Time to sink Waratahs Inc
The woeful Waratahs have the Wallabies staring down the barrel (AAP Image/Paul Miller)
A couple of years ago the NSWRU divided itself between Waratahs Inc. – to solely run the professional team – and NSWRU – to run the rest (read: principally not much else, with the Shute Shield being run by the clubs and the NSWRU having inexplicably given junior development over to the ARU).
What came from that was an immediate disengagement of resources to the junior development of the game.
While the ARU has funded development resources to promote the game in NSW, Waratahs Inc. has its own development strategy that looks after established rugby nurseries with country regions missing out altogether. There is no coordination between the two initiatives.
Junior rugby development is struggling in my region. We have nine senior clubs and only six teams in each age division. The best way to get the kids interested is for them to rub shoulders with their heroes, such as Tatafu Polota-Nau, Berrick Barnes, Benn Robinson and Rob Horne (rather than the Hendrik Roodt’s of this world, who has been served up to us in the past) in a school environment.
Running paid clinics is preaching to the converted, fits John O’Neil’s banking user pays model and helps fund the development officers but does nothing to grow the game.
High profile players need to engage the community, visit schools and preach the rugby gospel – a similar model to what Rod McQueen has created in Melbourne. These activities need to be coordinated with the ARU development team, so that each opportunity can be maximised.
There are murmurings about the power that Sydney Uni wields and the associated entitlement culture that flows from this power. A check of the Waratahs squad list will show that 12 starting players (Barnes, Betham, Carter, Dennis, Halangahu, Jenkins, Kingston, McCutcheon, Mumm, Ryan, Tilse and Vickerman) all have one thing in common – they play club Rugby for Sydney Uni. Indeed Waratahs assistant coach Greg Mumm also hails from the same club.
Favourite Uni son Tom Carter last week was signed for another year with the Tahs – even though the coach had departed. One wonders what the new coach would think about this.
Sydney Uni Alumni members Nick Farr-Jones and Chris Birch, are Waratahs Board Members, with Roger Davis now also a board member. Michael Hawker is the chairman of the ARU. While they all have been wonderful servants of the game, directly or indirectly they have entrenched Sydney Uni’s power and influence through all levels of Rugby in NSW.
Can such centralised control of the game by the one club (that has minimal interest in junior development) be good for the game?
The game is not being promoted in the regions. Witness the fact the some 20,000+ brave souls attended the recent Test in Newcastle in cyclonic conditions. Newcastle is the third largest rugby nursery behind Sydney and Brisbane.
Has there ever been a word uttered by the Tahs to play a game up there or anywhere else instead of inner Sydney?
Witness the outrage generated from the Eastenders when it was announced that Super Rugby would be played 15km down the road in the inner west at the Olympic Stadium.
Rugby in NSW is divided and dysfunctional. It has no strategic plan and is disconnected from its community. It is a bunch of fiefdoms who have a myopic focus on their own agendas.
There is much wrong with NSW Rugby and it all starts at the top. Every man and his dog have been calling for a cleanout – the job is only half done.
Ewen Mckenzie must be holding his sides from splitting, watching how the powerbrokers that engineered his departure have now imploded.
Roar expert Spiro Zavos was asked to respond to this article. His thoughts are as follows:
“It is wrong to blame Sydney University for all the faults and problems with Sydney rugby. I believe they are a force for good for rugby in Sydney, a very powerful force. They provide scholarships to students who can also play rugby.
They helped to keep rugby alive in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when the game was under immense pressure from rugby league. And over the last decade, or Sydney Uni have provided the template for how a successful rugby club can and should operate in the professional era of rugby.
Now, as Rickety Knees has pointed out, a number of former Sydney University players are providing leadership in administrative positions in the NSWRU. I take this as an example of people putting back into the code, rather than taking out in an entitlement sense as Rickety Knees suggests.
It is not generally known that ‘Doc’ Evatt in the earlier 1920s almost got the Sydney University Rugby Union club to convert to rugby league. My belief, and that of the club’s historian David Hickie, is that if this had happened rugby union might have become a very minor sport in Sydney and may not exist today.”