One of the great Australian sporting stories of all time is how at the very inception of Super Rugby, at the dawn of rugby professionalism, Rod McQueen took over a newly formed squad of rejects from other states and some local boys together.
He did so to mould a team capable of not only competing against the very best provincial clubs of the day, but to play some of the most scintillating running rugby ever seen in this country.
Those who can recall watching the Brumbies in those formative years will be able to attest that I am not exaggerating.
It’s hard to believe now, but some of those so-called “rejects” included the likes of the legendary Wallaby, George Gregan.
The local boys I speak of above came from what once appeared to be a permanent supply line of quality rugby players from two of the most prolific nurseries of the day: Marist and St Eddies. This included all-time greats such as Joe Roff and Matt Giteau.
The Brumbies did not start this tradition of melding imports with local products. From the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, the Raiders had used a similar formula, importing a long list of great Queensland State of Origin players and recruiting country lads from the local region, such as Junee’s Laurie Daley.
Even prior to that, you had the Cannons attracting Phil ‘the General’ Smyth, and earlier still, the Canberra Arrows were able to attract former Socceroo captain, Johnny Warren, at a time when Canberra was merely a country town.
The key difference between then and now is that the vast majority chose to stay in Canberra for much of their playing careers.
In recent years, first the Raiders, and now seemingly the Brumbies, have found it hard to hold onto players coming from other parts of Australia – this is the Canberra malaise.
They seem to follow the same pattern as the recent defection of Brumbies and Wallabies captain, Stephen Moore, where one minute we are hearing that they are perfectly happy living in Canberra, and the next we are hearing that they need to move for personal reasons.
Of course in the case of Stephen Moore, he will play out the 2016 season with the Brumbies, still at the top of his game, in a season promising much for the Brumbies who have been there or thereabouts the last few seasons.
Off-field and there is a mixture of good and bad news for the Brumbies.
Currently the club is embroiled in a complicated commercial dispute with the University of Canberra which is related to an ongoing investigation into the sale of its Griffith property.
In the past week, the Brumbies announced a fifth consecutive loss, this time to the tune of some $1.6 million.
The good news is that the ARU’s new $285 million TV deal will help turnaround the Brumbies financial fortunes. They are already budgeting for a $2.5 million turnaround next financial year, mainly funded by an increase in the ARU’s annual funding by some $2 million per annum.
Also helping out is a new stadium deal with the ACT Government, starting next year, which allows the Brumbies to take full control of all corporate hospitality. The Brumbies are budgeting on an increase of $200,000 per annum to the bottom-line as a direct result of the new deal.
With increased financial stability, and a squad which still boasts 10 Wallabies, there is enough good news for Brumbies’ fans to look to next season with plenty of confidence, as their club strives to rise above the Canberra malaise.