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On the subject of the third tier competition of Australian rugby, the ARU is caught between a rock and hard place.
Is the ARU to follow the well-trodden path of the Currie Cup and the NPC competition formats and align the new competition with existing Super Rugby franchises – and by default traditional clubs such as Sydney Uni in the process?
Or does it allow clubs like Balmain to emerge once more? All good grist-for-the-mill.
As fellow Roarer and rugby scribe Sheek clearly articulated, there have been many attempts to get a National Rugby Competition going, the one common attribute being that each of these initiatives have been centrally funded by the ARU.
In each case these have either failed or, in the ARC’s case, been shut down due to fear of failure.
Giving credit where credit is due, Bill Pulver has produced a self-funding model that by its very nature is sustainable. It’s a major step in the right direction, especially in this age where all is focused on the bottom line and everything else (sadly) is viewed as existential nihilism (not worth much).
What is abundantly clear to this regionally based writer is that – at the Super Rugby level – the perception is the capital city based teams cater for the inner demographics of those cities and rarely take the game outside of those areas.
A case in point is the eastern suburbs and lower north shore Waratahs faithful’s reluctance to drive 20 kilometres down the road to Homebush. This new competition has the opportunity to directly address this perception and spread the game to the rugby-starved regions.
In all of this there is an opportunity to come up with an inclusive rugby brand that all can relate to – city and country folk. Accepting that city teams will form the basis of the competition, what is left is to determine what guise they will play under.
There is the opportunity to form country teams, however, which if marketed correctly would have to potential to galavanise rugby regional support into the one team.
If this comes to pass what will be tough for these teams will be to build a fan-base across more than one home ground, which may warrant subsidy consideration – especially in the early years.
Regardless, what is not to be missed is the opportunity to create a new inclusive rugby brand catering for city and country supporters.