A Gold Coast Super Rugby team?
137 Have your say
Since the impressive appearance of Ewen McKenzie in Queensland, the Reds have emerged as the most successful sporting team in the state by playing highly entertaining rugby, winning a Super title and luring in record crowds and income.
Less noticed perhaps, though no less significant, is the work McKenzie has done in locating and developing players, a task for which he has definite skill.
So effective has this process been, boosted of course by the profile of the team, that the Reds find themselves laden with an ever-increasing abundance of high quality players to the extent that many of them have little hope of playing.
Will Chambers, the centre who made more metres than any competitor in his debut Super Rugby season, had to leave the franchise altogether such was the difficulty of winning a starting place.
The squad, just in the backs, is laden with quality. The backline includes: Will Genia, Ben Lucas, Quade Cooper, Ben Taupai, Digby Ioane, Jono Lance, Chris Sautia, Peter Hynes, UJ Seuteni, Rod Davies, Anthony Faiingaa, Luke Morahan and Aidan Toua.
It should immediately be obvious that two backlines could be fashioned from such a roster of talent. Eight players are Wallabies, another would be but for injury (Lucas), while two are spoken of as future superstars.
Not only this, but with Mckenzie at the helm for the next two years, without doubt more talent will be discovered and the game will be spread further. The problem is of course that this is already far too much talent for one franchise and much of it will be unused. Except for a freak injury season, several of these players won’t even see the bench.
Given that the Reds may well have twenty backs capable of winning Wallaby caps before too long the question has to be asked whether Queensland hasn’t become too big for one team.
Much has been said in Australia of introducing new teams when there is the talent to house them and not before. The case of Queensland would now seem to demand two teams and be capable of filling them from its own resources.
The Gold Coast area is no sporting black hole as sometimes it is erroneously described. Listen to Terry Jackman, leader of the bid last time it pushed for a team: “The Gold Coast is the third biggest city in rugby heartland and it’s attracted the interest of all the other football codes at the elite competition level, to make it work, you’d ignore the Queensland-NSW border, nurture the rugby talent in northern NSW as well and embrace privatisation for the new club”.
Football and the AFL do not have the same history as rugby in the city so this is why they have struggled. Rugby would not.
John O’Neill is keen to move new teams forward with private equity involved, and Jackman pledged to invest from his own fortune, so crucial did he think having a team was for the future of the game. He still would be ‘..we’ll be around for the next time they decide to grant a licence.’
Nor would the team threaten the Reds. Already they have more talent than they can use and are able to choose the cream, but the Gold Coast is a large area. There are 750,000 people in the area and it is fast expanding. As a rugby heartland, the Coast should be able to provide most of its own players with a team to offer them contracts. Jackman observed that without a team ‘it will be hard to stop the kids going elsewhere.’
The truth is at the moment large swathes of talent go to league or the AFL which can offer them a contract as teenagers.
Jordan Rapana, a league prodigy now returning to rugby was brought up on the Gold Coast and the situation he faced is described by his brother: “…we actually come from a big rugby family. But when we moved to Australia in 1999, we couldn’t find a rugby club on the Gold Coast.
“There was nothing around at a junior level. So we went down the road and joined Tugun Seagulls instead. We had a bit of interest from the Queensland Reds Academy at one stage … but by then league was too dominant for us.”
A second team would also mean that in Queensland rugby would be providing two teams to compete against the NRL’s three north of the border.
The Reds success is a huge blessing and the ARU must rush to capitalise, instead of lumbering around with the half-baked excuse that adding teams between TV deals takes some effort.
It has a state producing the players, it has a large city with a strong rugby background. It has private investment secured, it has a golden opportunity to advance on the NRL.
Adelaide and Western Sydney also have equally compelling reasons to win teams and these two should also be given a licence also, especially the former.
But certainly in the case of the Gold Coast a team is not merely a necessity for the city, but Queensland as a whole, and its case cannot be ignored for much longer.
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