The Roar
The Roar


Blame football for rugby's decline

John O'Neill has some ideas about the future of Super Rugby. (AFP Photo / Greg Wood)
Roar Guru
21st August, 2016

Rugby is my second preferred code as most on this site would be aware.

Having watched the last three years of Super Rugby, aside from the ‘Tahs win, results have been poor.

The national team again seems to be struggling.

My belief and shared by some is that the current structure of Australia rugby needs an overhaul.

Football’s structures are today hurting rugby. Way back around the fourth season of the A-League, then CEO Ben Buckley and a small working team identified the loss of key players to other codes of players in their teenage years as a problem.

Buckley set up and funded a unique program in that each state would identify its top 20 players in each age group between ten and 16 years of age. Then he would have each of these players receive special training.

The hope was football would not lose any of these players whereas history had shown 60 per cent of them would switch codes.

My understanding is football has lost none of these identified players.

Matthew Burke, the Johns brothers, the Waugh Brothers and Andrew Ettingshausen to name but a few high profile players over the years to switch codes from football.


This is not only the smaller players, but some big boppers.

Many players who would have switched codes and often become first team players are staying in football.

Buckley’s plan has not only worked with the best; their influence has resulted in others staying as well.

Without doubt this will further stop the flow of players to other codes.

Rugby today is experiencing declining participation rates but more pointedly a declining quality of player.

Football has and is doing things to retain their best and develop training academies Australia wide. The belief is quality training also keeps kids interested, regardless of the sport.

Players aged between 12 and 15 who switched from football to rugby are no longer doing so. Many of these players became good rugby players. Today football’s development structures are effectively hurting rugby by keeping their best players from switching codes.


Another example of the same issue is the incredible growth of football in the private school system. In CAS schools today it is argued football is the number one code. In GPS schools it’s still rugby, however football is expanding year on year.

At Kings this year I read there were twice the football teams as there were rugby teams.

To highlight the degree football is working to keep its best, please read this job advertisement for a number of football coaches on the Central Coast. After reading the ad consider how hard CC rugby will have to fight to convince young athletes to change codes.

Rugby needs to work harder to develop its own. It has done so for years but has left it to the private schools, which may not be enough.