future.
The teething problems that thinning our talent has brought on will in time give way to thriving rugby nurseries in Perth and Melbourne.
Where once it was set in stone that a Victorian youngster would sleep with a Sherrin tucked under his arm, we might now begin to see some opting for a Gilbert instead.
Former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone has returned to Super Rugby with the ACT Brumbies, following an injury-forced retirement from all forms in 2009. He writes guest columns for The Roar, and will blog his journey back to professional rugby in 2013.
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