People are complaining that Australia lacks depth in rugby, with plenty written about the financial power of the NRL and AFL, moaning that rugby is missing out on many of the gifted athletes because the other sports get the first shot at them at school level.
How can rugby improve its playing numbers?
If rugby was in the same position of strength as it is in New Zealand and South Africa, where would we sit in the international rugby pecking order? We would be the powerhouse.
What are the options for improvement?
Spend more of the dwindling financial reserves on competing directly with the ARL and AFL? The ARU will be outgunned by bigger budgets.
Do very little but hope people will keep trying rugby as a sport? This seems to be the current approach. It isn’t enough.
Or, take advantage of something that the ARL and AFL will never have, the fact that rugby is an Olympic sport.
I see no promotion of the rugby sevens format to entice kids at school and young men at city and state level to sign up and hopefully get to the Olympic games one day.
The ARU could not have taken advantage of the recent Olympic games to promote rugby sevens because there is nothing specific to promote.
Our current rugby seven program seems appears to take talented individuals out of the city and state 15-a-side teams and put them in the international sevens program.
We need to get more people into rugby. A a good sevens program, from the grass roots up, will greatly help. The current approach does nothing but raid our current stock of players.
Set up state-based sevens matches as curtain raisers for Super Rugby matches, assisting in crowd number for both forms of rugby. Have a schools sevens tournament in each state, culminating in a national schools tournament.
Don’t forget there would be girls/women tournaments as well. How will the ARL and AFL compete there?
There might be guys and girls who get to represent Australia without playing the 15-a-side game, but that is not a bad thing.
Young kids out there are being put into football and AFL teams because their mothers are concerned about the physicality of rugby. I know my two boys played football because my wife thought rugby was too rough.
They didn’t stay in football, but went to basketball and hockey as they got older. I lost out with rugby, and rugby lost them. I think I could have got them into a sevens comp.
Sevens rugby could be a better option for concerned parents than 15-a-side. It is more likely they would put their kids into sevens, especially as they could have all their kids in the one sport. When the kids get older and can influence their choice of sport more, 15-a-side would have a good shot at getting them.
I think it is really important for the ARU to get off their hands and do something positive about sevens rugby. Use the fact it is an Olympic sport to improve not only our national sevens team but rugby’s position in the community.