Australian rugby needs structural change
Easts vs Randwick. Photo via http://www.eastsrugby.com.au/
I’ve seen much debate on The Roar about how Australia’s third tier, Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship can/should expand.
I thought I would weight in on the discussion and put forward my own idea of how Australia, and to a lesser extent SANZAR, should structure its rugby moving forward.
Starting at the grass roots. Schoolboys rugby has an undeniable needs to become more inclusive.
Sydney and Brisbane’s best school sides must form unified competitions with around 10 highly competitive sides playing against one another on a weekly basis, with no division between private and state schools.
Poaching young league prodigies, signing them up with the ARU or the local professional side and mentoring them through their development could play a key role in securing the talent for the future.
Club rugby must be condensed to increase the quality of play and players. What the Australian Rugby Championship (ARC) failed to do was a) realise they couldn’t compete with the NRL and AFL from the get go and b) find a window that allowed the very best players to compete.
The ARU should look to Cricket Australia’s Big Bash League and the FFA’s A-League for a reference and the dos and don’ts of implementing a new franchise competition. Another go at an ARC competition with 8-10 sides would be perfect in addition to my next suggestion.
Scrap the current Super Rugby franchises and system. No Kiwi is going to give two hoots about the Lions verse Force fixture. So why is that part of the TV package Sky Sports in New Zealand is forced to pay for.
The newly formed ARC along with the existing Currie Cup and ITM Cup in New Zealand will be the pinnacle of domestic club rugby with Wallabies, All Blacks and Springboks playing in every match, every week.
Each domestic competition is free to include as many sides as they please and develop their own talent pools as they wish. The next stage is where Super Rugby is placed.
A Champions League style knock-out to crown the best club in the southern hemisphere. Argentina’s top-flight Zona Campeonato will also run. The top four domestic sides from each nation qualify and the tournament is all done and dusted in four weeks.
Future expansion could allow for additional sides to enter the new Super Rugby Champions League from the domestic competitions in countries like Canada, Japan or the USA.
SANZAR get their big bucks for a cross-continent domestic competition and each country retains its own top flight domestic competitions. It’s a win-win.
A return to Australia ‘A’ and the Junior All Blacks or New Zealand Maori participating in the Pacific Nations Cup, following domestic rugby and parallel to other internationals, will further lead to the games regional development.
Australia’s second string and up and coming players will be playing at a high level in addition to an increase in existing exposure to international rugby for Samoa, Japan, Tonga and Fiji.
The PNC should also expand to include the USA and Canada so all six developing rugby nations have regular, competitive, international rugby.
The Rugby Championship remains the pinnacle of rugby in the southern hemisphere. We now have a full structure of rugby in the southern hemisphere for Australian rugby.
From young player development in schools, to a national domestic club rugby competition, to an intercontinental club competition, regional international development and then top-flight international rugby.
But would the ARU or SANZAR take the steps necessary to do this? Probably not. Seems like a pretty bloody good idea to me though.
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