NRC update part 3: All systems go for launch

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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    Israel Folau will make the switch to outside-centre for the first time. (Photo: Waratahs)

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    Last week’s two-part update on the progress of the nine National Rugby Championship clubs fulfilled the whole purpose of undertaking the project in the first place: the dissemination of information.

    (Read all about the NRC – part 1 dealt with Queensland, Perth, Melbourne and Canberra, and part 2 with NSW Country and the Sydney teams.)

    Whether spreading NRC news was our responsibility is neither here nor there; the point is we all know more as a result.

    Moreover, the dissemination of information has been useful on other fronts, too, as my ESPNscrum colleague, Greg Growden, wrote in his ‘Ruck and Maul’ column last Friday, “This issue was raised at a recent meeting of the Sydney [NRC] clubs, with officials saying they were now relying on reports on rugby internet websites to find out what was going on with the NRC.”

    You’re welcome, Sydney clubs.

    To complete the series, I spoke to General Manager, National Teams and Rugby Operations for the ARU, Andrew Fagan, again over the weekend to get the competition update on a number of fronts.

    Through a combination of subjects I wanted to discuss, and other topics brought up in comments under the first two parts last week, I’ve covered the major areas of interest.

    Fagan and I spoke on these topics for the best part of 40 minutes, so rest assured I’m not going to bombard you with detailed quotes and explanations. Instead, I’ll provide a concise summary of the main areas we covered, and provide more detail where possible in comments as they come up.

    The draw
    The big news here is that the full NRC draw has been confirmed, broadcast details and venues finalised, and all will be revealed tomorrow. We’ll have a full summary of the draw once released on the site tomorrow afternoon.

    My extrapolated draw for the first round last week proved to be on the money. Iain Payten reported the same in his Daily Telegraph column on Friday. The interesting development is the news that NSW Country will play their first home game of the season at Coogee Oval in Sydney on Sunday 24 August.

    Whether this is because of an inability to secure a regional venue, or reward for partner club Randwick’s involvement is still uncertain. Both are perfectly reasonable explanations.

    Broadcast details
    The working model of Fox Sports broadcasting one game live per week – on Thursday nights, following an ITM Cup game, and leading into their RugbyHQ program – remains the case. Fagan indicated that Fox Sports will monitor how the competition starts, and will have the option of increasing the number of games they cover each week.

    Simply put, if the numbers are good enough, more live games each week are possible.

    Fagan confirmed that Foxtel and Fox Sports were the first and only broadcast partner the ARU approached, and “they showed significant interest from the outset, and obviously invested a significant amount of money into the competition itself”.

    Indeed, the reported figure of $1.5 Million in cash, plus production costs of live matches (the number of which is not limited, as mentioned above) is indeed a “significant investment”. Free-to-air television networks, including the ABC and SBS, were not approached.

    The live streaming of other games is still very much on the agenda is being worked on in conjunction with Fox, as per the terms of their exclusivity arrangements. It’s unclear as yet whether these games would be streamed through the Fox Sports website, or through a dedicated NRC site, or both. All details, including production elements are currently being worked on.

    Fagan confirmed that the digital rights sit with Fox as part of their NRC broadcast rights deal.

    The big news on this front though, is that these streamed games will be available for free.

    “Whichever [streaming] option we go with, it will be free access,” Fagan said. “The core objective of this competition is to provide high level rugby in a very accessible way, whether that’s the ticket prices for the matches themselves, or for streaming for those who don’t have Fox Sports.”

    Other details, including geo-blocking issues that may or may not arise, and the ability to watch full game replays – which is a “good concept” that the ARU have discussed internally, and something they would like to make happen – is also part of the ongoing discussion currently in progress.

    Competition launch
    A launch date for the competition has been bedded down, but isn’t being publicised yet. However, it will almost certainly be in and around the various premier rugby finals series around the country, which could coincide with the Waratahs’ home Super Rugby finals.

    The draw coming out tomorrow will mark something of a soft launch of the competition. Several corporate partners are likely to be announced, including the reported news Sydney-based construction company Buildcorp will be naming rights sponsor for the NRC’s next three years. As I mentioned last week, Sydney and Brisbane club rugby people will know the Buildcorp name from the front of the Sydney University and University of Queensland jerseys.

    “Between [tomorrow] and the start of the competition, details will be released around squad lists, the allocation of Wallabies for marketing and promotional purposes to the teams, the law innovations that will be brought into the competition… will all launch itself,” Fagan told me. The ARU’s marketing campaign for the competition will also become apparent as the competition start date nears.

    Web and social media channels
    While careful to keep his powder dry for the actual competition launch, Fagan confirmed that there will be a concerted web and social media presence for the NRC in the lead-up, and particularly once the competition starts properly.

    Twitter users may well have already found @NRC_Rugby, and the official competition Facebook page and other social media channels are said to be coming soon.

    An NRC site – either as a standalone or more likely attached to – will also launch in the coming weeks.

    Ticketing and memberships
    All ticketing structures and membership programs will be run by the clubs individually, but Fagan confirmed that all clubs are of a similar thinking in terms of ensuring the games are not outrageously priced.

    The clubs have varying models for ticket pricing and memberships, and partnerships with universities and charity organisations exist throughout and will almost certainly be utilised for promotional activities.

    Happily, ticket prices are going to be competitive. A number of you suggested in comments last week that somewhere in same ballpark as what you pay to watch premier rugby around the country would be appropriate, and it sounds like $15 to $20 is a common price point.

    “That appears to be a consistent price that people are looking at at the moment, in and around that price for a Shute Shield game in Sydney,” Fagan said. He also suggested that the NRC clubs are working on various special pricing and discount programs for existing members and supporters of affiliated Super Rugby sides, and/or partner clubs.

    Crowd expectations
    ARU CEO Bill Pulver said on the day the NRC was announced that the budgeting and the financial model was already such that massive crowds were not paramount for the competition and the clubs to be financially viable. That certainly remains the case, with Fagan confirming that all clubs have been “relatively conservative” in their forecasts and financials to date.

    Revenue streams related to the gate have also been set low, but obviously, they have greater expectations for actual attendance at their home games, and that’s fair. Everyone wants NRC crowds to be as healthy as possible.

    The Australian Rugby Championship averaged around 3000-4000 per game in 2007, and Fagan said “I’d be rapt” if that was repeated in the first year of the NRC.

    I asked whether Fox’s desire to minimise production costs dictated that only games in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne would be broadcast, but it turns out that wasn’t the case. Fox are happy to broadcast from all around the country, but the choice of venues by some clubs won’t allow that.

    That said, the country clubs, Canberra, and Perth were happy with the outcome, and as I suggested last week, all nine clubs will feature in Fox Sports games within the first five weeks of the competition.

    Also, the Queensland Country home game as a curtain raiser to the September 13 Wallabies versus Argentina game on the Gold Coast will almost certainly go ahead, and a Brisbane City home game before the third Bledisloe on October 18 is also a strong chance.

    In the release of the draw, we’ll also see Perth Spirit playing a home game in Adelaide. Fagan told me South Australia lodged a “solid tender” in the initial intake, and Adelaide remains an area of genuine interest if and when the NRC looks to add more teams.

    Law innovations
    You’ll recall in May and early June, the ARU called for and then shortlisted a number of law innovations to be taken to the IRB for approval for use in the NRC. A dozen suggestions were shortlisted, ranging from how bonus points were handed out, to time limits on forming scrums, to a ‘mark’ being claimed anywhere on the field for a kick caught on the full.

    Fagan hinted that not all 12 on the shortlist were put forward to the IRB for approval, but he said that things were progressing well, and that all had been received positively. The expectation is all will be implemented, with the underlying theme “all about removing frustrations” from the game.

    The ones they really want to introduce will be implemented anyway, regardless of formal sign-off from Dublin. For example, if the IRB won’t approve the suggestion where crooked lineout throws are not pulled up if uncontested, local competition refereeing interpretations can be tweaked to allow this. It’s probably even easier.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (157)

    • Roar Guru

      July 15th 2014 @ 4:40am
      biltongbek said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:40am | ! Report

      Brett, do you know whether any of these games will be broadcast in SA?

      • July 15th 2014 @ 5:30am
        Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 5:30am | ! Report

        Doesn’t look like it. It’s important for me to as foxsports geoblocks their videos so you can’t stream them from abroad. Hopefully they will be available to replay back as afternoon kickoffs in Australia forget about waking up to watch them live. The ARU should push for Sky in the UK to show highlights footage on the Rugby Club or even in the lead in to the NPC live games. The A League actually gets game highlights broadcast over here and so do the AFL.

        A youtube channel is imperative as it can bring up the games in searches which leads to hits.

        • July 15th 2014 @ 7:02pm
          Mick said | July 15th 2014 @ 7:02pm | ! Report

          Whilst not condoning it you can just install an IP Proxy plug-in to your internet browser and stream any geo-locked content from wherever you are. Maybe even google Hola Better Internet. An IT dunce could make it work. It’s the only way I can watch The Roar videos from over here in the UK. I pay for Sky so I can watch Southern Hemisphere rugby in glorious HD but the old argument of ‘if I can’t pay for it I’ll get it some other way’ applies.

          Anyhow – I hope for the best for the NRC. Seems like it’s a much better thought through competition than the ill fated ARC. If I were back home I’d be forking out $20 to see the games live and streaming the games I couldn’t see in person.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2014 @ 8:57am
        Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Biltong, SA wasn’t specifically mentioned, and no international arrangements have been made yet, but it’s certainly an option SKY Sport in NZ are exploring. I get the impression the international TV audience probably isn’t the biggest priority for the first season – which is probably fair – and that the internet stream might be your best bet, assuming they’re not geo-blocked…

        • July 15th 2014 @ 9:38am
          Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 9:38am | ! Report

          Given that the NRC might come up in future rights discussions which are soon the ARU would be daft to geoblock it.

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 10:29am
            Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:29am | ! Report

            Bakkies, I agree with your point, but I honestly don’t think it would be an ARU decision, if it happens…

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2014 @ 9:51am
          biltongbek said | July 15th 2014 @ 9:51am | ! Report

          Thanks Brett, it would be interesting to watch a few games this season.

      • July 15th 2014 @ 10:09am
        Rollaway7 said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:09am | ! Report

        Biltong, I’ll setup a DNS for you at my place so you can stream the games 🙂 seriously, I’m a geo blocking master

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2014 @ 1:39pm
          biltongbek said | July 15th 2014 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

          DNS ?

          • July 15th 2014 @ 2:34pm
            bryan said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

            DNS = computer stuff….

            Geoblocking is pretty easy to get around.. There are whole articles devoted to it on this website… Google.

            • Roar Guru

              July 15th 2014 @ 4:49pm
              biltongbek said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

              When it comes to IT I am clueless, so I leave it to the experts 😉

        • July 15th 2014 @ 2:43pm
          redbull said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

          Will we still need a VPN?

    • July 15th 2014 @ 4:59am
      Football United said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:59am | ! Report

      Whether this is because of an inability to secure a regional venue, or reward for partner club Randwick’s involvement is still uncertain. Both are perfectly reasonable explanations.

      No they really aren’t. There is cheerleading a new competition and then there is blindly denying key issues. You are constantly guilty of the latter when it comes to the struggles of the NRC and this is the latest. It is NSW Country, not NSW Randwick. The point of having a country team is so rugby communities in regional areas can support their own team, not as a vehicle for city clubs to exert their influence while taking on less risk. If Randwick wanted games at Coogee then they should have entered their own damn team. I find the fact they couldn’t find a venue to be unlikely considering Newcastle and Wollongong haven’t got a team on their own and both possess modern stadiums.

      On another note i’m not a fan of these games being used as curtain raisers. I liked the idea of the NRC being more community focused and the concept of spending a saturday afternoon supporting my local Rugby team for 15 bucks on the Ballymore hill sounded great. Reasonably prices compared to Tests and SR would make it attractive to Students and Families. On the other hand, being told i need to pay up for a overpriced ticket to a game I don’t want to go to just to see my local team puts me right of the concept. The ARU are daft if they think Brisbane is going to turn up in numbers for a early game before a test match rather than just stay in Caxton St and we’re going to end up with yet another game in front of empty seats.

      • Roar Guru

        July 15th 2014 @ 8:11am
        Eddard said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:11am | ! Report

        Agree with you on NSW Country playing at Coogee Oval. It’s a bad move, especially for the first game in their history! Sends the wrong message to the people they’re trying to gain support from.

        On NRC matches being used as curtain raisers, I think the positives outweigh the negatives. Some people will turn up for the early game, probably more than what that game would get as a stand alone fixture. But more importantly, that early game will likely be broadcast as everything will already be set up and in place. The more games that are broadcast the better.

        • Columnist

          July 15th 2014 @ 11:14am
          Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          It’s certainly not ideal, Eddard, but given there’s already five or six country centres lining up for games next year, I don’t think one game in Sydney out of eight is so bad…

          Certainly agree with your point about the positives of curtain-raiser games outweighing the negatives. One of the very first comments I made, and certainly one of the first things I put to the ARU when I first spoke to them on the day of the NRC announcement was of curtain-raisers before Tests, and I’m really happy to see it looks like becoming a reality.

          The Gold Coast stadium holds what, 28K people? Even if it’s a quarter full by the end of the NRC game, that’s roughly double the likely NRC crowd average anyway. And given Fox Sports would be there already, it wouldn’t be a massive increase in production costs to show the NRC game too..

        • July 15th 2014 @ 4:28pm
          Squirrel said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:28pm | ! Report

          Any being played at Woollahra oval. It was originally an easts and country merger and Randwick reluctantly blew in.

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 4:41pm
            Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

            No. Coogee first, then Orange, Dubbo, and Lismore.

        • July 15th 2014 @ 4:52pm
          Jagman said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

          I agree it must be disappointing for country fans to see their team playing their first game in Randwick but in another sense you can’t benefit from partnering with the Eastern Suburbs, i.e. not having to relocate players outside of Sydney and being able to use better facilities for training, and then get everything your own way venue-wise.

      • July 15th 2014 @ 8:14am
        nmpcart said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:14am | ! Report

        Football, I also want to see the games standalone and I think most of them will, but the curtain raiser idea just allows them to promote the competition and teams a bit more. I wouldn’t want to see them solely used as curtain raisers, I want to see them at Ballymore as well but one or two is okay if it helps lift the profile. I just hope that they really promote it through the clubs and start building support with the kids. Do some player profiles to get the kids identifying with individual players – put up YouTube clips etc, let the kids on the field at full time – these sorts of things get the kids buying into the teams and as the supermarkets show with their sticker/card promotions, kids influence their parents decisions on spending.

        • July 15th 2014 @ 9:41am
          Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          Never mind curtain raisers I think it’s odd that Perth would sacrifice a home game and take it Adelaide. Rugby’s ongoing exposure is more important in Perth and they had one of the better supported teams in the ARC.

          • July 15th 2014 @ 1:07pm
            AndyS said | July 15th 2014 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

            Agreed – I wonder whether they were given the choice. Seems a nonsense to me…so there is not enough interest in SA to have a team, yet they’ll show up to watch a match between to teams they have no links with at all? Wonder what a poor turnout would be taken as signifying.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 7:52pm
              Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

              What ground would they use. Adelaide Baseball Oval is out of the question, Hindmarsh’s pitch is probably too tight. What ground did the Black Falcons use in the ARS?

              • July 15th 2014 @ 8:10pm
                AndyS said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:10pm | ! Report

                I assume they’d use Hindmarsh for the controllability and perhaps the broadcasting facilities (given both clubs will be away) – I’ve watched a game there before, so it is certainly doable. But the Falcons seem to use Gleneagles Reserve for the ARS, so who knows…we’ll maybe find out tomorrow.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2014 @ 10:46am
        Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        Please, tell me what “key issues” I’m “blindly denying”. And I mean serious, actual issues, not just your conjecture. Anything that is currently still being worked on is not an issue until it is not delivered in time. So please, lay it all out.

        At least you’ve laid out your boundaries, Football United. You’re either chronically critical or you’re a cheerleader. At least we know where we stand.

        • July 15th 2014 @ 12:45pm
          Red Kev said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

          Not for nothing Brett, but I think you’d look good in a short skirt wielding pom-poms 🙂

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 12:49pm
            Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            😯 Well there goes me taking you seriously ever again, Kev!! I don’t think I have the legs for it any more, and you’ve officially freaked me out now, either way….

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 3:26pm
            Ryan O'Connell said | July 15th 2014 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

            Oh geez . . .

        • July 15th 2014 @ 1:10pm
          Football United said | July 15th 2014 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

          Anything that is currently still being worked on is not an issue until it is not delivered in time.

          Except most of the things aren’t being delivered on time. The fixture should have been out months ago, not with a month to go. Basic things like social media campaigns are largely non existant and most of the news we have heard is a reaction to fan frustration about how quiet the ARU have been about this. We didn’t even know some of the full team names until last week (the majority of which are massive let downs), let alone who is going to play for them.

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 2:05pm
            Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

            Hang on, wait, THAT’S IT?!? 🙄 So much carry on and bluster about cheerleading and blind denials, and all you’ve got is mild annoyance about things not coming out on your preferred timeframe?!? Please….

            Regardless, there is still more than a month for all that to be resolved well on time. Nothing is late yet, and you know it. And I’ll say the same thing I said on a few matters last week – just because we can’t see something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. 8 of the 9 teams have Twitter handles right now, as I reported last week. The social strategies may not have begun yet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. FB, Insta, YouTube, web presences exist in various stages.

            And we did know the team names – all the names as know them were what was announced on Day 1…

      • Roar Pro

        July 15th 2014 @ 12:06pm
        Simon Bedard said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:06pm | ! Report

        I agree with you on NSW Country playing their games regionally, but I suspect that things have been so rushed to get going that they have had to make a call to lock in the first round. Its not ideal, but I would hope that it is a short term measure and we will see the rest of the games played regionally.
        On your second point, I think the curtain raiser idea is not so bad. I am not suggesting we should have this done at every opportunity, but the occasional game could be a clever idea. If the ARU promoted the idea and did more for entertainment, I think the crowds would enjoy a good curtain raiser. I would certainly be there for the kick off of both matches. But I also think the ARU can take some lessons from other sports as well. I was recently in San Francisco and caught a Giants game. The atmosphere is great and there are lots of things done to entertain the crowds. Relating this back to rugby, I would like to see more engagement with the crowd in the form of fun activities and possibly a few more give-aways (t-shirts or fun items). There would also be a good opportunity to wheel in some of the Wallaby ambassadors to do some side line interviews, and perhaps even field some (pre-screened) questions from the crowd. I guess what I am saying is…make it entertaining….and the people will show interest.
        Besides that, I look forward to taking my kids to the local ground for an afternoon game and screaming my lungs out for the mighty North Harbour Rays.

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2014 @ 2:13pm
          jeznez said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

          Agree – if a team plays one of its games in a season as a curtain raiser then to me that is a good thing.

          Potential fans who aren’t already getting out to the suburban grounds to watch them but do go to tests might arrive earlier to take a look. With only one match per week being televised it is a great opportunity for these teams to play in front of people that aren’t already heading down to see them.

      • July 15th 2014 @ 2:51pm
        AndyS said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

        Can’t say I’m a fan of curtain raisers either. Overpriced and under-standard food in a massive echoing empty ground, versus a few congenial pints with mates somewhere local before strolling down just before kick-off…I don’t know anyone who has ever bothered.

        It will be interesting to see how they’ll manage the financial side of it too, especially who picks up the staff/ground cost of having a Test venue open longer. Each team is only going to have four opportunities in the season to recoup costs via ticket sales and concessions, so I wonder how they’ll decide how much of the Test revenue will be handed over to the home team as their share?

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2014 @ 6:49pm
          niwdEyaJ said | July 15th 2014 @ 6:49pm | ! Report

          There’s a fantastic idea right there – half price beers and meat pies for the curtain raiser! Better hanging out in an open stadium with your mates for a few pre-game beers than being couped up in stuffy pub…

        • Roar Pro

          July 15th 2014 @ 10:10pm
          Simon Bedard said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

          I have bothered….but I get your point about the crappy overpriced food. Always a disappointment. Although I will say that the butter chicken at The Cauldron at ANZ is awesome (for stadium food)…no I have no affiliation. 🙂
          But you do raise a good point on the split of the revenues.
          I still think more needs to be done to provide entertainment, and drive attendance numbers. I still don’t get why we don’t give free tickets to school kids (& accompanying parent/s) when we know the stadium will be half empty. You could basically put it out to a few schools (randomly selected or on a secret rotation) that they will get in free if they arrive by a certain time…I.e. In time to see the curtain raiser. They will likely spend more on food etc anyway.

    • Roar Guru

      July 15th 2014 @ 5:43am
      Shop said | July 15th 2014 @ 5:43am | ! Report

      Really liked some of the suggested new laws. No shot at scrum penalty especially, along with not letting the 9 go past the scrum line. I used to enjoy seeing the 9 pressure the base of the scrum but unfortunately the scrum has become such a mess that I’d prefer to keep the opposing 9 back.

      • July 15th 2014 @ 5:47am
        Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 5:47am | ! Report

        Really ? Most of them were terrible.

        • July 15th 2014 @ 6:25am
          Football United said | July 15th 2014 @ 6:25am | ! Report

          Agreed. The rest of the world is fine with the laws of Rugby, it’s only a couple of disgruntled Australians who keep insisting on changing the ones that they keep falling foul of or because they want to make it more like league.

          • Roar Guru

            July 15th 2014 @ 8:15am
            Eddard said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:15am | ! Report

            How do you know they’re fine with all the laws of rugby? Perhaps rugby would be a much more popular game worldwide if there was less time wasting and less shots at penalty goal among other things.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 10:27am
              Football United said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:27am | ! Report

              I guess the full houses at every other test ground in the world indicates otherwise.

              • Roar Guru

                July 15th 2014 @ 4:49pm
                Eddard said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

                It really doesn’t. It just shows there are at least 50,60,80k people willing to pay X amount of money to watch a game of top level rugby.

          • Roar Guru

            July 15th 2014 @ 8:35am
            Shop said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:35am | ! Report

            If you want to take that attitude FU, perhaps we should go back to 3 point tries, no lifting in the line out and goal kickers can go back to toe bashing.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 9:45am
              Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 9:45am | ! Report

              It would just encourage teams to cheat or force resets as refs rarely card negative props and there will be no scoreboard pressure put on the weaker scrum. Scrum penalties are also there for safety reasons that separates Rugby from League.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 10:05am
              Reality said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:05am | ! Report

              Or 0 points for try, all the points in the conversion, how about a scrum after every tackle?

              • Roar Guru

                July 15th 2014 @ 10:34am
                Shop said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:34am | ! Report

                I don’t think so Bakkies. The scrum is the only area of the game where you can be penalised for being “weaker”. This shouldn’t lead to points IMO. It is also incredibly difficult to referee and most refs have no idea what is going on.

                Knowing that you can’t milk points would also deter a stronger scrum to collapse a weaker one, which often happens. If a team has a stronger scrum and wins a penalty as a result, a kick for touch to gain metres is still a big plus. I’m sure the rule would still allow penalty tries from a scrum also.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 11:07am
                Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:07am | ! Report

                Shop, weak defence and sloppy breakdown work is just as punishable and leads to offsides, cards that can be converted in to points at posts within range. Scrum penalties shouldn’t be made an exception and are no different to other areas of the game that are affected by referee’s interpretations. I feel it has been picked out because it is has caused pain to the Wallabies in crucial tests. It has actually improved at Wallabies level since the tour last year so why stuff around with the laws?

                One of the key issues that came out of the Lions Series was Horwill’s poor use of the points system refusing shots at goal that prevented his team from gaining leads and scoreboard momentum. I would hate to see developing captains in a development comps getting in to bad habits playing under laws that don’t exist in other competitions. That’s a bad aspect of these fantasy laws which I don’t think are that well thought through.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 10:29am
              Football United said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:29am | ! Report

              and yet that would be less daft than having players stuck with playing different formats of Rugby as they progress through the game. This isn’t league or AFL, Australia doesn’t own the Laws and have no right to mess with them.

          • July 16th 2014 @ 7:11pm
            In Brief said | July 16th 2014 @ 7:11pm | ! Report

            Absolute rubbish. There has been strident criticism of the laws from all quarters. You might have read some of Brian Moore’s comments on the scrum laws. You might have read the manager of the Lions last year state that the scrum had become nothing more than a lottery. Yes rugby is doing well overseas, but don’t let that blind you to some of the obvious issues.

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2014 @ 7:29am
          Shop said | July 15th 2014 @ 7:29am | ! Report

          Which ones didn’t you like?

          • Roar Guru

            July 15th 2014 @ 7:33am
            Shop said | July 15th 2014 @ 7:33am | ! Report

            Don’t agree with the yellow card to a player of the opposing captains’ choice nor calling a mark from anywhere on the field, but there is merit to most of the others.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 9:48am
              Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 9:48am | ! Report

              That’s a pathetic one and hope it was laughed at. I noticed how quiet they were with announcing the survey. I take it was to stop overseas people from jacking the survey to retain the status quo.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 10:26am
                RollAway7 said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:26am | ! Report

                I liked the way they reff’ed the All Blacks in the Junior RWC.

                If you give away a penalty in your 22, the ref plays advantage and if you give away another within that advantage period, penalty try and yellow card.

                If no advantage a second penalty in the 22 is a yellow.

                This sorted negative play in defending 22 very very quickly.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 11:13am
                Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:13am | ! Report

                That’s how other teams are refereed in senior tests!

              • July 15th 2014 @ 11:22am
                Jerry said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:22am | ! Report

                Either you’re not accurately describing what happens or the refs didn’t understand the laws relating to penalty tries.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 11:38am
                Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:38am | ! Report

                Jerry the problem with penalty tries is that they are too open to interpretation and assumption due to the probability of a try being scored. It should be looked at as we are seeing pen tries been awarded well short of the try line and/or in contact where there are ones being award on the assumption that on the basis of there being foul contact we treat it as if the defender isn’t there which is bulldust as regardless of the level of contact the player is still there. Life doesn’t make people disappear to assume something would happen if they aren’t there. Card the defender but if you are short or out you can’t give it assuming that the attacker will score.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 12:22pm
                Jerry said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

                That’s a different discussion and I kind of agree with your point. The problem with the ‘remove the defender’ entirely notion for me is “When?”. Apparently you take the entire interaction with the fouled player as one movement which can lead to some odd situations.

                For instance, the recent penalty try that won SA the test vs Wales. The Welsh defender shoulder charges the SA attacker in the head. Clear penalty. 1m out from the line with no other tackler there. Clear penalty try.

                Except the slow mo replay showed that the defender’s OTHER hand actually knocked the ball loose milliseconds before the shoulder impacts the head. I can see an argument that the action that knocked the ball loose was legal and therefore at the time of the foul occurring (eg when the shoulder hits the head) the try was no longer probable. I can also see an argument for taking the entire action as one and saying it’s still a penalty try.

                But as far as the example given regarding the Junior AB’s, that sounds like poor reffing. Penalty tries are not a sanction for repeat offences.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 7:58pm
                Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 7:58pm | ! Report

                ”But as far as the example given regarding the Junior AB’s, that sounds like poor reffing. Penalty tries are not a sanction for repeat offences.”

                For scrums refs use them to stop multiple resets for collapsing, binds falling in. However we are seeing some refs issue them in the first instance with the scrum well short of the line and no guarantee that the pack would get to get to the try line. There was a Pro 12 game last season where there at least 5 resets and 3 of them were clear cases for a penalty try and the ref didn’t give it! It took nearly 10 minutes out of the game. Now that’s poor refereeing.

        • Roar Pro

          July 15th 2014 @ 12:10pm
          Simon Bedard said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          Must admit, I am not a fan of most. But some have potential. Non-contested lineouts is a great one, and I think finishing off the penalty at half-time or full-time would see some really tense games….could be good. Also putting some time frames around set plays to speed things up is worth a look.

      • July 15th 2014 @ 7:47am
        Matt said | July 15th 2014 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        I agree Shop. Cleaning up the scrum more and moving back towards a fast contestable restart to play is the priority.
        The ‘no shots at goal from scrums’ will see teams competing for possession, but not milking penalties once they’ve won the ball.
        And the No.9 rule will make clean scrum ball easier, allowing more accurate strike plays – like we see from lineouts.

        The No.9 rule in particular has always bugged me. Why is it allowed for scrums, yet you can’t go passed the centre line in line-outs? The No.9 has nothing to do with the scrum contest itself, as is the case in lineouts, so why do we currently allow them to disrupt ball clearance from scrums?

        • July 15th 2014 @ 9:50am
          Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 9:50am | ! Report

          It will just encourage teams to collapse scrums as the punishment is reduced.

          • Roar Guru

            July 15th 2014 @ 10:39am
            Shop said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            Losing 30-40 metres is still a punishment. Scrums are already collapsing so risking 3 points obviously isn’t a deterrent anyway.

            • July 15th 2014 @ 11:15am
              Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              No different to conceding penalties from ruck infringements than! Scrum is also an attacking platform that ties up the players that kill backline play!

              Scrums collapsing is often caused by negative or weak props that don’t bind high enough to stabilise the scrum similar to certain forwards who lie over ruck ball to slow the attack down.

      • Roar Guru

        July 15th 2014 @ 10:59am
        Rob na Champassak said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:59am | ! Report

        I have to say that Bakkies has a point about the scrum law. Other teams from the NH especially will have no compunctions about using their superior scrummaging to milk penalties. If we take away some of the incentive for our props to learn to be dominant, then we will end up in a situation where NH teams push the Wallabies around at scrum time even more than they do already.

        If you are going to take away shots at scrum penalties with one hand, with the other you have to find some other way to incentivise scrum dominance. We don’t want another influx of “mobile” props!

        • July 15th 2014 @ 11:19am
          Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 11:19am | ! Report

          It will never pass in to worldwide laws for that reason! Saffies and Kiwis will oppose it too as they build up leads through kicks at goal.

    • July 15th 2014 @ 8:18am
      nmpcart said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:18am | ! Report

      Brett, thanks for the informative series of articles. This is welcomed by I think all of us who are keen on this competition. I think the ARU should have a separate website for the NRC, not just make it part of their own as it will get lost there. Make it standalone and much more dynamic – video clips, interviews, team and player profiles. I hope that they don’t just try to rely on social media but actually use a website as the key medium for information.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2014 @ 10:50am
        Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        nmpcart, I think it will be linked ultimately. Even if it’s promoted as a standalone site (, for eg), it would probably still all sit as a directory of the ARU site. You’d probably find and were one and the same.

        And there will be both – web and social..

    • July 15th 2014 @ 8:23am
      Fin said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      Brett, I certainly appreciate you taking on the responsibility of spreading the news.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2014 @ 10:52am
        Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Cheers Fin, it’s been worth the effort too. And after 3 articles and more than 7000 words, I certainly know more than I did, too…

    • Roar Guru

      July 15th 2014 @ 8:24am
      Diggercane said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      Well done Brett, thank you

      Am looking forward to squeezing more rugby in the calender, hopefully we will get to see a few over here.

      After your research, who is your early tip?

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2014 @ 10:55am
        Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:55am | ! Report

        Funnily enough Digger, in all the research, the one area where the least is known is the playing squads! I think Perth will be strong, essentially SR finalists less a handful of Wallabies. Canberra and Melbourne to a lesser degree, too. And I think with a lot of potential combinations already established, the Sydney Stars will be pretty handy…

        • July 15th 2014 @ 12:15pm
          boomeranga said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          I hope with the rosters that the Perth, ACT and Melbourne teams select their local SR and international imports first, then fill the remaining quota with their interstate players. It would be a shame if we end up with scenarios where, say Salesi Manu or Faulkner played in Perth, but Hoskins or Heiberg had to move to Sydney to get a game.

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 12:39pm
            Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

            That’s almost certainly how it will play out, Boomer. Wallabies will be assigned to the nine teams first, then the 16 SR-contracted players, then topped up with locals…

            • July 15th 2014 @ 4:55pm
              boomeranga said | July 15th 2014 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

              I hope so Brett. Probably over thinking it, but the model I would like would break the SR list into three groups: locals, foreign imports and others. Not picking on the Force, its just they have a good number of locals and few imports to use as an example. Force would end up with:

              Group 1 : Louwrens, Godwin, Longbottom, Holmes, Haylett-Petty, Hoskins, Burton
              Group 2 : Ebersohn, Hayward, Mathewson, Brache, Steenkamp, Stander, Heiberg, van Wyk
              Group 3 : Cummins, Hodgson, McCalman, Charles, Cottrell, McMeniman, Morahan, Cowan, Dellit, Alcock, Wykes, Prior, Tuatara-Morrison, Faulkner, Battye, Rasolea, Coleman, Manu, Stubbs, Tessmann, Abel

              All Group 1 players that are available picked first, then all Group 2 players that are available. If that leaves 6 free of the 16 allowable, any 6 available from Group 3 at the Spirits absolute discretion. It would add a bit of strategy to their task and ensure the scouts had to take a serious look at non-contracted locals to know what they had before finalising their Group 3 picks.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 5:22pm
                AndyS said | July 15th 2014 @ 5:22pm | ! Report

                It will certainly be interesting to see how they handle it. There would be a number of people in that third group who would have shifted their whole lives and families over to Perth, so how do you tell them to (say) go live in Newcastle for three months. Will their rent be covered while they are away, will they be given a relocation allowance, how will their sponsorship obligations be satisfied, etc? Some may have the ability to go “home”, but I wonder if there won’t be a number that will decide to sit it out and address niggling injuries.

              • July 15th 2014 @ 5:52pm
                boomeranga said | July 15th 2014 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

                Very true Andy. I thought RUPA might have kiboshed the whole 16 SR player limit for that reason, but with 16 the number, some will either be moving or not playing.

                There is also some unusual cases. Adam Coleman is neither a local, nor a player that would head ‘home’ to a NSW or QLD team. Cruze Ah Na is I think a Western Australian as well, and would be borderline if in the first 16 at the Rebs. Where does it make sense for him to go? It’s one aspect of this I’m really interested in seeing unfold, but then I love watching the AFL draft as well.

              • July 16th 2014 @ 11:58am
                Crazy Horse said | July 16th 2014 @ 11:58am | ! Report

                There is some serious talent in Perth’s Premier Grade Clubs. The Perth Rugby community expects that some of the local boys will get a spot.

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2014 @ 12:48pm
          Combesy said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:48pm | ! Report

          brett, whats the chances in seeing quade cooper in a Brisbane city jersey for the opening match against Sydney stars?

          • Columnist

            July 15th 2014 @ 12:59pm
            Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 12:59pm | ! Report

            I honestly couldn’t say, Combesy. I thought Genia was more chance of an early return, of the two, wasn’t he? Will stand corrected on all fronts…

            • Roar Guru

              July 15th 2014 @ 1:12pm
              Combesy said | July 15th 2014 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

              From memory it was forecasted that Quade would be back in the second week of September. But I have heard he is progressing well, whilst will is still in a moon boot

              • Columnist

                July 15th 2014 @ 2:06pm
                Brett McKay said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

                Oh, OK, then yeah, maybe he is a chance…

              • July 15th 2014 @ 2:56pm
                AndyS said | July 15th 2014 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

                I could see it if they hoped to take him on the EOYT, otherwise I would imagine they might give him a generous rehabilitation in preparation for the RWC year SR.

        • Roar Pro

          July 15th 2014 @ 10:12pm
          Simon Bedard said | July 15th 2014 @ 10:12pm | ! Report

          I like it….my North Harbour Rays are already flying under the radar.

      • July 15th 2014 @ 8:01pm
        Bakkies said | July 15th 2014 @ 8:01pm | ! Report

        The Queensland site has stated how their two teams are being picked. The Brumbies mentioned that it is probably inevitable that some players will have to play elsewhere to prevent the Vikings from being a Brumbies sans Wallabies side.

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