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Even weak Australian Super Rugby teams are an investment

Ewen W Roar Pro

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    The five Aussie Super teams lack depth. Results support it, and its tough to argue otherwise. The solution to this problem is not to reduce the pool and conserve our stocks.

    Rather, Australin rugby should continue to support and develop each team. They in turn will support and nurture local talent, increasing the playing stock for future Wallaby squads.

    I often like to play the game of wondering how good rugby union might be in Australia if league didn’t exist. The depth we would have in every position would be astronomical. Chuck in AFL as well and we would have won every World Cup since 1987. If we ever lost a match a Royal Commission would have been established.

    With the end of round seven the critics have already begun to bemoan the lack of depth in the Australian pool of the Super Rugby Competition. With the introduction of the pool system in 2011 came immediate criticism: The Australian teams didn’t possess the grit, the quality or the depth of our Tri-Nations counterparts.

    This argument has been used to bolster the South African claims for a sixth Super team, just as it was used to argue that the fifth Australian team should come from the rainbow nation.

    There will always be complaints about Australia’s rugby style: open, free-flowing, and not really into the nitty-gritty. The critics argue this is why Australia cannot justify a fifth or even fourth Super team.

    Commentators and fans alike are suggesting that five sides are too many – that our talent is stretched to the point where we cannot hold our own. There is merit to this argument.

    Sure, if the Force were to go under, the talent coming across the Nullarbor would bolster the stocks of the other four teams, making them more competitive in the wider competition.

    A Rebels team with the Force back row would be a team to watch. Give them a couple of years and they could even lift some silverware, which would be fantastic for Australian rugby.

    At the World Cup last year Robbie Deans was criticised for not having a suitable backup for David Pocock. Although Pocock is a man you can’t really replace, opportunity should be given to players to at least be his understudy, and potentially his successor.

    By having five teams there are four other players who can challenge Pocock, and they can only hope to do so given opportunity to play at Super Rugby level. We can already see this happening.

    Liam Gill at the Reds and Michael Hooper at the Brumbies are already emerging as open side talent. Both are smart, athletic and skilled enough to become future Wallabies. Without five sides in the Australian pool, how would players like this ever find an opportunity to develop and showcase their talent?

    Juniors like these, along with several others (Mogg, Kingston, Pyle, Harvey, McKibbin) would not have had the opportunity to play Super Rugby. These are the people who wouldn’t have been in an Australian team back in the Super 12 days, but have risen to the occasion and could develop into world-beaters before our eyes.

    Calls for a reduction in sides, then, are short sighted and serve only to place short-term results over a sustainable increase in quality across the pool of players that will make up the future of Wallaby talent.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • April 12th 2012 @ 1:11pm
      kingplaymaker said | April 12th 2012 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

      I agree with the message of this article, that the more teams there are, the more talent in the long-term will be found.

      However, the reasons there are too few players are the following: 1) no private owners to bid big bucks for young talent in NSW and QLD 2) not enough teams in the heartlands to offer places to young talent who therefore go to league.

      That’s not to suggest for a moment that there shouldn’t be teams in new areas, as they are long-term investments that will eventually yield on a large scale.

      But it does mean that because there are not more hearltand teams where the talent is currently produced, there aren’t as many good players as there could be. Hence in addition to adding the final new markets, Adelaide, there should be teams in : 2 more Sydney, Gold Coast and Newcastle.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 1:24pm
        steve.h said | April 12th 2012 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

        Would these teams be accommodated in Super Rugby or in a separate tournament?

      • April 12th 2012 @ 1:24pm
        steve.h said | April 12th 2012 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

        Would these teams be accommodated in Super Rugby or in a separate tournament?

        • April 12th 2012 @ 4:11pm
          Spencer said | April 12th 2012 @ 4:11pm | ! Report

          I wonder why the ARU dont run a second level comp in conjunction with the current Super Rugby Australian Conference. The venues are booked and prepared, the promotion is done, crowds would come an hour earlier and be entertained with a free flowing “curtain raiser”. Then you could consider adding a Western Sydney, GC, Newcastle, Adelaide team at this level.

          Deos anyone know why this wouldnt work? The ARC was too expensive because it was run independently and had seperate costs.

          • April 12th 2012 @ 5:27pm
            steve.h said | April 12th 2012 @ 5:27pm | ! Report

            I would have thought that was more than possible. At the very least run a U20 comp with the New Zealand sides to help expose the Youth Academies to the riggers of top flight Rugby.

          • April 12th 2012 @ 6:47pm
            AndyS said | April 12th 2012 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

            The ARC had independent costs, but also an independent revenue stream from tickets etc. I don’t remember what the ticket prices were like, but 90,000 people at even $15 a ticket is an appreciable amount relative to the running costs of the comp. A second level comp would have the same costs (travel, players, etc) but no revenues unless (say) 20% of the gate was assigned to them. That is unlikely, so it would be more of a burden and forever remain so.

    • April 12th 2012 @ 1:24pm
      Justin said | April 12th 2012 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

      Short term the 5 teams in AUS will help bolster the Wallabies. As has been pointed out players like Hooper, Gill, Pyle or Jones may not have got a run with less teams. These guys are all genuine footballer who may push for higher honours sooner rather than later.

      Longer term I think the 5 sides will grow more competitive, but it may take 10yrs plus. It won happen over night. We have seen players like Gerrard and Samo come back from OS with more spaces available due to the extra teams. They have added to their respective teams greatly. Guys like Lipman may never have ventured to England had there been more teams available.

      Slowly but surely we will see more local players turning out for the Force and the Rebels. It is beginning to happen but it should become a more regular occurrence and that can only aid the sport in AUS.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 4:37pm
        formeropenside said | April 12th 2012 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

        A lot of mays, ifs and perhaps in that. I don’t think 5 teams is a good idea – I’d have three, and move the Brumbies to Melbourne. Or ditch them – its not like Canberra has the population to support a regular Test, and its a bit silly to have a franchise based in a weak revenue stream.

        • April 12th 2012 @ 6:46pm
          Lewis said | April 12th 2012 @ 6:46pm | ! Report

          yes that would go down well in Canberra, why would you get rid of the most competitive and successful super rugby team in Australia

        • April 12th 2012 @ 9:07pm
          Justin said | April 12th 2012 @ 9:07pm | ! Report

          And how does your position grow the game? We would suddenly lose 40% of the players from the pro game in AUS. Regardless they wont be going back to 3 so I wouldnt worry about it

          • April 12th 2012 @ 11:47pm
            stillmatic1 said | April 12th 2012 @ 11:47pm | ! Report

            at the same time, how do you measure “what” number will actually grow the game? perhaps the “less is more” ideal is what we should be trying to achieve. there is nothing more idiotic in sport, in business or in life of unbridled growth, and is actually counetr productive to the value of the product.

            and easy question would be to ask, what is your favourite restaurant? an original idea or a chain like sizzler? now sizzler as a corporation will make a lot of money, but on a store by store basis, the one off restaurant more than compensates ona like for like basis.

            i guess its a fine balance, and with a small population to service rugby, league, afl, football et al, how do we quantify what is successful? potentially in our small market we should look to tighten the reins and infact enhance the product by concentrating the talent etc, whilst having a successful 2nd tier comp. too much of something devalues the product and no kind of price manipulation will change that to coax the public back. this is a potential problem in NZ at the moment, and having a bunch of rich billionaires will not fix the issues.

            growing endlessly and the people that promote this idea, remind me of the storm financial collapse. what would you rather have? 5% growth over 20 years, or 20% over 5 years?

            • April 13th 2012 @ 12:31am
              AndyS said | April 13th 2012 @ 12:31am | ! Report

              Interesting analogy…what is the survival rate for restaurants? If it was your livelihood you were trying to secure and kids you were trying to educate, which one would feel the more secure option to work at? The restaurant might have a more dedicated set of regulars, but it is also all eggs in one basket…a few bad reviews, lose the key chef and have a single unforseen accident and the doors close forever.

              • April 13th 2012 @ 9:16am
                stillmatic1 said | April 13th 2012 @ 9:16am | ! Report

                i suppose just like anything, AndyS, there will be variables that will result in unforseen problems or consequences. sure there is a bit more security in a chain restaurant, but then again, the winding up of businesses is not just the province of the small business. how many large corporations every year are either cutting staff numbers or store branches in order to survive? we must remember that the level of debt a larger format would bring would also make it hard to be successful.

                at the end of the day, its all about the strength of the product, whether you have a large chain or a small business in a niche market. big doesnt really mean better.

            • April 13th 2012 @ 9:41am
              Justin said | April 13th 2012 @ 9:41am | ! Report

              Still – I certainly do not advocate growing endlessly. I believe the 5 Super teams is all we will ever have and in time we will grow into them. Right now I think if we had 4 they would be pretty competitive so we are not far off, maybe 5yrs.

              Now that we have a longer Super competition the ARC has become less vital than it was before as we have more players playing more matches at a higher level. Yes the jump is larger from club (though Sydney club rugby is extremely strong in comparison to many club comps in NZ IMO) to Super than provincial to Super but how much stronger will the ARC be if many of the better Super players are not in it anyway?

              • April 13th 2012 @ 11:20am
                stillmatic1 said | April 13th 2012 @ 11:20am | ! Report

                agreed justin. when the 5 current teams are doing equally well on and off the pitch, with the variables like depth of talent minimised then perhaps go again. but if its already too hard to supply 2 teams with adequate talent, then what point is there in starting more franchises?

                could the problem potentially be that the average rugby follower doesnt have a team he supports down the line from the wallabies through to the lower grades? despite all the supposed problems of rugby in australia, the wallabies seem to go alright and compete with and be the best. as everyone knows, its that next level that is hampering the game in oz.

    • Roar Guru

      April 12th 2012 @ 1:44pm
      Kane said | April 12th 2012 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

      “I often like to play the game of wondering how good rugby union might be in Australia if league didn’t exist. The depth we would have in every position would be astronomical. Chuck in AFL as well and we would have won every World Cup since 1987.”

      Disagree, there are currently about 24,000 registered Rugby League Players in New Zealand compared to 466,182 in Australia yet we won the last RLWC

      • April 12th 2012 @ 3:43pm
        nickoldschool said | April 12th 2012 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

        Agree with you Kane; number of regos doesn’t necessarily means quality at top level. And the excuse that we have league and afl in Oz isnt valid: other countries have other sports, hockey, soccer, judo, ski, sumo, hand ball, volley basket etc…what will be our next excuse? We have a sunny climate and tend to be lazy and too laid back thats why our wallabies aren’t motivated?!. No more excuses, other countries have their problems too.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 4:22pm
        Tigranes said | April 12th 2012 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

        Excellent point Kane – NZ has been fairly competitive in RL even though they have even less resources than Austalian rugby.

        To an extent, NZ rugby league is assisted by Australians with NZ background, like Nathan Fien.

        • April 12th 2012 @ 5:07pm
          Johnno said | April 12th 2012 @ 5:07pm | ! Report

          Higley i agree. All the kiwis who complain about aussies poaching kwis for origin I challenge it cuts both ways.

          Brett webb, Nathen fien, Nathan and Jason Cayless, and Jason Nightinggale.

          Not to mention tongan born players like Fui Fui Moi.

          So it works both ways.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 4:48pm
        p.Tah said | April 12th 2012 @ 4:48pm | ! Report

        yes but we all know that was rigged, just ask Ricky Stuart 😉

      • April 12th 2012 @ 4:50pm
        Robbo said | April 12th 2012 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

        Kane there are also about 75,000 registered kiwis playing RL in Australia. From grassroots to toyota cup to the NRL. There are also a lot playing RL in England as well.

        I agree though if RL did not exist in NZ and Australia the rugby world cup would always been contested between Australia and NZ. No other team would come close. I know South Africa and England have a huge amount of registered players but they just dont have the depth and talent that NZ and Australia have.

    • April 12th 2012 @ 2:48pm
      Emric said | April 12th 2012 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

      Not to meation that South Africa already have 600,000 + Rugby Union players and they have not won every single world cup.

      • April 12th 2012 @ 3:26pm
        Josh said | April 12th 2012 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

        Yeah, politics gets in the way of that.

    • April 13th 2012 @ 3:09am
      Onor said | April 13th 2012 @ 3:09am | ! Report

      it was a nice world cup… how do you say… nicely arranged!!

    • April 13th 2012 @ 2:15pm
      Crashy said | April 13th 2012 @ 2:15pm | ! Report

      agree with this article completely. Short term pain for long term gain. One would argue that the NZ and SA conferences have weaker teams than any of ours going by the Blues and Lions currently placed last and second last.
      The extra team pumps $20 million into the rugby economy and the Rebels now have agreements with the Parramatta Two Blues and Norths as development clubs.
      Lets now assume the the top structures of Australian rugby are fine in that the Wallabies and the 5 Super Franchises are fine as is. The next level down needs to be decided upon.
      We need a national under 20 comp that plays the same time in the local derby games. Those weeks were there is no local derby, the players go back to their clubs.
      The club systems in each of the 5 states need to be the viable 3rd level. All clubs must have Level 3 accredited coaches and receive funding based on the number of junior clubs.
      Continue with the Junior Waratahs and other Academy games with the reformation of the AR Shield ( SA, NT, Cockatoos etc).
      Continue with the emergence of the Sydney – Country games.
      We have the player depth, we need to improve pathways for those ‘outside’ the current system and improve coaching at all levels.
      I don’t necessarily think creating a 3rd level is vital assuming we develop proper pathways will all players playing for their clubs when not playing any rep footy. But we do need a lot more rep football.

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