Wallabies stars should be able to play overseas

Simon Levingston Roar Guru

By Simon Levingston, Simon Levingston is a Roar Guru

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    Adam Ashley-Cooper (C) catches the ball during the International Rugby Union match between Italy and Australia at the Artemio Franchi Stadium in Florence on November 24, 2012. (AFP / GABRIEL BOUYS)

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    It’s time for the ARU to review their decision regarding the Wallabies rugby stars being able to play overseas and still be eligible for selection to play for Australia.

    The ARU has feared local rugby will be weakened by its Test players leaving the country to maximise their incomes.

    To protect their local competitions and TV ratings, Australia and New Zealand – but not South Africa – introduced a policy of making overseas based players ineligible for the Wallabies or All Blacks.

    This policy clearly disadvantages Australia as its depth of talent is not as deep as New Zealand.

    To stay at the top of the IRB rankings Australia needs as much competition as possible for each position within the Wallabies.

    The Australian selectors should able to select the very best eligible player for each position, from anywhere in the world.

    Some say we cannot allow all our talent to leave, that this will weaken the local competition and ruin Australian Rugby.

    In my opinion, comments like these are a knee-jerk reaction.

    The current policy seems unfair as it forces the best players to stay in Australia if they want to represent their country. At whatever cost to the player and whatever cost to the team’s performance.

    Let’s assume the stars are going to leave anyway, what then?

    Imagine not being able to select the following because they want to play overseas: James O’Conner, Kurtley Beale, David Pocock (when fit), Michael Hooper, Berrick Barnes, Wycliff Palu and Will Genia. In the past, George Smith and Matt Giteau.

    This would obviously be a mistake.

    The ARU should amend its rules to allow those Wallabies who meet specific thresholds of having represented their country to play overseas.

    An example of the rule change could be the following: A player having had played 60 Tests or more for Australia may continue to be eligible to be selected for the Wallabies, whether they chose to play in Australia or not.

    Only three Wallabies currently qualify (Adam Ashley Cooper, Drew Mitchell and Stephen Moore) but the list will grow in the future. I would hate like to see the prodigious talent of James O’Connor or Kurtley Beale – when they are in their prime having played 60 Tests – to not be eligible for the Wallabies.

    Australia has already lost George Smith (110 Tests) and Matt Giteau (93 Tests) in the past, there is no need for the ARU to make the same mistake.

    The ARU provides training and support, as well as creating the opportunity for players to become famous and earn large incomes. They should include transfer fees in player’s contracts for them to play overseas.

    The biggest benefits to the ARU would be the additional income on transfer fees, like soccer, as well as not having to pay heavy top up fees to keep the stars in Australia.

    Australian Rugby would benefit by having more money to expand the game at grass roots, increasing local player numbers and unearthing more talent.

    There is an argument that the star players based overseas lose their edge. This is not fact, only speculation.

    Even if we do assume they have lost their edge, is a ‘good’ Michael Hooper or a Liam Gill better than a George Smith who is off the pace?

    I would take George – or a player like him in the future – and see if the current crop of up-and-coming stars are any better.

    To keep the current status quo of artificial restraints on experienced Wallabies is not in Australia’s best interest.

    It’s time for the current ARU management to provide some fresh thinking to deliver the best outcomes for the benefit of Australian rugby.

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    The Crowd Says (62)

    • Roar Guru

      March 12th 2013 @ 4:49am
      biltongbek said | March 12th 2013 @ 4:49am | ! Report

      I strongly disagree with the formula adopted by SARU to accpet overseas players.

      It has not been to our advantage and certainly has proven that the majority of players coming from Europe to join a Springbok training camp that it is not to the benefit of the Bok squad.

      Frans Steyn was overwieght and unfit when he came back to the Springboks during his stint at Racing Metro, he lost pace and agility and really only came into his own after his release from The French club.

      Ruan Pienaar rated by many last year has become a shadow of his former self when it comes to attacking rugby, he is now nothing more than a pedantic scrumhalf intent to organise his forward pods before even contemplating to clear a ruck.

      The only player I can think of that came from Europe and still made an impact on the Springboks were Johan Louw last year, perhaps it isbecause he only left at the beginning of last year.

      Besides the obvious fitness and conditioning issues it is unthinkable that players who are commited to add value to our domestic system is overlooked for a player who has decided to run after the money, so to speak.

      I fully support the NZ concept that says, glory or money.

      It is not a right to represent your country, it is a priviledge that should be afforded to those who understand that.

      In any event, how does one measure a player who firstly plays in different conditions, more attritional rugby and all out more forward orientated rugby, than what is observed and experienced in the Southern Hemisphere where rugby is more open, faster and all round more vascular.

      The ARU in my humble opinion will make a big mistake if they follow South Africa’s approval of overseas players.

      • March 12th 2013 @ 3:09pm
        niwdeyaj said | March 12th 2013 @ 3:09pm | ! Report

        biltongbek, the examples you cite (Frans Steyn being overweight & unfit, Ruan Pienaar etc) are irrelevant to the argument as they are coaching issues, not policy issues. It’s not a failure of the policy that causes the coach to pick overweight and unfit players from overseas, it’s a failure of the coach!

        personally, I think the proposed solution has some serious merit that needs to be considered – particularly the 60 test rule. I’d argue that most players would be in a “learning” phase during their first 20 or so tests where raw talent and the adrenalin of being thrust into the international spotlight are the dominant drivers of performance. From 20 to arguably around 60 tests, players are generally at their “peak”. They’ve played most international teams in front of different crowds in varying conditions and have generally developed consistency and maturity in their game. After 60 or so tests, things start to go downhill for most – I could rattle off a long list of exceptions like Dan Carter, McCaw, George Smith etc but these are all-time greats, the “average” 60-test veteran like Mitchell and AAC mentioned in the article have generally played their best game for their country as 6-8 years in the same environment has made them “stale”.

        These players, after representing their country for 60+ tests, should be given the opportunity to pursue money, new challenges and most importantly a new environment, overseas. Not all players will take that option – many won’t want to move their lives to another country if they are motivated and playing well and S15 and national level. Those that do take the option after 60+ test are more likely to be the Drew Mitchells and AAC’s of the world – guys that have served their country well but no longer automatic selections for the national team. They still have the desire to play for the Wallabies but a long career in the same environment is doing nothing to help their cause.

        What exactly would we have to lose by letting these type of players go have a run overseas and still remain eligible for the Wallabies? At worst, they will go to Europe, build a retirement fund, hang out with Frans Steyn and get fat & unfit, and not get selected for the Wallabies. At best, their absence opens the door for new talent at S15 level, they make a little extra cash, they get their mojo back and boom! It’s like having AAC back to his best from 2-3 years ago.

        Just imagine if Robbie Deans had the option to pick George Smith in his RWC squad in 2011… I dare say that Ireland game and our whole tournament would have been a very different story!

        • March 12th 2013 @ 3:29pm
          Johnno said | March 12th 2013 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

          Agreed there should be a window of flexibility. You reached 60 tests, then you have earned the right for flexibility.

        • Roar Guru

          March 12th 2013 @ 5:12pm
          biltongbek said | March 12th 2013 @ 5:12pm | ! Report

          niwdeyaj, sure it is a policy issue, and the policy issue has to do with the points I have raised in regards to leaving out players commited to the domestic cause vs overseas players, also the commitment issue, and finally the issue of measuring the individuals who plays in a different environment.

          However having said that, the example of players I used is purely to illustrate the point that the majority of these “stars” are not coming in as better players.

          As for your sixty test suggestion, Frans Steyn is 25 and has close to sixty tests. He still has a hell of a lot to offer South African domestic rugby, in experience and talent.

          For me I like what John Smit as done, he went overseas after the won the world cup in 2007, and was asked to come back, he did and served (albeit 2 years too many) his country in domestic and international level.

          Same goes for Habana who served his country and now only in his late twenties is planning to move to France.

          Finish your career in your own country up to say age 28-30, then make yourself available for overseas contracts.

          That is why I respect Bakkies Botha, Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie, they all made themselves unavailable when they left. That is the honourable thing to do. It also sends out a clear message to a coach who might get desperate when injuries hits his domestic players

      • March 12th 2013 @ 4:36pm
        nickoldschool said | March 12th 2013 @ 4:36pm | ! Report

        Biltong, I think it’s more an individual issue than a rule for all springboks that a Europe stint makes them weaker. If a player goes overseas for the money and to enjoy life, eat cold meats, chocolate croissants and pâtés, chance is he isn’t going to improve and he is likely to gain weight and be unfit. Look at KB here or Piri Weepu in NZ; you don’t need to go to france to become unfit.

        I think Joe Pietersen did all right there and might have learnt a few things. Guys like Vosloo or Joe Van Niekerk got better in France. Then you have all the others who got there at a fairly young age because they weren’t good enough to secure a SR spot. Claassen became the player he is thanks to french rugby. In this respect, I am glad he has chosen to represent France.

        • Roar Guru

          March 12th 2013 @ 5:16pm
          biltongbek said | March 12th 2013 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

          Hi nick, yes, it is an individual things. but exactly what you say there is the issue.

          Having croussants, cheese, good things in life means your commitment to be the best possible professional is overridden by you succumbing to the vices of good life, you are there as you rightfully say, enjoy the good things in life whilst making good money. There is no sacrafice.

          Playing for your country requires sacrafice, you withold from the good things in life and keep peak conditioning, otherwise you should not be good enough.

          Hence my thought on you commit either to country and glory, or money

          • March 13th 2013 @ 3:38am
            Hightackle said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:38am | ! Report

            The European stint DOEsNT make them weaker.
            R.Puenaar was considered by many as the best 9 in the world last year, Louw was prolly SA best after he was bought in, Steenkamp was also pretty good.
            So the examples you have named are Steyn and the world 15 half of 2012?

            • Roar Guru

              March 13th 2013 @ 4:03am
              biltongbek said | March 13th 2013 @ 4:03am | ! Report

              I didn’t say Pienaar was weaker, I said pedantic.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 5:51am
      kingplaymaker said | March 12th 2013 @ 5:51am | ! Report

      ‘Let’s assume the stars are going to leave anyway, what then?’ Except they don’t leave.

      Giteau was a pale shadow of his former self when he left and would not have played for the Wallabies anymore, while Smith had lost his edge and been supplanted by Pocock. So far with the exceptions of Mcmeniman and Vickerman, whose departures were the result of bad negotiation from the ARU rather than anything else, no Wallaby starter has left recently.

      • March 13th 2013 @ 3:44am
        Hightackle said | March 13th 2013 @ 3:44am | ! Report

        Burgess, Giteau, MMM, Mumm, Vickerman, Pienaar, G.Smith, Kaino, McAlister, Thompson, Afoa, Palmer, Kimlin, M.Steyn, SBW, Elsom, F.Steyn, Louw, Botha, Steenkamp, Brits, Masoe, Hayman, Mauger, Donald, Evans, Fourie and many many others.

        They leave and will leave more often soon.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 6:22am
      Rob said | March 12th 2013 @ 6:22am | ! Report

      If people don’t have the passion to play for the wallabies over a few extra bucks, we don’t want them.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 7:23am
      Bigfan said | March 12th 2013 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      I think Levingston has some good points and they should all be considered. The current status is too restrictive on the expierenced players and the ARU could introduce transfer fees inside the contracts to increase income; It makes a lot of sense.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 7:31am
      BBA said | March 12th 2013 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Agree with Biltong

      No player for the Wallabies is being paid badly.

      If they can earn more elsewhere then they have the choice to pursue that.

      If eligibility was not affected by playing overseas then more players would play overseas. Weakening domestic rugby in Australia should not be part of the ARU mandate. If large numbers of high quality players are leaving anyway, then, and only then would the ARU need to rethink their policy (as it is not keeping players in Australia).

      You can make a lot of money in Japan, but no one in the greater rugby world really knows or cares about the rugby played in Japan.

      • March 12th 2013 @ 3:36pm
        niwdeyaj said | March 12th 2013 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

        The caveat described in the article is important here – only players with 60+ tests under their belt would be given the opportunity to play overseas and remain eligible for the Wallabies.

        If you’re a top performer for Australia after 60 tests, the chances are you’d have plenty of sponsorship deals to ensure your financial security so if you’re enjoying life at the top of Australian rugby, why would you move? I’d argue that you’d only move if you were unhappy – and you’d only be unhappy if you weren’t performing and getting picked for the national team consistently.

        Looking at the x3 players that would currently be eligible to play overseas under this hypothetical new policy: Mitchell, AAC and Moore. I’d say Mitchell and AAC would most likely take up the option to sign up for a stint overseas, while Moore is probably quite happy to stay in Australia and continue to play for the Brumbies. No coincidence that Moore is the only one of those three that is an automatic Wallaby selection.

    • March 12th 2013 @ 9:24am
      formeropenside said | March 12th 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      No, they should not.

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