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CAMPO: Australian rugby needs to better support the grassroots

David Campese Columnist

By David Campese, David Campese is a Roar Expert

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    Australian Wallabies Robert Horne is tackled during the 2011 Rugby World Cup. AAP Image/AFP, Franck Fife

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    It was another bleak week of Super Rugby for the majority of the Australian teams, with the Reds getting carved up by a pretty weak Force side and the Waratahs going back into their shells again.

    It really highlights the lack of depth in local rugby at the moment.

    There just isn’t the talent pool here that there is in New Zealand and South Africa. If an Australian team loses a couple of key players, the back-ups they bring in generally aren’t up to the standard required to make an impact at this level.

    The Reds are a case in point.

    Without Cooper, the team is struggling. The players simply didn’t look interested on the weekend and I’d say, based on that performance, they’re gone for this season. What’s more, Genia’s form has slumped dramatically without that creative spark inside of him to take the pressure off.

    The Force played well against a Reds side that have now been belted two weeks in a row, but they haven’t got the players to be a serious threat this season.

    The same goes for the Rebels, who were thumped by the Highlanders and don’t have the combinations needed to perform consistently in Super Rugby.

    And then we get to the Waratahs, who were disappointing, again, a week after the vocal criticism had woken them and encouraged them to play good rugby. They need to learn that a positive win the previous week won’t win them the game the week after.

    They also need to understand that you can’t make mistakes, then just give any ball they do get straight back to the opposition. They’re just not respecting possession.

    But it all comes back to the grassroots of Australian rugby.

    It is being neglected by the administration who prefer instead to throw money at the top end of the game and forget about getting young players involved. As a result, we’re being killed by AFL and rugby league, who look after their grassroot player base very well by using ex-players to promote the game.

    In rugby, the officials are threatened by us and don’t want us involved,

    So Australian rugby is failing on two major levels: it’s not doing enough to encourage the kids to play and love the game, and the decision-makers are continually appointing foreign coaches to senior roles within Wallabes.

    We got a further example of that this week when it was revealed that new coaching co-ordinator, Tony McGahan (who himself has just finished up a stint at Irish club Munster), is likely to appoint former Edinburgh and Scotland A coach Nick Scrivener as the Wallabies scrum coach.

    Andrew Blades is the other option. Why not give it to him? Or better yet, get Ewen McKenzie involved.

    Until Australian rugby gets serious about the development and promotion of the game in this country, the Wallabies will continue to struggle against the stronger rugby nations.

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    The Crowd Says (117)

    • April 4th 2012 @ 4:54am
      BennO said | April 4th 2012 @ 4:54am | ! Report

      Campo’s solution is not a good one though. He argues that the ARU doesn’t support the grass roots of rugby and that is the source of our problems and therefore we need to appoint Aussies to coach the Wallabies. That’s the solution to problems with the Wallabies not the grass roots.

      If you want to support the grass roots, then develop a program to compete with AFL’s Oz Kick program. Fund junior development and get the get the third tier going better than it is. The nationality of the coach of the wallabies doesn’t matter if the problem is at the grass roots level.

      I would prefer an Aussie coach of the Australian team as a matter of principle, but it’s irrelevant to fixing the grass roots level problems.

      • April 4th 2012 @ 5:27am
        kingplaymaker said | April 4th 2012 @ 5:27am | ! Report

        BennO Murray Mexted argued that Top-down strategies work better than the other way round recently. This article suggests that starting at the grass-roots and moving up is the way forward.

        • April 4th 2012 @ 5:46am
          BennO said | April 4th 2012 @ 5:46am | ! Report

          Yeah but it doesn’t really. He says that and then suggests a key step is to appoint an Aussie to coach the wallabies. That’s not grass roots, that’s top down.

          “So Australian rugby is failing on two major levels: it’s not doing enough to encourage the kids to play and love the game, and the decision-makers are continually appointing foreign coaches to senior roles within Wallabes.”

          Appointing foreign coaches is irrelevant to grass roots stuff. All I’m saying is it’s a weak argument. It seems Campo just forced this point into the article when it’s irrelevant to grass roots problems.

          Personally, I agree grass roots is the problem. My nephews play Oz Kick and love it. They’re AFL fans for life now, despite living in Brisbane. When I lived on the sunshine coast the ovals at Kawana were ablaze with AFL stuff every weekend. A generation of possibly rugby players are basically gone. This is where fixing the grass roots stuff matters. Appointing Aussie and in particular former wallabies to coach the national team?? That’s just an irrelevant, presumably agenda driven side issue.

          • April 4th 2012 @ 6:18am
            mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 6:18am | ! Report

            two seperate issues bennO – grassroots is one and aus coaching support staff the other

            • April 4th 2012 @ 6:22am
              BennO said | April 4th 2012 @ 6:22am | ! Report

              I agree with you completely.

              • April 4th 2012 @ 6:34am
                mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 6:34am | ! Report

                bennO – i agree with what u say as u have interpretted it. just your lumping campo’s comments as one solution. totally agree that aus coach nationality is secondary but in the long run it is detrimental. at this stage deans is getting a lot of experience at international level. when he’s done he’s coming back to NZ to ply his trade again, with all the lessons he’s learnt from his aus tenure. what will aus get out of it? if it were an aus coach then like dwyer he’d still be around being a voice of reason and possibly get involved at a selection support level.
                grassroots is aussies achiles heel. aus may one day get to #1 but wont stay there long due to its lack of depth.

              • April 4th 2012 @ 7:05am
                kingplaymaker said | April 4th 2012 @ 7:05am | ! Report

                mania what if the Wallabies get a Lions victory and the 2015 World Cup out of it?

              • April 4th 2012 @ 7:22am
                mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 7:22am | ! Report

                KPM – now that NZ has finally won a 2nd WC i can say with hand on heart that WC doesnt mean jack. its more important to perform consistently every year than a one off 4 year tournament.
                lions victory would be great but dont go resting on your laurels just becasue you beat a combined NH team. dominance isnt about 1 or 2 games, its about every game.

              • April 4th 2012 @ 7:25am
                kingplaymaker said | April 4th 2012 @ 7:25am | ! Report

                Ok, what if Australia become number one in the world under Deans? Wouldn’t that be a satisfactory result from his tenure?

              • April 4th 2012 @ 7:39am
                mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 7:39am | ! Report

                KPM your not getting my stance. the national team is the tip of the iceberg. aus can concievably get to #1 but the hard part is staying there. AB’s have dominated the #1 spot since the rankings started because of grassroots rugby
                deans tenure is a subplot to this era and not a very important one. u speak of deans and his lack of cattle. thats what i’m addressing

              • April 4th 2012 @ 9:19pm
                El Gamba said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

                “now that NZ has finally won a 2nd WC”

                Surely you can’t be counting that 1987 amateur competition as a World Championship without South Africa?

              • April 5th 2012 @ 5:45am
                mania said | April 5th 2012 @ 5:45am | ! Report

                El Gamba – why not count the 1987 WC? i suppose it doesnt count because aus got knocked out by the french? or are all the WC b4 professionalism not counted? so anything prior to 1996 is null and void. in which case aus, eng, SA and NZ have won one a piece
                why shouldnt the inaugural tounament that started it all count? would love to hear your reasons

              • April 5th 2012 @ 8:56am
                El Gamba said | April 5th 2012 @ 8:56am | ! Report

                The sole reason is that then NZ would only have one WC to our two 😉

              • April 5th 2012 @ 8:58am
                mania said | April 5th 2012 @ 8:58am | ! Report

                El Gamba – fair nuff. 2011 WC was much more satisfying and hard fought anyways

    • April 4th 2012 @ 5:05am
      Lorry said | April 4th 2012 @ 5:05am | ! Report

      the one thing i think is irrelevant is the aussie coach bit – who cares?

      Some of the players are only recently aussie, so why not the coach?!!

    • April 4th 2012 @ 6:43am
      Crashy said | April 4th 2012 @ 6:43am | ! Report

      Good old campo never has anything positive to say. He was even bagging the hong kong sevens the other day. The third tier of australian rugby needs to be sorted out. Either increase the quality of the club systems in each state or create a currie cup style touring after super rugby has finished.

      • April 4th 2012 @ 8:35am
        Justin said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        I missed the bagging of the HK 7s Crashy, which publication was that in?

      • April 4th 2012 @ 3:03pm
        BigAl said | April 4th 2012 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

        Everyone on this forum should push for Campo to write an article about himself – that should provide a break in the miserablness !

    • April 4th 2012 @ 8:35am
      sheek said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:35am | ! Report

      The top down approach development of Australian rugby, as advocated by John O’Neill throughout his two terms as CEO of ARU, has a fatal flaw, an achilles heel, that has bedeviled it for too long.

      The underlying premise relies on the Wallabies ALWAYS being strong. At present, with our small(er) player participation numbers, this is an unachievable desire.

      Between 1998-2004, there was unprecedented interest & growth in rugby union. But as soon as the Wallabies’ fortunes crash-dived in 2005 (& have largely remained low) the game has struggled to move forward. Yes, we’ve seen the introduction of both the Force (2011) & Rebels (2011).

      In isolation, this has been a significant step forward. But in comparison to the other footy codes, we’re still way behind. If rugby has improved say 5% in 10 years, then the other 3 footy codes have improved better than 5% & more by comparison.

      While it’s important to develop rugby for its own sake, we can’t ignore the fact we share this country with 3 other footy codes. We are in competition for players, fans, sponsors, media exposure, TV timeslots & the lifeblood of revenue streams. It’s probably fair o say rugby is running 4th out of 4.

      Whatever the ARU has been doing, it hasn’t been enough. We desperately need to develop our juniors, & bring in more quality players into the game.

      As for the national coach, I would prefer him to be Australian, but that is the least of our worries at present!

      • April 4th 2012 @ 8:37am
        mania said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:37am | ! Report

        sheek – no truer words have been spoken in roar

        • April 4th 2012 @ 6:02pm
          Uncle Eric said | April 4th 2012 @ 6:02pm | ! Report


          • April 4th 2012 @ 9:03pm
            p.Tah said | April 4th 2012 @ 9:03pm | ! Report

            You obviously don’t have the speaking version of the Roar yet Uncle.

    • April 4th 2012 @ 8:39am
      kingplaymaker said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Sheek Top-down from the Wallabies was already one level too high and not the level on which rugby is forced to compete with the other codes, and in any case a risky strategy if it didn’t work. Obviously even concentrating on the Wallabies means concentrating on the levels below.

    • Roar Guru

      April 4th 2012 @ 8:43am
      stillmissit said | April 4th 2012 @ 8:43am | ! Report

      Just watched the video of Campese playing in the 80’s at the top of this article. You forget just how bloody fantastic he was and how the passing and support play was in those days. Wish we had it now. The forwards were cleaning out the rucks and in one of them I think it was the kiwi’s went flying backwards as the forwards gave Nick Farr-Jones quick clean ball that he fired off without steps or pause to get the back line on the front foot.

      As far as grass roots rugby is concerned the senior clubs need to raise the game. Different market but if the Saracens? can get 80,000 to a match at Twickenham then their must be some upside for our senior clubs to raise their game. It is very chicken and egg, if you can’t raise the level of the club games within the current situation then it’s hard to attract a gate and then private investors and that is what the game needs.

      I think we have a large playing group of juniors and watching a schools finals last year the talent is there. But very few rugby blazers go to watch these games as the easy thing is to work the academy only. Someone needs to tell the S15 (particularly the Tahs) that talent comes from everywhere and I think the force have learnt that lesson.

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