Where did all the Australian representative rugby go?

Bay35Pablo Roar Rookie

By Bay35Pablo, Bay35Pablo is a Roar Rookie

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    Many bemoan that the Australian “provincial” teams competing in the Super 14 (soon to be Super 15) are often not from the state they play for. Players now roam the country, looking for the best opportunities, playing wise and money wise.

    Until this year most Reds fans bemoaned that many of their best players were to be found outside their borders. Similarly, some states such as NSW wonder why the team has to recruit players such a Drew Mitchell, Sosene Anesi or Henrik Van Roodt, when home grown players presumably miss out.

    This caused me to think of rugby league’s State of Origin – its showcase and crown jewel which many New Zealand and English players have expressed a desire to play if they could. Origin is really league’s Australian provincial level competition.

    That competition of course grew out of the intense NSW-Queensland rivalry of the late 1970s, when the then NSWRL would regularly “steal” players southward with their bigger money, and then use those players to beat Queensland in the state games.

    Since State of Origin started (emulating as I understand the AFL version), who a player fronts up for is determined by where they played junior league first, not where they play or live now. Indeed this has led to English rugby league reviving their inter county games, and New Zealand looking to start a similar competition from 2010 under the tag “Kiwi Roots” (I kid you not), being basically Auckland vs the Rest of NZ.

    Up until 1996 provincial sides were essentially picked in the same way as league in the late 1970s, you played for where you lived and worked (because you were amateur, and had a real job!). Since then, of course, professionalism has meant that any player can play for any team in Australia that he contracts for.

    In the case of Scott Fava, he was the first player to play for all 4 Super 14 teams. A long way from the days when a player would usually envision only ever playing for one state team.

    Professionalism has essentially killed representative rugby at the state/provincial level, in more ways than one. “State” sides now only really play in the Super 14 competition. The most recent competition to feature these sides was the short lived Australian Provincial Championship (APC) in 2006, which was then replaced by the short lived Australian Rugby Championship.

    At the amateur level the Australian Rugby Shield (ARS) was killed off in recent years due to cost cutting by the ARU. Now, the only time you are likely you see Super 14/15 or state teams playing outside the Super 14/15 will be against touring international sides, including the Lions.

    With the ending of the Australia A program, also for cost cutting reasons at the same time as the ARS was culled, perhaps it is time to bring back representative rugby in some form. Simply trotting out the Super 14/15 sides later in the season, without their Wallabies (who would be competing in the Tri-Nations or November tour) like the APC is unlikely to get rugby fans excited, in simply delivering “more of the same” as Super 14 (especially with the increased local derbies in Super 15).

    As such, how about the re-introduction of at least a one off true representative fixture between at least NSW and Queensland every season?

    This could be played after the Super 14/15, and thus provide provincial level players, and fringe Wallabies (or returning injured players) with something more intense than club rugby.

    If the timing was right, it could even be fitted in between Tri-Nations games and feature Wallabies (although I can’t see Robbie Deans or the ARU interrupting their preparations, or risking injuries).

    When you think of some of the players that would have played in a truly representative state squad for either NSW or Queensland, it throws up some mouth watering possibilities. George Smith pulling on the sky blue, Drew Mitchell pulling on the maroon, sorry red (I hear some Reds fans screaming NSW can have him, while some Tahs fans yell the Reds can have him back). Latham for NSW, Hewat for Queensland, etc.

    And before ACT and other state fans start screaming, I’ll let commercial reality and practicality step in. Firstly, the teams have to be competitive. Until ACT, WA, Victoria, etc can field a full 22 players able to play at the same level (i.e. professional), they aren’t likely to be competitive, or provide enough of a spectacle to get in the revenue to pay for the spectacle.

    Secondly, if they aren’t competitive no one will watch. At the end of the day NSW and Queensland are the “heartland” of rugby, and provide an age old rivalry. Just look at league’s Origin for proof – 30 years and going strong.

    So, assuming we can get RUPA and the players to cut a deal on the extra coin needed for them to play (flashbacks to the imbroglio about the Possibles v Probables game last year), would anyone else love to see at least one true provincial representative game some time soon in Australian rugby?

    Although I’m sure someone would anyway, anyone want to suggest some starting sides …. and coaches?

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • April 12th 2010 @ 9:30am
      Chris said | April 12th 2010 @ 9:30am | ! Report

      I note that the last time an ACT Rep side played a NSW Rep side the ACT won 44 to 28. Competitive indeed.

      Any attempt to introduce Origin would just look like a pale imitation of League’s version.

      • April 12th 2010 @ 10:20am
        Axel said | April 12th 2010 @ 10:20am | ! Report

        Thats right Chris and they also regularly beat Qld going right back to the 70s.

        • April 12th 2010 @ 3:39pm
          JohnB said | April 12th 2010 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

          An interesting definition of “regularly” in use here, assuming we’re talking pre super rugby.

      • October 18th 2010 @ 12:48pm
        Noobs said | October 18th 2010 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

        This article must surely have been written by a NSW’s supporter. How many super titles have NSW’s won?

        “Until ACT, WA, Victoria, etc can field a full 22 players able to play at the same level (i.e. professional), they aren’t likely to be competitive, or provide enough of a spectacle to get in the revenue to pay for the spectacle.”

        ACT is the most successful Australian team. No argument.

    • April 12th 2010 @ 9:40am
      Brett McKay said | April 12th 2010 @ 9:40am | ! Report

      Pablo, I would like to see it, however……..

      • April 12th 2010 @ 11:53am
        simon said | April 12th 2010 @ 11:53am | ! Report

        I appreciate the concept, but don’t think it would work now that we have the S14 teams. It may even damage their images further.

        With Super rugby expansion from 2011, I can’t see a great need for it. Non-test super players will only have 10 or so weeks to fill during the test season. The advantage that NZ and SA enjoy with their domestic competitions developing players will be significantly reduced.

        The most workable concept for AUS rugby was the ARC. If ever there was to be a more competitive domestic comp to fill this slot, it would have to be the ARC resurrected.

        I was talking to the guy who worked for the ARU at the time of the ARC and was in charge of actually working out the financial cost effectiveness of the comp (which he started doing under JON’s first stint at the helm). He assured me profusely, that most people don’t appreciate that if a major broadcaster and sponsor had of got on board, the comp would still be up and running today. Perhaps the real problem was it’s timing.

    • April 12th 2010 @ 11:23am
      Republican said | April 12th 2010 @ 11:23am | ! Report

      That is why the ACT were afforded Super status over a decade ago, unlike the criteria that sees both WA and Vic now involved – theirs is totally due to a commercial criteria.

      I was talking with a mate this weekend who’s lad is an ex Marist Pearce Union player. They were saying how the standard of Schools Union has deteriorated in Canberra dramatically and see this as a result of both St Edmunds and Marist Colleges intentional move away from their Union cultures.

      This also highlights a lack of potent Union GR in the region despite the Brumbies decade or more presence in the ACT, since it seems without these two historically strong union nurseries, their is little else of substance in this respect, so a strong reliance on both Union institutions continues even today.

      I have little doubt that both WA and Vic respectively, would defeat an ACT Schools rep side these days and that St Kevins in Melbourne would do the same if pitted against SEC or Marist Pearce, due to the regression of Union at the GR in Canberra.

      • April 12th 2010 @ 12:32pm
        Pete said | April 12th 2010 @ 12:32pm | ! Report

        Republican, do you copy and paste all your posts from your previous ones?

      • April 12th 2010 @ 1:14pm
        cuzybros cuz said | April 12th 2010 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        you keep blowing the same tune republican!!!!!

      • April 12th 2010 @ 4:42pm
        Billo Boy said | April 12th 2010 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

        Republican can you please tell us what you mean by “as a result of both St Edmunds and Marist Colleges intentional move away from their Union cultures”? What’s going on there?

    • April 12th 2010 @ 11:46am
      mtngry said | April 12th 2010 @ 11:46am | ! Report

      I miss the NSW waratahs.. as opposed to the most of NSW HSBC wwaratahs.

      How much did the ARS cost the ARU? REally?
      how did making rugby available to people who live outside Sydney/Brisbane get declared TOO Expensive?

      • Roar Guru

        April 12th 2010 @ 1:10pm
        Bay35Pablo said | April 12th 2010 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        ARC lost $5m.

        • April 12th 2010 @ 3:37pm
          AndyS said | April 12th 2010 @ 3:37pm | ! Report

          ARS Bay, not ARC. It is an interesting question, as I’ve never seen a value placed on the saving made by cancelling what was essentially the pinnacle to which most amateur players could aspire.

    • April 12th 2010 @ 12:04pm
      sheek said | April 12th 2010 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

      Bay,

      I would much rather have our 5 provinces than just two state-of-origins. It will take some many years, but eventually we might end up with 5 provinces, each of them a state-of-origin standard.

      I also like the fact a player can appear for a province for lifestyle & family reasons, & not be bound purely by where he was born. Although, of course, today’s professionals are very monetary-minded in their outlook, a curse of professionalism we have to live with.

      • Roar Guru

        April 12th 2010 @ 1:11pm
        Bay35Pablo said | April 12th 2010 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

        Sheek, My point is I’d love to see both.

        • April 12th 2010 @ 1:26pm
          sheek said | April 12th 2010 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

          Bay,

          Yeah I understood that, but where to schedule such a match, even if it is just one match?

          And would the players be ‘up for it’, or is their attitude “they have moved on”…..?

          Contractual obligations would probably be the stumbling block, make that solid brick wall!

          Also, what works very well for league doesn’t necessarily fit the union landscape.

    • April 12th 2010 @ 12:06pm
      Working Class Rugger said | April 12th 2010 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

      It would be fanastic to see the re-introduction of the ARS. Hopefully with an increased funds arriving from the next deal it will return. I have often wonder on whether the ARS should have been the blueprint Australian Rugby should have used to achieve the much debated National Competition.

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