Bill Pulver must take control of rugby’s fractured state
New ARU chief Bill Pulver needs to take the reins of rugby union in Australia, in the process disbanding state governance that has proven about as useful as a spoonful of sugar in a fuel tank.
The state system’s very existence is an evolutionary appendage from colonial times, devised when a man couldn’t travel on horseback more than 2000 miles.
The advent of planes and telephones has made state governance redundant, yet the nation’s passion with state identity seemingly prevents many from accepting the notion of nationally centralised governance.
Rugby is no different.
And each state, which manages rugby within its own borders, has displayed zero ability to integrate resources, grass roots competition and intellectual property.
There’s dozens of local school competitions and none of them are playing against each other in a unified national comp.
The member unions can’t even agree to a unified website structure, with some as sophisticated as you might expect from your local bakery.
Contract negotiation requiring separate Wallaby and Super Rugby contracts got so bad in 2012 you’d think the ARU couldn’t organise a game of touch on a Sunday. Yet in fairness it’s an awkward scenario at best.
Last year’s farce was underscored by Genia moving from the Reds to the Force and back again like a bovine escaping the prod.
Quade Cooper, probably the best talent in the country and the most likely to bring back the Bledisloe Cup in 2013, was contractually manhandled, and it’s a surprise and a blessing to see him in the code next year after he finally managed to limp over the line and sign the ARU contract for 2013.
We almost lost him to the game, and possibly forever.
The great irony to all this is that in its current format the states already have no meaningful control at the elite level, a fact proven in 2011 by the Western Force being left at the altar by the ARU, swaying in the wind.
All the while their former partner piled its energies into their new muse at the Melbourne Rebels.
The Force was left without a coach and a talent base; they may as well have left them without power or water.
This is a real shame for a bunch of genuinely passionate local fans who want nothing more than rugby to have a mainstream home in Western Australia.
It remains to be seen what will happen following the ARU’s curious decision to appoint Bill Pulver as CEO.
If he’s willing to make the bold calls, he may well push to centralise all levels of governance, cherry-pick the talent from state administrations, and get busy replicating his corporate success in this new venture of his.