Starting in 2014, and hopefully continuing into the new Super Rugby agreement, is the new Australian Tier 3 National Rugby Championship (NRC).
The nine-team comp will be a critical vehicle for those who don’t have the opportunity to play at Super level to show their wares. It will also be important for those who need to maintain form, fitness and exposure to the national selectors when the Wallabies’ squad is in camp.
In addition to this is the opportunity to keep rugby in the public’s eye after the Super season ends and between Test matches.
Preceding the NRC each year will be the Super Rugby competition. However from 2016 this Super Rugby competition will no longer include home-and-away games (local derbies) between all Australian Super Rugby teams.
Some Australian administrators deem these local derbies important, I also believe they are. So what do we do?
Australia can, with very little effort and resource expenditure, address this by creating the Australian Provincial Rugby Championship (PRC).
The PRC will deliver:
• More Australian product by adding more local derbies (five more games);
• No overseas travel and all games in watchable time slots (for Australian audiences);
• No expenditure by ARU (broadcaster to cover costs);
• Sold to free-to-air broadcaster which will broadcast all five games;
• Gets Australian public watching rugby earlier;
• Quality ‘trials’ before the Super Rugby season for all Australian teams;
• Runs independent of, but includes Australian results from, Super 18.
How does this work?
Under the new Super 18 proposal, Australian Super Rugby teams will play each other once and then two of the remaining teams a second time. In so doing each team misses out on a return leg again the other two Australian Super Rugby teams.
So each team plays six local derbies rather than the current eight. This proposal completes those two lost derbies. As a result all Australian Super Rugby teams play each other home and away in meaningful matches!
What’s the motivation?
Firstly to be named the best, but secondly for salary cap exemptions and additions for the next season!
These salary cap benefits might take any number of forms, from straight dollar value increases to other ideas. For example first place might receive 200,000 exemption, second 150,000, third 100,000, fourth 75,000, and fifth 50,000.
Don’t get fixated on these as they are just examples. The point is win the APC and you get something significant in return!
Each team plays an extra two ‘competitive’ games, so player welfare needs to be considered. However, these extra Australian derby games will replace some pre-Super Rugby trial games, and given in the new Super competition there are 15 games, this should not be a major issue for players.
The Super 18 Rugby season is slated to begin in March and this year some Australian teams played their first trial game in January!
Starting the APC in mid-February (as this year’s Super competition did) should be ok. RUPA and franchises may consider this an issue and so may consider their need to manage this.
I am sure there are plenty of good ideas that can be use to address this.
Who would broadcast these games?
One would think the broadcaster who takes on free-to-air Super games (if indeed there is to be one), the NRC broadcaster, or indeed the Test match broadcaster would take this up.
These games will be broadcasted before the NRL and AFL seasons start and will whet the appetite for rugby fans immediately prior to the start of Super Rugby.
Is winning the Super title more important than the APC? Yes! Does winning the APC have benefits? Most definitely yes!
Special thank you to Peter Robson for the idea of an Australian Provincial Rugby Championship.