Expansion necessary to save Wallabies

kingplaymaker Roar Rookie

By kingplaymaker, kingplaymaker is a Roar Rookie

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138 Have your say

    Ask any Wallabies supporter the reason for the team’s recent troubles and you will receive almost any kind of deluded response.

    Robbie Deans has gone from being one of the finest coaches in the world to a hideous third-rater, perhaps even capsizing his charge intentionally as a consequence of New Zealand origin. Matt Giteau somehow manages to poison the entire Wallabies performance from the all-commanding position of inside centre. The team, unlike other top rank professional rugby players, lose their heads and discipline at the slightest provocation. More reasonably, they are ravaged by injuries and what remains is a limping skeleton of the presumably world-beating ensemble when fit.

    If all the Wallabies were healthy and Graham Henry were coach, they would suddenly master the All Blacks of course?

    The earlier reasons are manifest nonsense. Robbie Deans is clearly a world-class coach at the helm of resources so drab that not even the greatest coaching magician could conjure them into gold.

    The last excuse, that the players are all injured, has the largest element of truth and is therefore the most dangerous. Granted players like Quade Cooper, Digby Ioane and Wycliff Palu would improve the current team significantly, but teams always have injured or suspended players. New Zealand are currently missing Sitiveni Sivivatu and Ali Williams and have lost half a side worth of first choice players overseas. The fact remains that even with a fit Wallabies outfit New Zealand look far more impressive in playing strength as will South Africa once they adjust to a new style of play.

    Australian rugby must face the deep, terrible truth behind the current crisis: a significant demise in the number of high quality players the game is producing.

    It’s uncomfortable to face such a fundamental problem as the players produced by the game as a whole simply not being talented enough, but it is necessary to do so.

    A question was pointed out recently which every Wallaby fan should ask themselves before condemning Robbie Deans again.

    How many Wallabies would make the All Black starting 15? Honestly? Let’s say Rocky Elsom, Will Genia, maybe Benn Robinson. A total of three is optimistic. How on earth is Deans or even Merlin the wizard supposed to beat an opposition almost every single player of which is superior to his own?

    (That Deans could get his side within 10 points of them is something of a miracle of coaching).

    This was not always the case. The teams of the 90s would have several players in the All Blacks, even a world 15. There is obviously a decline, and it is due to the limited number of career opportunities the game presents with only four Super teams.

    The number of professional places four teams offer is ridiculous for a country with aspirations to be the best in the world. Players do not simply appear in fully formed perfection and often need high level exposure in order to develop. Four teams can only provide that exposure to a very small number, and if a player cannot make his way into a team his career is effectively finished.

    With double the number of Super teams, more contracts could be offered to young players who otherwise go off to the NRL, the game would grow as feeder clubs led directly into contracts with the mother team, and eventually the two or three extra world class players necessary to make the Wallabies a potentially world-beating team would emerge.

    The only alternative to Super rugby is a hypothetical national competition which would provide far more places. However, the ARU has committed itself to the current format and with the expanded season running until august it’s hard to see how such a national competition could run long enough, pay large enough salaries to attract young players to the game and overall be a major force. At best it could be a minor addition which would make a small difference.

    As a result, given that Super rugby is here to stay, the solution is for several more Super teams to provide more places for young players and generally to expand the game in geography and supporter base. I would suggest that now some expansion into markets outside the heartlands has taken place, it is time to shore up New South Wales and Queensland. Teams in Western Sydney and the Gold Coast should be established immediately, instantly doubling the number of professional contracts that can be offered in these player-rich states.

    There is a tremendous hullaballoo raised whenever a Super team is set up as if it is some tremendously difficult feat. In fact is no more than a rugby club, the only different problem it faces being the travel expenses to the other member countries. This should not be so much of an obstacle as the competition is increasingly based on significant numbers of matches against other Australian teams rather than New Zealand or South African opposition. Not only that, but the extra length of the season, which should be extended even further by the way, will lead in itself to much greater revenue from crowds and eventually television.

    The Melbourne Rebels have shown a model for how to found a new team. One third foreign players, one third up and coming Australian players and one third rugby league converts. This kind of team can be competitive until the franchise begins to develop its own young players from the environment it represents who will then fill the places. Backed by private equity and corporate sponsorship and with a long season, a team like this can easily be a financial success.

    There is no reason why this model cannot simply repeated. In addition to the two teams mentioned a further one should soon be added in New South Wales, with final expansion to Adelaide and Newcastle.

    The ARU must create another Sydney and Queensland team straight away, and should allow South Africa and New Zealand to have as many teams as they in their own segment of the competition should they stand in the way.

    Otherwise one day even the proudest Wallabies supporter’s excuse-making faculties will run dry.

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    The Crowd Says (138)

    • August 13th 2010 @ 1:10am
      Ben S said | August 13th 2010 @ 1:10am | ! Report

      Pretty facile article full of facile (and oddly melodramatic) statements:

      ‘How many Wallabies would make the All Black starting 15? Honestly? Let’s say Rocky Elsom, Will Genia, maybe Benn Robinson. A total of three is optimistic. How on earth is Deans or even Merlin the wizard supposed to beat an opposition almost every single player of which is superior to his own?’

      I doubt that Rodney So’oialo would have made many other Test sides when he was the incumbent 8 man, doesn’t mean he didn’t do a job for the All Blacks. I suspect that only three or four Italian players would make the starting Scotland XV and yet Italy has generally had the wood over Scotland in recent years. Individual excellence is not a natural adjunct of team success.

      If you’re going to make comparisons at Test level then go down further and examine the Super 14 ladder. Australian rugby had as many finalists as NZ rugby and more sides who finished in the top half of the table. Why? Because rugby is a team sport. Seems pretty odd to me how some people are hanging onto the Deans card, when that flush busted out last November.

      • August 13th 2010 @ 1:21am
        Ben S said | August 13th 2010 @ 1:21am | ! Report

        Anyhow, beyond the stereotypical cliches I agree re: foreign players, however the key to that scenario is selecting the right players. Greg Somerville strikes me as a very astute signing, but it would be hard to attract such talent/experience across the board.

        One other scenario that tends to be overlooked is Australian players playing in either the Currie Cup or the ITM. Ben Daley, for example, was clearly way, way out of his depth during the Summer, so why not go and do what Luke Rooney is doing?

        • August 13th 2010 @ 8:18am
          Brett McKay said | August 13th 2010 @ 8:18am | ! Report

          and Ben this is a question I raised a few weeks ago. If Sydney and Brisbane club rugby is as good as we’re told it is, why are guys like Christian Lealiifano, Josh Tatupu and Rooney (ITM Cup) and Daniel Halangahu (CC) looking for better comps in NZ and SA. There might be more, too. Matt Toomua was brought into the Wallaby Spring Tour last year on the back of steering Western Province around..

          • August 13th 2010 @ 1:00pm
            Cliff (Bishkek) said | August 13th 2010 @ 1:00pm | ! Report

            Hi Brett

            Not usre if this is correct but I understand that Deans was instrumental in getting Matt Toomua to Western Province and I think he will come ahead in the next year after the experience.

            And you are right – maybe our fringe and up and coming players should aim for overseas “short term” or “two year” contracts. Experience – and it would be better if NZ or SA. What are those countries National rules on Foreign Players?

            But I think the article has merit – not certain that the teams should be S14 or S15 – but there needs to be a structure in place – similar to the NRL – where each NRL club has feeder clubs to the NRL.

            For mine, the Sydney & Brisbane Comps are not good enough comps for test and fringe players. Rugby at Club level is still B-B-Q and Private School Viewing and is run as such. There needs to be a structure and as I said yesterday to Sheek there are too many interests who are not interested in IMPROVED RUGBY IN AUS – AT THE EXPENSE OF THEIR SYDNEY OR BRISBANE COMP / CLUB.

            The ARU needs to make a stand. Now all of this will never make Aus coming out on top of the ABs & SAs all the time – we have too many other winter sports to distract young talent – that will never go away.

            But at the moment I think we have nothing to offer – and I think Aus Rugby is slowly sinking. I hope that I am wrong

            • August 13th 2010 @ 1:17pm
              Brett McKay said | August 13th 2010 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

              Cliff, I also believe that was the case re Toomua, that Deans (or ARU HPU people) played a part..

              Sheek and KPM and I touch on the need to do something down a bit lower. Sheek particulalry reminded us tha the last time the ARU tried to make a stand against the clubs on the national comp, it cost O’Neill his job. That of course isn’t reason not to develop a proper solution, and as most posters here today agree, a proper solution is needed more than ever.

              (as a starting point, I’d reckon the clubs would fall into line pretty quickly if their ARU grants were dependant on it, but that might just be me. I’ve stated before it’s easy for me to say these things as I have no club ties.)

              I don’t particularly mind what the solution is even, and I’d be happy with the 5 S15 teams playing more, or a ARC-type comp. Whatever. The point is, at this time of year, we need SOMETHING above club rugby.

    • August 13th 2010 @ 4:54am
      CizzyRascal said | August 13th 2010 @ 4:54am | ! Report

      First of all, Australian Rugby Union can’t look at the as a nursery for young players. It has to build up its own development structure. Maybe they can steal the NRL blueprint as that seems to be working very well.

      The Gold Coast sport market is saturated. They will soon have an A-League, NRL and AFL side. Sydney could probably put up one more side though.

      On the point of bringing in foreign players, maybe 10 is too much, but 5-6 would be a good number. They add something different to the competition.

      • August 13th 2010 @ 8:47am
        kingplaymaker said | August 13th 2010 @ 8:47am | ! Report

        Cizzy if not the Gold Coast then another in Brisbane. Besides, even if there are other codes in the Gold Coast it doesn’t mean Rugby can’t outperform them in its own heartland.

    • August 13th 2010 @ 6:12am
      darwin stubby said | August 13th 2010 @ 6:12am | ! Report

      Is this really meant to be a serious article ? ….

    • August 13th 2010 @ 6:52am
      Hayden said | August 13th 2010 @ 6:52am | ! Report

      The cart put way ahead of the horse, methinks. It is somewhat wishful thinking to believe that creating a Super franchise will see enough players materialising from out of thin air to make them competitive. The point is that both NZ and SA’s success is built on a solid domestic competition, and until Australia has that, they will never have a firm foundation from which to build on.

      Right now, with them ITM and Currie Cup, NZ and SA still struggle to field five consistently competitive sides, so quite where the players are going to come from for expansion is a mystery. Personally, the last thing I want to see is Aussies infiltrating the ITM to any extent, and I am sure most Saffers would agree re the Currie Cup.

      There is no quick fix. The game must grow domestically first, or else whither and die.

      • August 13th 2010 @ 8:44am
        kingplaymaker said | August 13th 2010 @ 8:44am | ! Report

        Hayden this is the only clear way to grow the game.

        How could a three month domestic competition pay salaries to compete with the NRL?

    • August 13th 2010 @ 6:55am
      sheek said | August 13th 2010 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      Well done KPG,

      You can take the heat off me for a while! Agree with the broad thrust of what you say, but already Ben S & DS have stuck the knife in!!

      The fans have smelt blood. They want Deans’ head, & won’t be satisfied until he’s chopped. Nothing else matters. Incoming…..

      • August 13th 2010 @ 7:18am
        Ben S said | August 13th 2010 @ 7:18am | ! Report

        Au contraire, sheek. I hope Dingo stays on for as long as possible. I really do. On a more serious note, following the loss to Scotland I was quite positive re: the Wallabies. I felt that were that game to be replayed another 99 times Scotland would still have only won the one game, but Deans is now months down the line and the side looks as badly coached, disorganised and confused as ever. Anyway, this argument has been done to death. I hope for your sake, as a genuine fan, that you don’t have to observe another 3N wooden spoon and a crummy European tour.

        • August 13th 2010 @ 7:27am
          darwin stubby said | August 13th 2010 @ 7:27am | ! Report

          don’t worry the answer to all the wallabies woes is on the horizon – Vickerman is coming back in June next year

      • August 13th 2010 @ 7:24am
        darwin stubby said | August 13th 2010 @ 7:24am | ! Report

        Hardly put the knife in – it’s a genuine question … this has nothing to do with Deans – some like him some don’t and it’s certainly right to question his record …

        but this article really ignores the fact that SANZAR runs super rugby not the ARU … unless of course this is promoting the ARU withdraws from super rugby leaving it to NZ and SA … if that’s the case I can’t see how a 10 team domestic competition that will be in direct competition with the NRL will produce the funds to pay an influx of overseas players as well as taking all the young kids developed by the NRL – with the NRL powerless to do anything, given the NRL will have a far larger TV deal than anything a domestic rugby competition will be able to sign

        • August 13th 2010 @ 7:34am
          sheek said | August 13th 2010 @ 7:34am | ! Report

          Ben S & Darwin,

          My comments weren’t directed to either of you personally, although I understand how it looks that way. The comments were general, aimed at a far wider base of supporters.

          I agree with KPG we need a national comp some time into the future. But of more immediate concern is building the player participation base, & fixing up the structures.

          • August 13th 2010 @ 7:42am
            darwin stubby said | August 13th 2010 @ 7:42am | ! Report

            that’s 100% correct – the base needs to be addressed – the top down approach won’t work and just continually adding super rugby teams, diluting the quality of the rugby on offer, is a recipe for disaster .. at the very least in the short term the super sides need to have a youth team competition operating as per the toyota cup … also the ARU needs to re-instate the Aust A programme and get back involved in the pacific nations cup – that’s where all the young guys should be blooded

        • August 13th 2010 @ 8:42am
          kingplaymaker said | August 13th 2010 @ 8:42am | ! Report

          darwin every match brings income, and NRL salaries are very low.

          With the conference system it would be easier to have more teams, as most of the matches would be inter-australian.

          There are plenty of overseas players who don’t actually demand very high salaries.

        • Columnist

          August 13th 2010 @ 1:51pm
          Elisha Pearce said | August 13th 2010 @ 1:51pm | ! Report

          I spose the idea is that the third teir comp wouldnt be a direct competition with the NRL salaries.
          But it would at least give something to people who are looking to improve enough to make it into a super rugby team or a Wallabies jersey at some point.
          We do need a teir between clubs and super rugby.

          There are a few ways it could be done – the ARC which is a big money drain because you create generic clubs and generic teams that take time to build a fan base.
          Another way that could be looked into is a bit of a champions league style club tournament.
          Partially funded by the ARU and run by the ARU.

          The top 3 teams from Sydney and Brisbane – top 2 ACT and VIC teams and top WA team should all play a midweek tournament against each other.
          Yep, there are definitely reasons at to why that wouldnt work. But I think it would slowly lift the overall level of club rugby in Australia as a whole. Maybe would take 10 years to take a full effect, but im happy to let the ARU show more vision and foresight than either the Libs or Labor. Please plan for the future.
          With a champions league comp there is lucrative money to be made by clubs who make it into the comp (winners prize?)
          and there is the extra attendance and sponsorship that can be generated by participating in a midweek league.
          The sponsors of the clubs can definitely be more National based companys rather than just local club ones.

          • August 13th 2010 @ 1:58pm
            JF said | August 13th 2010 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

            The best the clubs have come up with in over 100yrs is for the Brisbane champion to play the Sydney champion in a one-off game at the end of the year – a game that no one cares about – especially Syd Uni. Do not look to the clubs for solutions – dead end.

      • August 13th 2010 @ 8:34am
        kingplaymaker said | August 13th 2010 @ 8:34am | ! Report

        Sheek it seems so obvious really: the NRL can offer 16 squads worth of places, the ARU 5. Now who’s going to make off with the talent? In this context it’s not even about beating the NRL, just getting that small extra number of good players to make the Wallabies a winning team.

        I really don’t understand why it’s such a big deal adding more Super teams. Surely more matches means more revenue which is good for everyone?

        • August 13th 2010 @ 8:48am
          CizzyRascal said | August 13th 2010 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          And where are all these fans going to come to support these new sides? Where are the finances to set up these sides?

          • August 13th 2010 @ 9:01am
            kingplaymaker said | August 13th 2010 @ 9:01am | ! Report

            Cizzy there are plenty of fans: W.estern sydney and the Queensland are swarming with them. Private equity and the ARU are fine to fund such teams.

      • August 13th 2010 @ 10:35am
        joeb said | August 13th 2010 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        Sheek, the fact remains Deans is not doing a terribly good job… with players on the bench why doesn’t he use them? Why for instance did Genia play 75 minutes in the first Bledisloe – Burgess only got 5 mins at the end – and the full 80 in the second Bled/TN? Why is O’Connor preferred over Lachie Turner on the wing? Why is Barnes – yes, bad error in the 1st Bled, charge-down that led to their reply charge-down try, but still – now sitting out the entire game…? At first Deans seemed a masterstroke by the ARU, but the fact is a homegrown coach would be doing a better job… bring back Connolly – there was a good coach/player relationship there, a true rapport. Serious. Can you seriously see us winning another TN/Bled test this year? I mean this is becoming comical…

    • August 13th 2010 @ 7:21am
      sheek said | August 13th 2010 @ 7:21am | ! Report

      In an accompanying article on The Roar, Luke Doherty explains how the NRL is looking at 2 from 4 excellent bids for expansion.

      The 4 bids are located in WA, Central Coast, Ipswich & Central Queensland.

      One thing about the sporting landscape in Australia, is that the other 3 codes are on the march, either already expanding or looking to expand.

      Yes, rugby will have the Melbourne Rebels in super rugby but all the other indicators, especially playing numbers, are of great concern. The great youth catchment areas of Australia – the greater west of Sydney, Central Coast & south-east Qld – are being lost to rugby at a rapid rate.

      There is a theory about the land that Australia can’t support 4 football codes infinitum into the future, either with players or media exposure or sponsors or merchandising sales.

      So guess which footy code is closest to the abyss….. ? And all we worry about is the national coach….. ??

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