Will the ARU get the national comp right eventually?

sheek Roar Guru

By sheek, sheek is a Roar Guru

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    If Pulver won't explain, then he should fall on his sword. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    “I think this competition will be in place forever. I see this as an important step in the development pathway for Australian rugby.

    “I think we will be looking back in 20 years and really acknowledging what a pivotal moment this was in Australian rugby.”

    When ARU chief executive Bill Pulver made this bullish claim – that the new NRC will last forever – he was setting himself up for an almighty fall.

    Much like ex-PM Bob Hawke’s famous line “no Australian child will be living in poverty by 1990”.


    Or if we go back earlier to last century, when US President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed that the Great War of 1914-18 was “the war to end all wars”.

    All cute lines but ultimately meaningless unless backed up by committed intent.

    Hello everyone, no doubt you’ve heard the same message from me in 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2007 when The Roar kicked off.

    But lucky you, you now get the opportunity to hear his same message from me in 2014. My first rugby dispatch of 2014!

    Almost everyone agrees a national comp is essential. Almost everyone agrees the 2007 ARC model was a great concept but poorly implemented.

    Broken in the end by ill-conceived compromise and bitter self-interest. Not to mention an impractical financial model.

    There is tremendous excitement, naturally, about this new comp. However, those of us who have been around a long time know how easily a good idea can quickly turn to dust.

    The American rock band The Eagles even penned a song about human nature’s corrosive ability to destroy anything good, in their haunting ballad ‘The Last Resort’ – “call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye”.

    The more discerning among us wait, and watch.

    So far so good.

    Pay TV operator Fox Sports and parent Foxtel have come on-board to bankroll the new comp, injecting much needed cash into the ARU’s coffers. They will also televise the new comp, of course. It will be restricted, one game per week initially, plus all the finals.

    But that’s better than the 2007 deal whereby the ARU paid the ABC to televise the ARC. However, no free-to-air TV coverage is still a concern.

    But remember, it’s baby steps. Once again, it’s all about baby steps.

    The new NRC is intended to provide better incentives and progression pathways for our aspiring rugby players.

    It is also hoped to act as a strong finishing school for those looking to take the next step towards Super Rugby and international stardom.

    Pulver wants the NRC to become Australian rugby’s answer to South Africa’s Currie Cup and NZ’s ITM Cup (NPC).

    But it won’t amount to much if the ARU don’t get the teams, symbols and their locations right.

    That’s worth repeating – it won’t amount to much if the ARU don’t get the teams, symbols and their locations right.

    Cricket’s Sheffield Shield is just about the only major national comp I know of that survives without turning a profit, or attracting fans through the turnstiles, or watching on TV.

    Fans of the Sheffield Shield are passive and invisible. They will follow matches through the newspapers or internet, but they’re not out there shouting their support from the rafters.

    It might work for cricket, although the future of the Shield is uncertain, and in any case is bankrolled by other formats.

    Rugby enjoys no such diversity. Our sevens program is a long way from bankrolling other formats.

    If the ARU fails to engage the fans with the choice and location of the new teams, then the concept will collapse after a few years. Of that much I am certain.

    Again, the ARU appear to be making the right noises. It is looking at an eight to 10 team comp comprising regional teams.

    That word ‘regional’ originally had everyone confused, but it seems regional means greater than a district, or premier rugby club.

    In the ARU’s Q and A with Ben Whitaker, his standard response to about three or four questions was: “The teams will be decided by a tender process (expression of interest) that is open to existing clubs and groups and new syndicates and partnerships. All will be strongly considered.”

    The ARU is being deliberately elusive and non-committal. Everyone can apply for membership, but as we get closer to time, hard-nosed decisions will need to be made.

    In the meantime, I suspect the ARU will monitor public media outlets to see where and how the breeze of opinion is blowing.

    I am now offering my 10 team NRC model, basing my teams on the ARU’s broad vision. I am also relying heavily on history and tradition.

    The ARU has said they will look at interest from Adelaide.

    An Adelaide team is possible for several reasons. Firstly, the comp is being bankrolled by Fox Sports and secondly, with the premier rugby comps completed, recruitment of players won’t impact on these comps.

    Adelaide is Australia’s fifth largest city. Now is the time to penetrate the capital of South Australia. My 10 team NRC:

    1. Adelaide Falcons
    Catchment area all of SA. The Black Falcons is the current name of the rep team. Play in red jerseys, navy shorts and gold piping (state colours).

    2. Brisbane Griffins
    Catchment area north and west suburbs of Brisbane. A pair of griffins hold up the shield on the city coat of arms (check it out)!

    Play in perhaps maroon (state colour), although old city colours were red and white (for sporting teams).

    3. Canberra Kookaburras
    Catchment area all of ACT and Southern Inland NSW. The Kookaburras was the former rep team name before the Brumbies.

    Playing in a mix of blue, gold (territory colours), black and white (swans on coat of arms depicting Aborigines and Europeans), featured in a stylish design from the mid-90s in Shute Shield.

    4. Melbourne Axemen
    Catchment area all of Victoria. The Axemen was the rep team name in the ARS. Play in navy and white hoops (state colours).

    5. Newcastle Wildfires
    Catchment area perhaps all of Northern NSW. The Wildfires was former team name in mid-90s Shute Shield.

    The Wildfire is a red flowering gum that grows down the entire east and south of Australia. Play in now established blue and red (Newcastle-Hunter).

    6. North Harbour Platters
    Catchment area all of Northern Beaches and North Shore suburbs of Sydney. The Platypus is the state animal (mammal), who thrives on both land and waterways, thus being an ideal mascot for the region.

    Playing uniform – open to suggestions. Perhaps green (for hinterland) and navy (for water).

    7. Perth Spirit
    Catchment area all of WA. The Spirit was the rep name of the team in the ARC.

    The spirit is meant to convey connections with the Aboriginal dreamtime and vastness of the land. Play in yellow and black hoops (state colours).

    8. South Brisbane Emus
    Catchment area south and east suburbs of Brisbane. Suggested Emus because it is the national bird and gets little love. But it’s a pesky critter when annoyed.

    Playing uniform – open to suggestions. The rugby league ex-SQ Crushers played in gold, navy and red.

    9. Sydney Fleet
    Catchment area all of east and south suburbs of Sydney. The Fleet connects with the past history of the country, the arrival of the First Fleet and name of the team in the ARC.

    Play in blue and gold (colours of the City of Sydney Council).

    10. West Sydney Rams
    Catchment are all of Greater West of Sydney. The Rams also connects with the former colony’s first industry and name of the team in the ARC.

    Play in orange, grey and black as also worn by GWS Giants.

    Well, there you have it, If the ARU follows my blueprint, then I reckon Pulver’s boast of the NRC lasting forever might come true!

    A former rugby lock, cricket no.11 bat and no.10 bowler, and surfboat rower. A fan of the major team sports in Australia.

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    The Crowd Says (139)

    • Roar Pro

      January 7th 2014 @ 1:50am
      Rugby stu said | January 7th 2014 @ 1:50am | ! Report

      http://www.canberratimes.com.au/rugby-union/union-news/brumbies-and-vikings-eager-to-join-new-national-rugby-championships-20140102-307uo.html According to this article there have been over 30 bids (before any evaluation) including separate bids from Canberra Vikings and Act Brumbies. Also fascinatingly Collingwood AFL have put in a bit and I would be very interested to hear roarers opinions on this. I understand they once had a short lived team in the NSL but I had thought they no longer put in bids for rival sports.

      • January 7th 2014 @ 5:28am
        RobC said | January 7th 2014 @ 5:28am | ! Report

        Thanks for sharing.

        I believe the 30+ submisisons are EoI as opposed to bids. Its a healthy number. Would be interesting to see who they are, and what market and player base they represent.

      • Roar Guru

        January 7th 2014 @ 7:20am
        sheek said | January 7th 2014 @ 7:20am | ! Report

        Hi Stuart,

        Thanks for that. I’m opposed to a Vikings team simply because that’s too close to the Tuggeranong Premier Rugby Club.Besides, Kookaburras is an Aussie icon.

        Yes, Collingwood had a team, the Warriors, in the old NSL for several years. I think they still harbour ambitions as a multi-sport club.

        • January 7th 2014 @ 8:35am
          Lindommer said | January 7th 2014 @ 8:35am | ! Report

          Wasn’t it Carlton who had a stand-alone team in the old NSL? If I recall correctly it was only for one year.

          • Roar Guru

            January 7th 2014 @ 10:17am
            sheek said | January 7th 2014 @ 10:17am | ! Report


            I think that’s true also. Carlton for one year, Colingwood for several years.

            • January 8th 2014 @ 9:23pm
              Jorji Costava said | January 8th 2014 @ 9:23pm | ! Report

              Carlton was in the NSL for a number of seasons. The club should have won the premiership in the first season but was robbed by shocking refereeing against Hellas at Olympic Park.

              Bresciano and Vinnie Grella had their pro debuts with the club.

              Looking back, Victory is basically “Carlton” reformed under a different badge. It learned from the lessons of the past.

    • January 7th 2014 @ 2:27am
      Johnno said | January 7th 2014 @ 2:27am | ! Report

      Bill Pulver and his corporate marketing spin. Same old same old. The more I watch Bill Pulver the more I think i;m seeing JON’S brother, both so similar it’s a mirror image there spin and vision for rugby.
      I like sheek’s NRC better. More real than manufactured plastic franchises, and some of the teams have history eg Kookaburra’s.
      Bill Pulver won’t stop the Sydney Uni Monopoly, or the sydney clubs. In NZ they play 4th tier club rugby(which is where shute shield should be), along the same season schedule as the NPC. In this format shute shield gets 1st preference in the NRC under Bill Pulver’s structure. School boy rugby and connecting under-20’s, and elite school boy rugby comps, still no word. Rugby league has harold matthews, SG Ball, rugby has nothing, GPS have made it clear being an elite rugby comp is not there priority there not merging with CAS/ISA.
      Under sheek’s formet, to would be good chance to hord talent, and get under 20’s, under 18’s and under 16’s comps going. A national strategic plan for rugby. Bill Pulver’s plan is still along way off. And only 1 live game per week is dissapointing. I like sheek’s proposal.

      • January 7th 2014 @ 9:43am
        Jack Petro said | January 7th 2014 @ 9:43am | ! Report

        Johnno – disagree with your post.

        Hearing Bill Pulver talk about the financial predicament the ARU finds itself in and the measures which are being taken to ensure rugby’s viability into the future is far different to JON. He has a clear vision of what needs to be done to ensure rugby union is on the Australian sporting landscape in the future – but it will take considerable change from all those who are passionate about the game.

        Have you heard about the Junior Gold Cup – targeting the elite U15 and U17 players in 24 teams across Australia? It may be in its first year of run-out but definitely has legs and development opportunities that have the ability to match what other codes are doing. The JGC has the potential to expand into the U19 age division and provide a clear pathway into the U20s program.

        Finally, the ARU has to keep its options open due to what Sheek terms, “Broken in the end by ill-conceived compromise and bitter self-interest” … the governance issues we have with rugby in Australia is the self-interest of clubs, associations (i.e. Sydney Rugby Union)and the like. Maybe Sheek’s format IS the way forward BUT I am sure there will be many out there – Vikings / Sydney Uni / etc. who want a price of the new competition and believe they have a God-given right to do so!

        • Roar Guru

          January 7th 2014 @ 10:21am
          sheek said | January 7th 2014 @ 10:21am | ! Report

          Phew Jack Petro,

          Just for a second I thought you were disagreeing with my post! 😉

          Yeah, the Junior Gold Cup from memory contains five metro teams in each of Sydney & Brisbane, five country divisions in each of NSW & Qld, plus ACT, Vic, WA & SA.

          The team from SA shows ARU’s intent to develop the game into underdeveloped markets as much as possible.

    • January 7th 2014 @ 2:44am
      Magic Sponge said | January 7th 2014 @ 2:44am | ! Report

      Great names. Adelaide and Perth too far and too crap. I think it will be as you say the rugbys version of the Sheffield shield. 2 seasons max.


    • January 7th 2014 @ 3:10am
      Football United said | January 7th 2014 @ 3:10am | ! Report

      I’m tired of supporting all these different plastic teams, Myself and many other in VIC only just got used to the Rebels being around and am not exactly keen on having to start yet another relationship with another franchise. Keep the names and identities in line with the super rugby teams (Brisbane Reds, Perth Force) and just add on extra teams in the gaps that need to be filled like West Sydney or Newcastle.

      • Roar Guru

        January 7th 2014 @ 7:25am
        sheek said | January 7th 2014 @ 7:25am | ! Report


        I did suggest this at one stage – build on existing provinces. But if you can’t stop the flood, at least try & control it! ;-).

        However, I can only reprise the Stars Wars line:

        “Every GENERATION has a legend. Every JOURNEY has a first step. Every SAGA has a beginning.”

        I wonder what the good folk of the late 19th century were saying as sporting clubs sprung up for the first time! 😉

        • Roar Guru

          January 7th 2014 @ 10:37am
          HardcorePrawn said | January 7th 2014 @ 10:37am | ! Report

          “I wonder what the good folk of the late 19th century were saying as sporting clubs sprung up for the first time!”

          These were rather organically grown clubs, formed over time by groups of like minded souls getting together to play a sport in an amateur, social environment; and have evolved over the years to become the big sporting clubs of today.
          They weren’t formed with the intention of garnering the support of a large local populace and of hitting the ground running like the ARU franchises, or even the A-League clubs, the netball teams, the BBL monstrosities, the expansion teams of the AFL and NRL etc.

          The good folk of the late 19th Century were probably saying “some of the chaps are meeting up in the pub tonight to discuss the idea of setting up a rugby/football/cricket team. Anyone interested…?”

          • Roar Guru

            January 7th 2014 @ 10:55am
            sheek said | January 7th 2014 @ 10:55am | ! Report

            Hardcore Pawn,

            Believe me, I’m trying to retain that sense of community spirit, which is why I’ve put this proposal forward, based on history, tradition, etc.

            We don’t want the pony-tailed, air force sunglasses, bling-riddled, latte sipping marketeers & opportunists hijacking the process. That would be the worst thing! 😉

            • January 7th 2014 @ 1:53pm
              anopinion said | January 7th 2014 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

              Why insult hijackers?

            • Roar Guru

              January 7th 2014 @ 5:53pm
              Bay35Pablo said | January 7th 2014 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

              “pony-tailed, air force sunglasses, bling-riddled, latte sipping marketeers ”

              Just excluded most of the Eastern suburbs set there …. 🙂

      • Roar Guru

        January 7th 2014 @ 2:24pm
        jeznez said | January 7th 2014 @ 2:24pm | ! Report

        FU, for Vic and the other areas where rugby is not a major sport (Melbourne and Perth) or the population is smaller (Canberra)- the team will be very closely aligned to the Super Rugby side, not sure whether the name needs to be the same or not but certainly the side should be looked at as an aligned entity.

        This will be where the non-Wallay members of the local super team, the extended playing squad and the best of the local rugby competition come together to compete.

        For Sydney and Brisbane where there is a critical mass of rugby support there will need to be multiple sides and hence they cannot just take the Super teams name. The challenge then falls on the Sydney and Brisbane teams having less Super players within their rosters but hopefully that is countered by the fact their club comps are stronger.

      • January 7th 2014 @ 2:45pm
        kid said | January 7th 2014 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        I agree build on the super rugby clubs. 2 teams supported by each franchise with direct development paths, team colours based on the franchise colours. Cross town rivalry also important which is best achieved through aligning the clubs along socioeconomic lines (private school boys vs the public school boys) straight away you get sterotypes and a “culture” to play for. The Force could have one WA team and one brisbane team, Rebels could have one vic team and one sydney based team. Brumbies could have one canberra team and one from country NSW.

    • January 7th 2014 @ 3:26am
      tc said | January 7th 2014 @ 3:26am | ! Report

      Does anyone have a list of the EOIs, because I also heard there was over 30 EOIs already, that is insane. Just as a word of warning, whatever format they come up with, support it because when all this s$^t settles in Europe the money and draw power floating around up there will be scary, especially if France gets its rumoured new TV deal. We in the southern hemisphere had better come up with something quick otherwise we are just going to end up talent agencies for the money on offer in the northern hemisphere which includes the USA/Canada when (not if) they go pro.

      • January 7th 2014 @ 4:52am
        Johnno said | January 7th 2014 @ 4:52am | ! Report

        tc fear monger, don’t worry about it. The A-league survives, when the EPL,and La Liga,J-league more cash, and many other leagues. If you love rugby you’ll still watch it. Not every comp has to be the top flight. You watch it like you watch the sheffield shield and rugby league NSW/QLD cup, a 3rd-Tier emerging comp.

    • Roar Guru

      January 7th 2014 @ 3:38am
      biltongbek said | January 7th 2014 @ 3:38am | ! Report

      I can’t really add anything to the debate, except I hope it goes from strength to strength and become the mainstay for Ozzie rugby.

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