Would a cross-code ‘super club’ work for the Waratahs?

Richie Walton Roar Guru

By Richie Walton, Richie Walton is a Roar Guru

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    Berrick Barnes stars in the Waratahs win over the Brumbies (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

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    Many articles floated recently have called for drastic changes to the structure of rugby in Australia. It’s been great to see a diverse range of ideas and suggestions to help get rugby (and the Wallabies) back on top.

    Locally, many opinions voice the need for a third-tier competition and a revamp of the schoolboys program. Concerns have been raised regarding the lack of player depth and the failure to convert promising juniors into professionals.

    Fierce competition for athletes across the four football codes in Australia, plus the pull of big dollars by the European and Japanese markets, aids an increasing drain on talent.

    Add in the difficulty of remaining financially competitive in our sporting economy and there certainly are a lot of challenges facing rugby administrators. I will leave these initial issues for the moment and focus on a high level concept.

    First, some context. I grew up in country NSW where summer = cricket and winter = rugby.

    League was just rugby for the guys with criminal records and AFL was some game down in Mexico for the skinny kids who couldn’t tackle and dropped the ball a lot.

    My view, like the Australian sporting landscape, has matured. While geographically some codes maintain dominance, each is well and truly a national game in its own right. That fact alone makes Australia a Mecca for sports lovers globally.

    I believe one of the biggest errors the AFL, ARU, NRL and FFA continually make is their assessment of the Australian public.

    Forever fighting for the largest piece of the pie, they seem to forget that at the core of every Milo cricket kid or Auskick trooper is a sports fan.

    The AFL fights hard for its membership numbers, NRL clubs raid the private schools for the top rugby union talent and all codes become more and more driven by the TV sponsorship dollars.

    So how do we reverse this divisive trend and get rugby in particular to build its supporter and player base?

    Perhaps the best way to grow is to share.

    Let’s explore some potential benefits of cross-code club mergers – my example, the NSW Waratahs amalgamating with the Sydney Swans.

    First – the club.

    Centralising the management, medical staff, training facilities and administration is a no-brain cost-saver. Similar to KFC selling burgers and pies, the club now has a strong multi-product brand to sell.

    Sponsorship can boom with marketing exposure now in two different codes.

    Second – coaches/players.

    The potential synergies to be created through cross-training are immense. While each sport is highly specialised, benefits can surely be gained for rugby players regarding kicking and elite level fitness.

    Similarly, tackling and contact sessions could vastly improve aspects of an AFL players’ game.

    Lastly – the fans.

    Sydney is a great city for a ‘super’ club, with the SCG, Allianz Stadium and Moore Park backing onto the Centennial Parklands.

    As a potential Tahs-Swans member, I can catch the bus or proposed light rail from work to the venue on a Friday to watch the Tahs v Crusaders or the Swans take on the Pies.

    A double-header on Saturday would allow me a feast of sport, with a gentle 50m stroll from one game to the other. Before I just watched the AFL, but now I am fence-side supporter of two codes.

    A tick in the box for both! 35,000 Bloods fans combined with 15,000 Tah-men.

    Now look at same concept in Melbourne, say the Rebels and the Richmond Tigers. Two clubs that also play alongside each other at AAMI Park and the home of Australian Sport, the MCG.

    We’re talking a combined 70,000-plus registered members. Even if dual attendees comprise 10 to 15 percent of both crowds, this would be significant growth for both clubs at present.

    While any such venture presents huge challenges and many hurdles to be cleared along the way, I believe the concept of ‘super clubs’ provides immense opportunities for all sports lovers and participants.

    Sports clubs are big business in Australia. Perhaps now is the chance for them to start behaving like it.

    Rugby, and its fans, could be the biggest beneficiary.

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    The Crowd Says (52)

    • October 5th 2013 @ 6:49am
      Hamish said | October 5th 2013 @ 6:49am | ! Report

      You’re missing one important point here, regardless of affiliations.

      No one likes the Waratahs.

      • October 5th 2013 @ 7:09am
        p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:09am | ! Report

        Some of us do…

        • October 5th 2013 @ 7:24am
          Hamish said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:24am | ! Report

          How on earth could you follow the most soulless sporting organization in the whole of Australia, which is run some of the most stupid an incompetent jersey tuggers around, which has hemorrhaged more cash in the last 3 years than some small countries do?

          I’m not questioning you as a person – but for crying out loud, its the Waratahs.

          You want to talk about brand – the Waratahs brand comes across as nothing more than a bunch of tossers.

          • October 5th 2013 @ 7:59am
            p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:59am | ! Report

            I support them because I enjoy rugby and they’re my local Super Rugby team.

            Over the last few years its been tough to support them but things appeared to be turning around under Cheika. We’ll see how 2014 goes. They have a decent roster.

            Out of interest which ones do you think are tosses? In my occasional interactions with the players they seem to be pretty down to earth.

            • October 5th 2013 @ 8:05am
              Hamish said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:05am | ! Report

              The Waratah brand expands a lot further than 15 men on the field sir.

              No names – whilst having a string opinion I have no interest in character assassination.

              • October 5th 2013 @ 8:33am
                p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:33am | ! Report

                Perhaps in a massive club such as Collingwood, fans may see the ‘brand’ extending beyond the players (e.g. Eddie McGuire), but I think few Tahs fans let alone those outside the organisation would know much about the senior managers and the board.

                There are 32 players in the squad plus the EPS, they’re all pretty decent guys. Cheika is a gruff, forthright bloke but I wouldn’t call him a tossed… Actually few would call him that to his face 😉 The other coaches, Gaffney and Gibson are the most down to earth guys you could meet.

                The club has had a feeling of being soulless over the last few seasons, but that seems to be changing. If things continue in the right path I think you’ll be surprised how well the Tahs brand is perceived, but that could be the masochistic optimism of a Tahs supporter coming through.

                In the early 90s the Swans were a mess. They managed to turn that around and are now arguably one of Sydney’s top sports teams. There is hope for all teams.

              • October 5th 2013 @ 8:45am
                Hamish said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:45am | ! Report

                Yes and the Swans did this by employing a “no dickhead” policy.

                Go figure.

            • October 5th 2013 @ 4:50pm
              Westie said | October 5th 2013 @ 4:50pm | ! Report

              Yeah they’re my local team too but I’d rather roll around in fresh dog poo than support those elitist pillow blue flower boys. They don’t represent me

              • Roar Pro

                October 5th 2013 @ 9:32pm
                Zac McLean said | October 5th 2013 @ 9:32pm | ! Report

                would love to hear your evidence to back up labelling them as elitist. Massive generalisation based off an old fashioned stereotype.

          • October 5th 2013 @ 11:06am
            Dan said | October 5th 2013 @ 11:06am | ! Report

            Gotta support where you get your bread and butter mate. I grew up in Sydney and have always loved the Waratahs. The management may have screwed things up for a while, but you can’t change your colours mid stream because you’re a little upset with the management.

            • October 5th 2013 @ 11:12am
              Hamish said | October 5th 2013 @ 11:12am | ! Report

              Say that to the presidents of any Sydney based rugby club. I think you’ll find they disagree, passionately.

            • October 5th 2013 @ 4:53pm
              Westie said | October 5th 2013 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

              Yes you can. You support them they support you. Tahs do NOTHING for rugby in my area. They represent the status quo and that stinks.

              • October 5th 2013 @ 5:25pm
                p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

                Westie out of interest, who do you support?

      • October 5th 2013 @ 12:00pm
        Steve said | October 5th 2013 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        Hamish might be a little blunt there, but he is on topic- why on earth would the Swans want to be tied to the Waratahs?
        I can understand why ‘tahs fans might be up for the idea, but it would be about as equitable a merger as the one between a tapeworm and a stomach.

      • October 6th 2013 @ 9:43pm
        Billy Bob said | October 6th 2013 @ 9:43pm | ! Report

        Hamish, the idea is broader than anyone’s bigotry, which may mean that you miss the point.

    • October 5th 2013 @ 6:55am
      Adsa said | October 5th 2013 @ 6:55am | ! Report

      I see the Tahs as princessy little swans so it seems a good fit, but what of the Swans no DH policy, that would exclude the bulk of the tahs and coach.

      • October 5th 2013 @ 11:09am
        Dan said | October 5th 2013 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        I’ve met Cheika a few times and I can tell you anyone who says he’s a DH doesn’t know s***

        • October 5th 2013 @ 4:56pm
          Westie said | October 5th 2013 @ 4:56pm | ! Report

          He does seem like a straight up guy and i wish him well but he certainly has signed some dickheads

          • October 5th 2013 @ 7:20pm
            p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:20pm | ! Report

            Seeing Hamish doesn’t have the balls to back up his statement, who are the dickheads Cheika has signed?

            • October 5th 2013 @ 10:07pm
              Westie said | October 5th 2013 @ 10:07pm | ! Report

              Beale Phipps Horne Dennis

              • October 6th 2013 @ 7:32am
                p.Tah said | October 6th 2013 @ 7:32am | ! Report

                Phipps, Horne and Dennis??

              • October 8th 2013 @ 11:34am
                scottmit said | October 8th 2013 @ 11:34am | ! Report


                Well, Phipps is a halfback. You don’t get much choice there 🙂
                By every account, Beale is well liked by those that know him. He is being brought back into his (considerable) support network which is a good thing by any measure.
                But Horne and Dennis? Everything I have seen of them has indicated they are decent and sensible folk. And NOT part of the private school hooray henrys either as they come from the south and west of Sydney respectively.

    • October 5th 2013 @ 7:14am
      p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:14am | ! Report

      I think there is a lot of opportunity for cross fertilisation between the codes. Not sure the Swans would want to partner with the Tahs at this point in time. They’re in a much stronger position locally.

      Having a super training facility at Moore Park that the Tahs, Swans, Roosters and Sydney FC, cricket could use would be a good idea.

    • October 5th 2013 @ 7:28am
      Dave H said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      League was just rugby for the guys with criminal records and AFL was some game down in Mexico for the skinny kids who couldn’t tackle and dropped the ball a lot.

      Just brilliant, had a good chuckle over that.

      The problem I see is that there tends to be very little cross game understanding or appreciation by most fans. Being a working class slob living in Queensland most of my mates are followers of League and they genuinely have no interest in Union. The rules and subtleties of the game are just lost on them and while I do watch the occassional league game it really does not impress me. I took one of my union playing boys to a game recently ( free tickets ) and his general impression afterwards was that it was a simple game, very repetitive and boring. As for Aussie rules, it looks like something we used to play in NZ school yards as kids when the rugby paddock was off limits due to rain called scrag. Only difference was no posts to kick through and scrag was more violent.
      I just think that while many are capable of watching multiple codes if its on the tele and there is no first choice viewing avilable most are unlikely to fork out cash to attend a game they have no true love of.

      • October 5th 2013 @ 8:04am
        p.Tah said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Thankfully he qualified that sentence about AFL and League with: My view, like the Australian sporting landscape, has matured.

        • October 5th 2013 @ 8:24am
          Dave H said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:24am | ! Report

          Still funny though.

      • October 5th 2013 @ 12:03pm
        Steve said | October 5th 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

        Union fan calls another sport boring. Now I’ve heard it all……………….

        • October 6th 2013 @ 12:53pm
          AJ said | October 6th 2013 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

          With an attitude like that why ever would you be involved in reading the Roar Rugby

    • Roar Guru

      October 5th 2013 @ 7:29am
      Sam Brown said | October 5th 2013 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      Love the outside the box thinking however the first thing that comes into my mind is that all these mergers seem to benefit rugby the most . Using the Waratahs as an example, their brand has been so tarnished by poor results, playing style, etc that merging with any club would be ore like the other club giving the Tass a philanthropic leg up. While it sounds like a nice thing to do, professional sport is a business and the fans of every sport only have limited money and time to spend on watching and being involved in any kind of sport, all of which a club wants them to spend on it.

      Having said that, personally I would love to get involved in a RL/RU super club, reminds me of being at school and having essentially the same blokes on the rugby and rugby league teams.

      • October 5th 2013 @ 8:35am
        Richie Walton said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:35am | ! Report

        I probably stirred the pot using the Waratahs as my example, but the Rebels and Force would be in a similar situation.

        Perhaps a better option for the dual-ticket/single membership concept would be a collaborative effort to schedule rugby home games when the swans are playing away? As you say, people have finite time to indulge in sport.

        I also imagined that the AFL could leverage of rugby’s international exposure, perhaps playing an exhibition game prior to a Super 15 game in SA or NZ.. Or prior to a test in Europe on the spring tour. The oval fields may present a challenge however.

    • October 5th 2013 @ 8:46am
      Football United said | October 5th 2013 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Any merger with an AFL or NRL club will NEVER work unless they are in one team towns like Newcastle. If you were around for the NSL you would have seen Sydney and Melbourne NRL and AFL clubs fielding teams in the NSL that all just failed because people who supported Essendon and co weren’t going to a support a team backed by Collingwood or Carlton even though it wasn’t AFL. (obviously it didn’t help that Collingwood Warriors were Heidelberg Alexandria in disguise) The exact same happened in sydney with Parramatta power. Penrith, Canterbury and others weren’t backing a rival, EVER.

      Melbourne Victory, when Geoff Lord was around, were the only team in recent times to make noises about entering teams in other sports such as the NBL and Super Rugby (before the Rebels). I know that the FFA blocked MV from further investigating a prospect of a NBL team while the ARU wouldn’t even consider discussions with them which i think is a shame considering the extra fans and atmosphere a Victory club would have brought to Basketball and Rugby in Australia compared to the current offerings at the rebels or tigers.

      • October 5th 2013 @ 9:51pm
        Stuart John Pearson said | October 5th 2013 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

        Brisbane beside Newcastle would be another example of a super sporting club location because of the one team per town/city concept. e.g. Broncos Lions Roar and maybe Bullets (NBL) for example. Another let down to this concept is that the NSW Waratahs are a state team like the Reds in Queensland where the other football codes are city based places. The Swans have the NSW Swifts from Netball as a partner already.

        In Newcastle before Mr Tinklers concerns happened the One Team One Town concept wanted the Newcastle Faclons from the NBL and Netball Team to return to Newcastle with the four teams.under Mr Tinkler. Problem would have to de-merge NSW Swifts for this to occur with Netball. and reinstate the Falcons for the NBL.

        The idea might be worth thinking about for Sydney but could be messy to apply.

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