Is a bit of Australian fight too much to ask?

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Since before the Super Rugby competition kicked off this season, the talk has been dominated by one topic: how many teams will be cut for 2018.

    The SANZAAR delegates are meeting in London this week, and the expectation is that a decision will be made on what Super Rugby – and indeed, SANZAAR itself – will look like from next season.

    It’s worth remembering at this point that cutting teams is but one of the three options on the table; four, in fact, if you add ‘keep the status quo’ into the mix.

    SANZAAR commissioned international consulting firm Accenture to produce a strategic review after the 2016 season, and the report made three suggestions for consideration by SANZAAR and their stakeholders:

    1. Dropping one team from South Africa and Australia
    2. Dropping two teams from South Africa
    3. Expanding the competition even further

    As I mentioned, it’s entirely possible that the stakeholders – which include the four national unions and the host broadcasters from those countries – could yet decide to agree to maintain 18 teams and tweak the structure of the conferences. They could also decide to see out the final years of the broadcasting deal that saw the extra teams added in the first place.

    It certainly feels unlikely that that will be the case. To hear the acknowledgement from all corners of the SANZAAR universe that the current structure isn’t engaging fans and spectators as they hoped it might is at least refreshing; to ignore it and do nothing would be sheer madness, a new low in common sense.

    Yet it continues to astound me that, in Australia at least, the expectation from the outset has been that one team will have to be cut.

    This line of commentary has carried on through reports, opinion pieces, and thousands of comments. It’s been so widely written that if you were new to the game, you’d have just accepted this is going to happen.

    And in all this, one nagging thought has remained with me: why isn’t Australian rugby fighting for its fifth team?

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s never been easier to be down on rugby in Australia. You only have to look to your left or right, and there are plenty of soapboxes for you to step upon and unload on the game. Pick your topic, and have your say.

    But what about fighting for the good of Australian rugby?

    Ceding more than 30 professional opportunities in Australia does not feel like a move that benefits Australian rugby. Losing 20 per cent of the starting front rowers, or openside flankers, or halves, or back three players in the country does not sound like a move that strengthens the game in Australia.

    Melbourne Rebels player Nick Stirzaker passes the ball

    Even if you managed to keep the top 30 Wallabies players in the country, losing the next 30 to overseas clubs – which will happen, we all know it will – does not consolidate the strength of the talent pool.

    It’s more than that, too; all five sides run under-20s programs feeding into the Australian under-20s set-up. So it’s not just the professional level we’re affecting, the next generation will similarly lose their pathway.

    And this is why it astounds me that the ARU has been so wishy-washy around the prospect.

    The consistent line of commentary since the options were tabled has been along the lines of ‘being part of a joint venture’, and ‘needing to hear the thoughts of our partners’, ‘being fluid about our preferred position going forward’.

    Sorry, what now?

    Even if all that is true beyond closed doors, what is wrong with actually showing a bit of fight, and making it known publicly that Australia does not want to give up a side? Even if it’s a very real prospect, what would be so wrong with showing the rugby public of Australia that one of our teams just won’t be set adrift and forgotten?

    Why should rugby fans in Perth or Canberra or even Melbourne have to hear answers to direct questions about guaranteeing five teams next year begin with, “we can’t make any promises”.

    So far, only the Rugby Union Player’s Association has made anything resembling a statement of intent.

    “Australia’s professional rugby players are staunch in their opposition to any mooted alternative models which would reduce Australia’s representation in the Super Rugby competition for 2018 and beyond,” the RUPA position stated unequivocally the week before Super Rugby started.

    Why couldn’t the ARU have backed this up with a similar position?

    By all means, say you want to look at Super Rugby structures and maybe tweak the conferences so they make more sense and involve fewer circumnavigations of the globe – even explore trans-Tasman comps.

    But would it be so hard to come out and say five teams is what Australia wants in whatever form Super Rugby takes in 2018? Why not show the fans that Australian rugby is going to put up a fight for the benefit of Australian rugby?

    Rugby has never been in a more vulnerable position in Australia, yet the public commentary feels like we’re just preparing to roll over and take whatever’s put in front of us.

    I’ve often wondered what ‘the Australian way’ of the playing rugby really is, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve meek surrender.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (257)

    • Roar Pro

      March 7th 2017 @ 4:58am
      robel said | March 7th 2017 @ 4:58am | ! Report

      Well said Brett.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 1:17pm
        ethan said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

        Yep, I’m with Brett. The Force and Rebels have only been around long enough to just start seeing the fruits of their local development, with more local talent getting the chance at professional level. The problem in the past has been that they had to take the leftovers from QLD, NSW and NPC, so it’s no wonder they’ve been weak. But once they have their own home grown talent pools, they will no longer have to borrow. This means all those who couldn’t get a start in QLD and NSW will be squad members in those states, as opposed to starters in others. This will mean Australian rugby has better depth. It is a long term view that should strengthen Australian Rugby over the next 5-10 years, but to bail out now would be a bit like erecting the wooden structures of a house, only to tear it down because it’s not yet liveable. Like hitting the final straight of a marathon and turning back. Culling a team now would be a very short sighted fix.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 6:14pm
          kunming tiger said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:14pm | ! Report

          this argument is precisely correct the Super U20s comp is showing that there is untapped potential in VIC and WA Chance Peni is but one example. Every year they contribute a few players each to the National U20s team. Over time they numbers of local Super quality players will increase. There was an interesting interview with the owner of the Rebels who said that if a franchise was cut it was unlikely to be the Rebels. due to the advertising revenue they generate..

        • March 7th 2017 @ 6:26pm
          Boomeranga said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:26pm | ! Report

          I think this is the Rebels 6th year?

          I just went back to 2001 to see if I could remember the bottom teams in that year before they were caste aside for being unsuccessful. Hurricanes, Blues, Crusaders and Bulls. Glad we gave NZ 20 years to bed in their teams.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 7:38pm
            ethan said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:38pm | ! Report

            Yes 6th year for the Rebels, so you’d expect them to be a bit behind the Force in terms of home grown player development. I think (someone correct me if I’m wrong) that the Rebels have 3 homegrown players in their squad and the Force 7. Not many right now, but the Force in particular, having played their first SR season in 2006, are really entering a period that should bear fruit. If they’ve had development pathways in place for 10 years, then many of those who were just kids when the Force began will now be entering an age where they can challenge for contracts.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 7:46pm
              AndyS said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

              I believe it is something like 7 and 12 respectively in the squad. Might be 3 and 7 in the game day team…?

              • March 8th 2017 @ 12:24pm
                ethan said | March 8th 2017 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

                Cheers Andy, I seem to recall hearing the numbers 3 and 7 somewhere but it’s reaching to a hazy place in the back of my mind so I could easily be wrong.

    • Roar Guru

      March 7th 2017 @ 5:11am
      biltongbek said | March 7th 2017 @ 5:11am | ! Report

      Hi Brett, I don’t havethe numbers, but how many of the players playing in Australia are not Australian?

      Are the Franchises not already filling their teams with foreign players to an extent?

      • March 7th 2017 @ 7:35am
        BBA said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:35am | ! Report

        I’m not sure on the numbers buy the cynic in me would say that of the overseas players not many of the overseas players will have represented their country before and therefore you could argue that this is a recruitment drive to improve the Wallabies with foreign bloodstock.

        To be fair this is no different to what they do in the NH.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 8:46am
          richard said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Particularly in Ireland with their “project players.” As an aside,I see James Lowe has signed with Leinster,no doubt a potential future Irish international.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 10:28am
            robert said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            he’s already played for the maoris so he can’t play for Ireland

            • March 7th 2017 @ 11:38am
              Bakkies said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              ‘he’s already played for the maoris so he can’t play for Ireland’

              Maoris isn’t the second team. The Junior ABs is.

              It is a figment of people’s imagination that he will play for Ireland. Each player has their own circumstances. From the outside looking in it is easy to take the cynical view. Majority who have qualified for Ireland through residency have stayed here regardless of being capped or not.

              Leinster has four foreign player spots plus a project player which is supposed to be Jamison Gibson Park (ARU also has project players that will look to qualify for the Wallabies). Lowe is replacing Zane Kirchner in Leinster’s squad.

              Length of the contract doesn’t matter. Kane Douglas signed a three year deal and he could never play for Ireland due to his Wallabies caps.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 1:10pm
                richard said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

                Yep,the Junior AB’s are the second team,so it wouldn’t preclude him being selected for another side.And I never said he would be picked,but that he was a “potential’ candidate.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 2:47pm
                ClarkeG said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

                When you say Junior ABs you mean U20.?

                The reason I ask is that the “Junior All Blacks” have not been active for several years.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 7th 2017 @ 2:58pm
                atlas said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

                CG, it is the Junior ABs as NZ’s nominated second team.
                Not the U20s.
                Don’t understand why, as there hasn’t been a Juniors side since… 2009 when they played in the Pacific Nations Cup competition.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 3:28pm
                ClarkeG said | March 7th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

                Exactly the reason for my question.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 1:20pm
            ethan said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

            Man, James Lowe is a great player. No wonder the ABs are so strong when a guy like him can’t even get a look in at the squad!

            • March 7th 2017 @ 1:51pm
              richard said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

              The fear I have is this is becoming more common.And contrary to popular belief NZ does not have an endless conveyor belt of talent.We lose enough players overseas,and sooner or later it has to impact on the AB;s.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 2:14pm
                Old Bugger said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

                Aah richard…..bless you for that reminder as if, we didn’t already know. It is an unwanted curse upon the whole, of SH rugby and not just, NZ rugby.

                But IMO, as long as there are kids and a primary, middle and secondary school system, then we will continue to have an endless conveyor belt, of players.

                The question as always will be, do we have the nous, smarts and coaching capability, to bring about the best and most talented rugby player(s), from that conveyor belt.

                Doesn’t pay to think about the negatory, all the time……it is too stressful.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 2:45pm
                richard said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

                I hope you are right.And its not just players,of equal concern is the loss of so many coaches.It is that intellectual property lost overseas being used v us that is a problem.At least in my eyes.But to some that’s a good thing,as it supposedly benefits “world” rugby.

                Call me selfish,but my interests lie in what benefits NZ rugby,first and foremost.Everything else is an afterthought.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 2:51pm
                ClarkeG said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

                It is already impacting super rugby and NPC.

                The ABs of course are not the only team playing out of NZ.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 3:10pm
                richard said | March 7th 2017 @ 3:10pm | ! Report

                I know.And it is only going to get worse.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 7:45pm
                ethan said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:45pm | ! Report

                Yes some players just see where they stand in the pecking order and decide if they can’t move higher up the ranks, they might as well go elsewhere and earn some better money. Can’t say I blame them, unfortunate as it is.

                The NZ conveyer belt of talent is not endless as you say, but in the last few years it really looks like you could add another team or two to SR and they would still be competitive, so I wouldn’t be too concerned – still plenty of depth despite the departures.

              • Roar Guru

                March 8th 2017 @ 5:28am
                taylorman said | March 8th 2017 @ 5:28am | ! Report

                Exactly, this is getting worse. Now potential ABs are getting picked up before they have a chance to reach their potential.

                Reason I keep bringing this up is this happened to Auckland. Now their players are everywhere, getting contracted out sometimes before they’ve left school.

                Look at Tupou at the Reds. Not even out of school when he was thrown some bucks.

                Back then Aucklanders had the choice not to play for Auckland, now NZers are making the choice not to play for or in NZ fir the majority of their careers. Lowe had every chance of becoming an AB, it’s just that he hadn’t been picked up yet.

              • March 8th 2017 @ 11:02am
                Old Bugger said | March 8th 2017 @ 11:02am | ! Report

                Now, now guys. Back when I was we playing, players had a chance to play for BOP, Hawkes Bay, Horowhenua, Whanganui, Manawatu, Waikato, Thames valley and other provincial sides that weren’t consistent, Ranfurly Shield winners.

                And then, the NZRU introduced the AirNZ/NPC/ITM/Mitre 10 competition in 1976 and the only reason BOP won that inaugural comp, was because the ABs had 2 teams touring overseas, in SA and Argentina.

                Nevertheless, in the years following ’76, players from those provinces I mentioned above, all of a sudden started getting offers to go to the main centres to play their rugger – centres like Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

                What happened to those provincial centres regarding their rugby fortunes when their top players were being snapped up?? Gees, from my viewpoint, it took ages for the BOP to try and stay with the top rugby teams, always just missing the promotion/relegation before they finally, got demoted. Waikato took ages to recover from its initial demotion.

                The blessing when Super Rugby started was the NZRU could see the damage being done to the provincial sides with rugby players being drawn to the main centres so they did the only thing they could, to build a strong NZ base……they delineated provinces to each Super side and forced those sides to concentrate the core of their teams, from those provinces. Next, they allowed the SR sides to pick players from other provinces only when, that player was not chosen, by their home SR team. And then, they max’d the squad numbers to 25-30players, formed centralised contracts making a total of 125-150players, being placed on the NZRU/SR salary list.

                Of course, the SR teams still got one over the NZRU, by persuading players to resettle in the new SR region and used personal reasons, as the relocation motivation.

                So, what is happening to Auckland today is really an extension, of what was happening in NZ immediately post 1976. The only saviour back then, was the players were still in NZ and available for the ABs but that IMO, is no consolation to what happened in those provinces and how they struggled, to hold onto a provincial rugby team or for that matter, a place in the Premier competition.

                Now, the curse is the challenge from overseas and how NZ can continue as a rugby nation, in the face of such a financial onslaught. I’m forever the optimist and as long as kids want to be ABs when they start school, then I have a belief, that the parents, junior clubs, coaches and the primary, middle and secondary school systems, will identify and promote the next wunder-kids to senior, provincial, SR and eventually, ABs rugby.

      • Roar Guru

        March 7th 2017 @ 9:08am
        sheek said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        BTB,

        I would like to know the answer to this question myself, but I don’t think it’s a topic anyone in Australian rugby (especially at the top) wants to confront.

        BBA is right, Australian rugby is being desperately topped up with overseas players.

        Trying to determine who is or isn’t Australian in rugby terms, is approaching mythical proportions.

        For the purposes of a professional contract & international career, everyone will put their hands up & declare their dying loyalty to Australia. How true this all is is another story.

        Very few people are willing to raise the topic lest they be accused of the ‘R’ word.

        • Roar Guru

          March 7th 2017 @ 9:13am
          Fionn said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:13am | ! Report

          And the biggest issue with this is that I doubt overseas players who move to Australia will show much loyalty to the Wallabies.

          For ever TPN (who is Australian) who is willing to give up high paying offers overseas to help the game in Aus and to represent the Wallabies there will be 10 Pacific Islanders who (somewhat justifiably) decide to go overseas in order to make more money, especially given they often support entire communities back home.

          Unless Australia gets in a position where, like New Zealand, everyone playing in the country dreams of playing for the national team, and are willing to give up financial benefits for that opportunity, we will never have a consistent team/pool of players to select from.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 9:17am
          BennO said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:17am | ! Report

          Recession?

          It’s quite possible to discuss matters of nationality without being “recessionist”, if people use their brains and talk with sensitivity.

          But it’s easier to complain about it than talk about it.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 9:34am
            rugbyfan said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

            this x100!!

      • March 7th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Akari said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        I’ve been advocating that Australia should get on a recruitment drive and buy the best that SA (and NZ) has got and bring them over here where they will have an improved chance of playing at the highest level of rugby, BB.

        Next step would be coaches from NZ but that will be for another time in the near future. There shouldn’t be, I think, any objections to hiring top NZ coaches to transform talented young Oz kids into better players though.

        • Roar Guru

          March 7th 2017 @ 9:22am
          Fionn said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:22am | ! Report

          I think that the coaches from New Zealand should be priority number one, mate…

          Aussies are always lamenting how outdated our brand of rugby is relative to the modern Kiwi styles. Well, the more effective way to learn how to play Kiwi rugby is being taught by Kiwi coaches..

          • March 7th 2017 @ 9:54am
            Old Bugger said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:54am | ! Report

            You know what….?? You and Akari should be running for the ARU Rugby Board with all the answers you guys are coughing up. Recruit players no, better still, recruit top coaches from over the East-West ditches.

            Do you guys ever read or hear any NZ sporting teams or NZ public decry their lack of playing and coaching talent, every year one of our national sports teams, gets creamed by an Aussie side??? No cos we go back to the changing rooms and start thinking about how we will turn the result around at the next meeting.

            And, once in a blue moon, a kiwi national side whether it be men or women, will come out and turn the result around and then thereafter, its back to norm with the Aussie sides on the top podium again. The difference IMO, would be that there is an over-riding effort to learn to be better, to improve and of course, to try and win back some pride and bragging rights.

            And, although there is an Aussie hockey coach leading our national women side (and a pommie coach leading our NZFootball mens team), we don’t seem to be able to get a consistent success result against the Hockeyroos apart from the occasional upset…..we strive to improve our ranking but always seem to come out second best. Btw, Hager submitted his name when the NZ coach position became available and after he missed out on the Hockeyroos position. I believe he’s been coach for sometime – maybe 8-10yrs??

            Every other national team sport I think has kiwi coaches and the improvements come because, of the athletes and sporting teams exposure, to competing against international athletes and teams around the globe and not, plotting to recruit top junior players or senior coaches.

            I think if there is ever a reason to be disappointed with the current state and national system, then start a movement against the ARU Board and the various State Boards therein and unleash on those entities, to improve.

            There just doesn’t seem to be any confrontational energy against the ARU and its intermediate Boards by the general public at large……my question is, why not???

            As Brett asked ” Is a bit of Australian fight, too much to ask….??”

            • March 7th 2017 @ 10:06am
              Republican said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:06am | ! Report

              ……disagree.
              NZ are always comparing themselves with Australia across sport and more.
              They recruit heaps of Australians to coach respective national sides while they are obsessively bemoaning their poor form, anytime they are ‘creamed’ by us which is very infrequently these days.
              They also assume membership of our domestic leagues, something that is not reciprocated in a sport that we could use support from NZ in, i.e. Union.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 10:30am
                Old Bugger said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:30am | ! Report

                Gee, apart from Hager, I don’t think there’s anyone else coaching a current national NZ side from what I can recall but, I will bow to your knowledge, if you share their names and sport???

                And, I didn’t think it was comparing NZ to AU teams but more an endeavour to succeed more consistently, over those AU teams where such successes, are once in a blue moon.

                There is no comparison when the results are so lop-sided so why is there an effort for the WBs, to compare, as you might say?? I think you’ll find the same answer as I have – it is an endeavour to succeed

            • Roar Guru

              March 7th 2017 @ 10:12am
              Fionn said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:12am | ! Report

              I think England’s results during and after the World Cup would indicate that the coach has more of an impact on a team’s success than simply the players trying harder. Australia currently has a dearth of world class coaches.

              I don’t quite understand what you want from Australia. I think that continuing with subpar Australian coaches playing outdated rugby is likely to probably result in continuing subpar results from Australian Super Rugby sides.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 10:53am
                Old Bugger said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:53am | ! Report

                I think you’re being unfair to suggest the AU coaching ranks are sub-par. And a dearth of rugby coaches…..nah but, you’ve certainly had a couple of shockers in Foley and Graham but overall, there’s been some pretty decent blokes, holding the clip-board and whistle, if I may say so.

                However, if it is such a concern why is it that neither Dwyer or McQueen or even EJ himself, have never been called upon to help improve, those coaching capabilities. These guys are all RWC winners.

                Why has Cheika, who’s done wonders overseas, have difficulty coaching a national side, (where he has the cream of the crop to choose from) to success on a consistent basis??

                Btw, what happened to Phil Mooney (I believe that’s his name)?? He was suppose to be going places within the ARU coaching hierarchy but he seems, to have fallen off the edge of the earth and not been heard of, since.

                Its not what I want from Australia – it really is what Australia wants? Except, I don’t think recruiting overseas for players and coaches, is going to be a long-term succession plan, for Aussie rugby.

                IMO that plan, has to be initiated at home, by its own and for its own. There’s a start with getting Mick Byrne on board but “Rome wasn’t built in a day” so likewise, neither will AU rugby.

                Remember, it took Byrne 8yrs of teaching skills improvement to the ABs and a further 4 yrs to refine those skills before he witnessed, any succession consistency……and back-to-back RWC wins.

                Maybe, time is all that’s needed now…..??

              • Roar Guru

                March 7th 2017 @ 11:01am
                Fionn said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:01am | ! Report

                I don’t want them to have overseas coaches longterm mate. I think that guys like Dwyer and McQueen’s rugby would be outdated now. That being said, they would probably be a step in the right direction nonetheless!

                I have a dream of a few top New Zealand coaches being brought over and coaching Aussie sides/coaching the Aussie coaches for a number of years (3-5 years, let’s say) while the Australian coaches apprentice under them. After 3-5 years the Aussie coaches should be running everything themselves and teaching the next generation of Aussie coaches.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 11:53am
                Bakkies said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:53am | ! Report

                Australian Rugby has a resource in Grant Batty. Where is he now.

                Then you have the likes of Pat Howard, Knox, Campo, Topo not coaching professionally in Australia. TIm Lane has done a lot of coaching abroad for a long, long time. Matt Williams is still in Ireland.

                There is coaching talent out there but personal bs, career choices (see Howard and Kafer) and politics have pushed these guys out. I see Australian coaches with nous coaching attacking Rugby in Irish domestic clubs (outside of the provinces). Along with the Kiwis the Aussie coaches are straight talking, look at the bigger picture and go beyond route one.

                It is gutting to see Howard get pillared in his current job with Cricket. I know he is getting serious coin and Rugby is constant due to his family however he is wasting his Rugby knowledge dealing with Cricket bs. Leicester rated him highly when he was involved there. He could managing or coaching the Wallabies by now. If it didn’t work then move on to Cricket, outside interests.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 2:58pm
        Jagman said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:58pm | ! Report

        Players in the Aus conference are as so

        NSW 65
        QLD 59
        WA 16
        ACT 14
        NZ 11
        FIJI 8
        VIC 5
        RSA 5
        TONGA 3
        TAS 1
        ARG 1
        WALES 1
        Japan 1

        I counted anyone who came to a state or from another country before getting a SR contract as being from that state or country except Ngamanu who I counted as West Australian. L Timani counted as a Tongan, as did Mafi and Tui as NZ rather than japanese.

        • Roar Guru

          March 7th 2017 @ 3:35pm
          biltongbek said | March 7th 2017 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

          Thank you Jagman, it isn’t that bad.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 5:37pm
          AndyS said | March 7th 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

          Props Jagman, that must have taken an effort!

        • March 7th 2017 @ 6:32pm
          Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

          Thanks Jagman, I was going to undertake a similar exercise but you beat me to it.

          So 18% of Aussie Super Rugby players came from overseas clubs. Big deal, I hardly think that undermines the integrity of the conference. Many of those players like Cubelli are fulfilling a useful role by filling a gap till young Australian players are ready for Super Rugby, and are probably sharing knowledge and experience in the process. I see that as positive.

          In any case, what makes people think that cutting the Aussie conference to four teams will result in the overseas players being culled? In many instances they are still likely to be chosen over Australian club players, who will stay in the the Shute Shield or Brisbane Premier Rugby or go overseas. Hardly a win for the grass roots.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 6:34pm
          Boomeranga said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

          Jagman – would you be willing to list them? I find that really interesting.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 6:59pm
            Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:59pm | ! Report

            The man has already done a lot of work and you only need to go to the team websites to find out for yourself. Just saying.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 7:05pm
              Boomeranga said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:05pm | ! Report

              Fair enough.

        • Roar Guru

          March 8th 2017 @ 1:41am
          taylorman said | March 8th 2017 @ 1:41am | ! Report

          Lower than I thought from NZ, I’m guessing most of that 11 are originally from Auckland because last count that’s about what I got from the Tahs and Reds alone.

          That’s actually a pretty good sign for Oz rugby.

          None from the NH, my my…what a surprise. All one way traffic in that respect.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 5:15am
      Darwin Stubbie said | March 7th 2017 @ 5:15am | ! Report

      Isn’t the argument also about what is good for SR as a competition? … at some stage surely the member unions need to move away from what they can squeeze from it – which basically has resulted in where we are now. .. if the the new competition only has 4 spots for Aust teams or SA or NZ sides … so be it

      • March 7th 2017 @ 6:25am
        Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:25am | ! Report

        Yeah but nobody is talking about New Zealand having to make any sacrifices and South Africa’s “sacrifice” is only realistically likely to be the Kings, which should never have been allowed into the competition in the first place. When Kiwis feel like offering up one of their own franchises as a sacrifice “for the good of Super Rugby” then feel free to come back to us. Till then, take a hike.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 6:59am
          Darwin Stubbie said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:59am | ! Report

          Then dont endless complain about the structure of the competition. … maintain the statas quo and delude youself that having 5 teams improves development pathways (which includes poaching second rate players from other countries because as 2 of your coaches have stated the quality isnt to be found in Aust) ..

          • March 7th 2017 @ 7:22am
            Daveski said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

            I think that speaks more of our currently disappointing coaching levels than anything else Darwin. McGahan is using a Kiwi 10 when he has three better pivot options, all home – grown ( Deb, Meehan, Volavola ) under his nose. Tahs have four 10s better than Garden-Bachop based on what I’ve seen in the first two rounds. Cubelli looked like a huge loss for the Brumbies but between Powell and De Roos they’ve actually probably got it covered. Powell might well start for the Wallabies in 8-10 weeks time all because an Argentinian got injured.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 7:40am
              jameswm said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

              Or Louwrens might.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 11:45am
                Marto said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:45am | ! Report

                NUP..Powell or Tuttle for me

            • March 7th 2017 @ 8:09am
              Darwin Stubbie said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:09am | ! Report

              I actually agree with that .. but the easy default position seems to be to look at the NPC rather than the local comps … thats not a great way forward

              • March 7th 2017 @ 9:27am
                Akari said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

                Why is that so, DS? Why should Kiwis be prevented from gaining a job as a rugby player in Oz? It’s been happening for decades. I didn’t even realise that Isaac Thompson of the Brumbies was formerly an NZ U20s player. Would he have had an opportunity at super rugby if he stayed in NZ? Maybe not.

            • Roar Rookie

              March 7th 2017 @ 12:45pm
              Shane D said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

              Volavola is a Fijian international.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 5:26pm
                Daveski said | March 7th 2017 @ 5:26pm | ! Report

                Schooled and raised in Sydney. Came here in young teens.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 7th 2017 @ 6:50pm
                Shane D said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:50pm | ! Report

                & not eligible for the Wallabies so in the same boat as a Garden-Bachop.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 7:39am
            Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:39am | ! Report

            Why shouldn’t we complain about the structure of the competition? It sucks and we aren’t the ones who stuffed it up, we are just the ones who are suffering because of it.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 8:07am
              Darwin Stubbie said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:07am | ! Report

              Then i refer back to my original question … isnt it time SR matured into its own entity and not just a bastardisation for its member unions … if at the end of the review the right way forward for the best product and maximum revenue is culling teams the the unions should suck it up and adhere to it …

              • March 7th 2017 @ 6:03pm
                Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:03pm | ! Report

                Fair enough. So given that on one hand an 18 team tournament is unmanageable but a 15 team one works, but on the other hand Fox wants to find new markets in places like Japan and Argentina, surely Australia, New Zealand and South Africa should also drop to four teams to accommodate those two plus a new team, say from Canada or the US? In that instance which New Zealand would you suggest giving up?

              • March 8th 2017 @ 4:58am
                Darwin Stubbie said | March 8th 2017 @ 4:58am | ! Report

                This isn’t an argument about equality …. it’s to do with improving the competition as a whole – on nearly every metric Aust are dragging the chain revenue, viewership, quality, referees and officials … if SR is to mature into a meaningful and sustainable enterprise then the original partner Unions need to step back from trying squeeze an individual benefit out of it …if SR can sit down with broadcasters and work out a format and concept that produces improved revenue streams and growth but that equals culling a Aust team and bringing in a Singapore or extra Argentina or an Islands outfit … then that should be good and shouldn’t be derailed … unfortunately it seems Aust are in the firing line and given the lack of anything concrete out of the ARU you get the feeling that this is also a financial consideration and a decision they seem agreeable to comply with

              • March 8th 2017 @ 5:32am
                AndyS said | March 8th 2017 @ 5:32am | ! Report

                We are paying the price for the lack of leadership in 2003, and again in 2007. Pretty good chance we’ll find it travels in threes.

              • March 8th 2017 @ 9:38am
                Rhys Bosley said | March 8th 2017 @ 9:38am | ! Report

                Ah I see Darwin, you only mentioned culling NZ teams to make us feel better, but they were just weasel words. As John O’Neil said, the ARU’s job is to look after the interests of Australian rugby and like I said, if the Kiwis aren’t prepared to make any sacrifices and just want to throw us under a bus for more money from somewhere like Singapore (good grief), take a hike.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 2:20pm
              moaman said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

              RHYS. “It sucks and we aren’t the ones who stuffed it up” Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t the ARU involved on insisting there be at least one ‘home’ finalist–irrespective of where they were on the table?
              As far as I am concerned–the structure of the playoffs and particularly the ceding of home-ground advantage is the biggest problem Super Rugby has.
              I can live with draw not being a round -robin, grudgingly, but it sticks in the craw that a lower -ranked side can wrest home advantage for a key knockout game purely because of structural bias.

              It doesn’t seem that long ago that the ARU and it’s fans were demanding a spot for a 5th team in the comp.
              From memory, there was some resistance to this idea but eventually the wish came to fruition.
              Seems odd that some fans would be happy for the ARU to throw one of those 5 sides to the wolves, especially without a fight….

              • March 7th 2017 @ 6:17pm
                Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:17pm | ! Report

                The ARU rightly demanded a fifth team in the comp to match the number in South Africa and New Zealand, who at different times demanded extra teams of their own. It is entirely fair and caused no problems until the extra teams were added from Japan, Argentina and South Africa.

                I’ve never been completely comfortable with the finals arrangements from a pure rugby point of view, but from a commercial point of view it makes sense to maintain interest in Australia and South Africa when their sides have been weaker. It really isn’t that big a deal though, the stronger New Zealand teams during the regular season are the most likely to win the cup, so if a New Zealand team doesn’t get first or second in the Kiwi conference they are not likely to win anyway.

                It also goes some way to addressing the fact that Aussie teams never really get a true home game in Australia, because half the crowd is usually Kiwi. The same can’t be said for games in NZ.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 10:32pm
                ads2600 said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

                When did the NZRFU demand an extra team? They’ve always had five.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 11:55pm
                Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:55pm | ! Report

                New Zealand went from four teams in the Super 10 to five in the Super 12.

              • Roar Guru

                March 8th 2017 @ 1:48am
                taylorman said | March 8th 2017 @ 1:48am | ! Report

                They didn’t so much go from four to five, they introduced the concept of the franchises to embrace the professional environment.

                From memory Super ten and it’s earlier versions was about four of the old representative sides as they were in the NPC so they went from four singly represented sides to five wholly represented franchises.

          • Roar Guru

            March 7th 2017 @ 9:11am
            sheek said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

            Yep DS,

            And we need to ask this question of how many overseas players we’re willing to dilute our game with.

            Ultimately it will affect the gold jersey by devaluing it with players who may not be totally committed to Australia because they don’t see themselves as a true Aussie.

            Unfortunately, guys like Greg Davis & Willie Ofahengaue are in the minority, not majority.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 6:38pm
              Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:38pm | ! Report

              I don’t think reducing the number of teams will make the Wallabies any lighter for you Sheek, there are still plenty of Australian born or raised Polynesian boys who are better footy players than us whiteys. Sorry to disappoint you 😂.

              • Roar Guru

                March 7th 2017 @ 7:09pm
                sheek said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:09pm | ! Report

                Huh?

              • March 7th 2017 @ 10:55pm
                Council said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:55pm | ! Report

                He’s referring to your oft stated remarks about players with Polynesian or foreign sounding names playing for the Wallabies.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 9:20am
        BennO said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:20am | ! Report

        This is the issue. It’s a cash cow and treated as such. It would look very different if it was considered an actual development pathway for the wobblies.

        I don’t see it changing because the money is too desperately needed in the short term to allow long term thinking and planning.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 10:46am
          kamoshika said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          Totally agree with you BennO. This is the sad reality…

        • March 7th 2017 @ 11:59am
          Bakkies said | March 7th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          ‘This is the issue. It’s a cash cow and treated as such.’

          Super Rugby isn’t really. The 4 Nations is the biggest revenue driver for Sanzaar.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 6:36am
      Rhys Bosley said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:36am | ! Report

      Excellent article Brett, well said. The ARU have been as weak as water on this matter, which is probably the single most important question regarding the future of rugby in this country today. Pulver is a good financial manager and obviously had his eyes on the broadcasting dollars when he agreed to include the Jaguars, Sunwolves and Kings in the competition, but his eye has been off the ball when it comes to protecting vital the professional playing opportunities that only Super Rugby teams can provide.

      I am also surprised that all these Shute Shield wannabes who have been banging on about the ARU not supporting their competition, don’t have something to say in support of keeping the Force and Rebels. If those players become good enough to make a professional outfit where do they think they are likely to start their professional careers? There are only so many spots in the Tahs and the likes of Reece Hodge got their chance through the Rebels, I would have thought maintaining as many professional spots as possible would have been an absolute priority for first grade club players.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 9:06am
        Sam said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:06am | ! Report

        +1

      • March 7th 2017 @ 9:33am
        Akari said | March 7th 2017 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Totally agree.

        Good stuff Brett and thank you.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 10:32am
        mania said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:32am | ! Report

        wrong – u cant “protect the professional playing opportunities that only Super Rugby teams can provide.” its slowly being eroded and pretty soon if this demise continues then aus will be kicked out of super. then the entropy that you’re currently experiencing is gonna accelerate.

        sorting your grassroots isn’t difficult. it will take a few million $’s but once its sorted it will self perpetuate itself and reward you with quality cattle. 5-7 years and you will start seeing results.

        screw the super teams. they are pointless till you have a junior programme bringing in the next generation.
        like I said “grassroots grassroots grassroots”. its NZ’s secret to the ABs success. if you don’t have the kids you don’t have bupkiss

        • March 7th 2017 @ 10:36am
          Maroon Kev said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          You mean like a junior program producing all these players that come through and leave for more money buddy?

          • March 7th 2017 @ 10:50am
            mania said | March 7th 2017 @ 10:50am | ! Report

            for starters Maroon Kev, you don’t have a junior program. I know quality kids in west Sydney going to league because they haven’t had anyone approach them abut playing rugby. all they know is rugby for the rich kids that go to private schools and league is for the blue collar masses.
            secondly, players going overseas wouldn’t be the juniorPrograms fault. that’s a lack of strategy on ARU’s part to come up with a way of keeping players in NZ
            its not only Aus that suffer losing players. NZ, SA, Argentina, Samoa, Fiji, etc etc etc the list is long and its not a problem just for Aus.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 12:57pm
              Maroon Kev said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              No buddy.

              That’s a lack of money.

              So what you are saying is that all these players that play in Aus and overseas magically appear!!

              Righto buddy!!!

              I’m pretty sure a lot of the blokes that play AFL had nobody approach them about playing AFL either!!!!

              • March 7th 2017 @ 1:26pm
                mania said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

                no buddy that’s lack of strategy. good luck trying to match cashed up French clubs dollar for dollar. ARU would be broke in weeks . you have to come up with a smarter way of keeping players than just throw money at them.

                money isnt the sole answer to aus problems. u need players who are at a high level. where in aus is this being addressed? u need a strategy to develop players but first you have to attract them. money isn’t the solution as you’ll just end up growing a breed of players that have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement ,don’t listen and undermine the coach. thatws already happening and the world is looking shaking their heads.

                nobody approaches AFL players because its only played in aus.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 6:48pm
              In brief said | March 7th 2017 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

              Super rugby has done exactly that in Perth and Melbourne. Cut those teams and watch the sport die.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 12:15pm
            Bakkies said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

            ‘You mean like a junior program producing all these players that come through and leave for more money buddy?’

            The players don’t leave for money in theory. They get offers and so on. You can’t blame the players for earning more coin and/or looking to turn professional through their province. No guarantees that they will make it so they are still playing for their clubs. The clubs need to look at developing the next player rather than fighting a losing battle over player availability.

            The biggest blight is Schools Rugby policies. Clubs are struggling to field youth Rugby teams from under 14s to under 18s. There is an issue with Schools players not being allowed to play club Rugby when not selected. This should be the biggest focus in Rugby development to the respective union and clubs. Forget the pro stuff. The genuine life blood of clubs moving forward is having enough players to fill Colts and adult grades.

            I am sure it is not just happening in Ireland. Forget jurisdictions with separate schools branches, the union holds the player’s registration. If a school that doesn’t select a player in a schools match but blocks a player from playing a game of club Rugby should be reprimanded.

            • March 7th 2017 @ 12:59pm
              Maroon Kev said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

              I’m not blaming the players pal!!!

              I’m pointing out they are there!!! Or were, but leave!!!! Clearly they are coming through!!

              • March 7th 2017 @ 1:28pm
                mania said | March 7th 2017 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

                “Clearly they are coming through!!”

                yes, but they suck, have very low skill sets and there are fk all of them.

                what fantasy world are you living in where you think the cattle that aus has is fine. don’t you want aus to get better?

    • March 7th 2017 @ 7:22am
      Jamie said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      Hi Brett

      Nailed it! Great article and could not agree more.

      If they cut ONE Aussie team I will walk away from the game forever. In my opinion 4 teams is not the answer and not the comp I want to watch therefore I will not buy into that product. No more Foxtel, no more memberships, no more rugby jumpers. Etc.

      ARU needs to grow some …. and fight for our game

      The notion that cutting one team will mean stronger squads is nonsense. Most players will head OS.

      As a side note players have to take responsibility for the way they are playing. Some of these guys are just walking, zero effort.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 7:28am
        Daveski said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

        James that’s all well and good. You can choose to not watch but it’s patently clear a lot of people have made that choice over the last few seasons already.

        Personally I’m not sure any more. A reduction in the professional rugby opportunities in Australia will be a sad day but geez it’s starting to be hard to argue we can field five strong teams at any one time. And as much as I still love Super Rugby in its current form, it’s clearly not engaging the wider public and meanwhile dis-engaging many traditional fans.

        • March 7th 2017 @ 8:20am
          Jamie said | March 7th 2017 @ 8:20am | ! Report

          What really annoys me is having someone like Garden Bachop playing at ten for the Rebels, is there really no one else in Aus rugby that could take that spot? Zac Holmes could not get a decent run in any of our teams and now the guy is killing it overseas.

          Yes hard to argue with the performances so far however I don’t think that has to do with the number of teams. There has been some very lazy players in the first two rounds.

          • March 7th 2017 @ 12:43pm
            Old Bugger said | March 7th 2017 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

            You know, it really is unfair to blame the player, for this systemic problem. The problem is the coach who thinks there’s insufficient rugby talent, within the AU conference, hence he goes overseas, to solve his problem.

            It is so much of a problem that even the current WB assistant coach, in his role as an SR coach, has followed the same path and hired, a No10, from overseas.

            Both sides have No10s on the sideline but, in both coach’s perception, they don’t think their own, have sufficient experience.

            Well bugger me……and folks come out and blame the player……that’s a new one, init???

            • March 7th 2017 @ 2:11pm
              Jamie said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:11pm | ! Report

              I don’t blame him at all, in fact I give him credit for having a go. My point is that we surely have other players that could slot in that position.

              Let’s face it he is not setting the world on fire so let’s give someone else a go. I much rather have an australian player playing badly and hopefully improving than an OS one. I think every other nation would think the same.

              • March 7th 2017 @ 2:20pm
                Old Bugger said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

                OK, it just annoys you then.

                So, unleash your concerns on the ARU coaching fraternity because it is their doings why, a home-grown player, is not receiving the opportunities.

    • March 7th 2017 @ 7:25am
      Cynical Play said | March 7th 2017 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Pulver and co have had every opportunity to manage declining local interest in both playing and viewing. They don’t seem up to it. Unfortunately, we are stuck with them. Or are we??

      A fifth Oz team would be great for local interest, would increase local viewing numbers, adda a players pathway for development, and would be no less competitive than the Sunwolves. Coaching talent needs to be rapidly developed along the lines of the NZ model of developing coaches. (They even develop refs).

      I would be bloody happy with a half season of local rugby derbies, followed by a shorter competition of play-offs with teams from the other SA, NZ, and Jap/Arg conferences. Top 2 teams from each conference go through for a short round-robyn then finals. I think the viewers would be fine with this. I mean how many viewers are going to getting up to watch an Oz vs SA match at 3am at the oment, whereas all local derbies would be prime time in Oz. PRIME time. Not 3.10pm from sunny Dunedin, or 2.10am from rarified Joe’burg. PRIME.

      Think about it.

      • March 7th 2017 @ 2:52pm
        kamoshika said | March 7th 2017 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

        This please.

      • March 8th 2017 @ 12:09am
        Rhys Bosley said | March 8th 2017 @ 12:09am | ! Report

        That is a damn good suggestion, they could set up 4 x 5 team conferences in Africa, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (Argentina, Canada, Japan, US and A South African team chosen in a play off of the lowest two from the previous year). And lower ranking trophies like they do in the sevens for the next six and six teams respectively. Heaps of money from Foxtel, nobody loses a team and everybody gets to play in a final of some sort, winners all round.

        • March 8th 2017 @ 12:35am
          AndyS said | March 8th 2017 @ 12:35am | ! Report

          I have to say, I hate the idea of a “losers” competition. They do it in Sevens because they have to do something to fill time, but it is when everyone goes to the toilet or gets the beers in. But what team or supporter has ever proudly pointed to any of the Cups or Shields in their silverware cabinet? In 15s the crowd and TV audience together wouldn’t fill a minibus. Absolutely no way you’d cover ground hire costs and match payments, even assuming the players were prepared to risk injury playing in a dead rubber.

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