Time to pull heads out of the sand and admit Australian rugby is dying

Ryan O'Connell Columnist

By Ryan O'Connell, Ryan O'Connell is a Roar Expert

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    Early on in my time with The Roar, I was guilty of writing pieces that were ‘comment chasers’; pieces designed to do little else than generate debate.

    While stimulating healthy debate is a good thing, the articles in question weren’t fantastic, and the conversation that resulted – though lengthy and sometimes robust – lacked intelligence, objectivity and nuance.

    There was nothing healthy about the debate I started; it was simply ammunition for a code war, which is a surefire way to get people talking.

    Initiating a code war was a cheap trick that left me feeling a little dirty, and I didn’t really enjoy the practice. Whether it was ego or immaturity that was the cause, I’m still not sure, but I swore to myself that I would never do it again.

    Rest assured, therefore, that the following piece is not a provocative attack on rugby union, nor is it designed to annoy the rah-rah crowd into such hysteria that The Roar’s servers melt under the weight of comments.

    Rather, this is an honest opinion: I fear for the future of rugby union in this country.

    Some rugby fans will no doubt believe this to be a cheap shot from a rugby league writer. However, I love rugby and always have. I consider league and union equals in my heart.

    Most of my friends played grade footy, and Norths Rugby Club has been a major part of my life, to the point that I proudly wear my 2016 Shute Shield Premiership hat most weekends. In fact, my best friend probably won’t speak to me for a month after he reads this.

    So trust me when I say that I love rugby, this isn’t a cheap shot, and I’m not chasing comments from angry Roarers.

    However, rugby is in big trouble in this country, and I was persuaded to write this by the amount of rugby fans that have their heads stuck in the sand.

    There are a number of reasons why rugby isn’t trending in the right direction in Australia at present, and though they may hurt to read, they’re not sensationalistic claims.

    Starting with Super Rugby, and it doesn’t help the code that Australia’s franchises are struggling to bother the ‘win’ column at present. It seems the only time an Australian team does win, it’s because they’re playing an Australian team. The lack of elite-level depth is clearly evident when it’s stretched across five teams.

    There’s talk of Australia losing a Super Rugby club in the upcoming SANZAAR restructure of the competition, which is never a good look.

    You could even argue that we should lose two teams if you’re using ‘quality’ as a criterion.

    The addition of two new franchises – the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels – was meant to increase the number of quality players via more professional opportunities, as well as grow the game in new regions. I’m not sure either objective has been achieved.

    My mate Brett McKay won’t like me repeating this, but it’s true: with its conference system, even the Super Rugby competition itself is confusing. To the point of being of a deterrent to the casual fan. If you don’t really understand how it works, it’s hard to get ‘into’ it.

    Meanwhile, when it comes to internationals, no matter how impressive the Wallabies play against other countries, the vast majority of the nation still judges them against the all mighty All Blacks, and little else. So, considering Australia’s appalling record versus New Zealand over the last decade, the team is considered second-rate by many, and therefore not worthy of their eyeballs.

    New Zealands Richie McCaw walks past Australias David Pocock

    Success always brings back some promiscuous fans, yet winning may not even be enough to overcome rugby’s harshest reality. Specifically, that the game is perceived as boring.

    Such an assessment is obviously subjective, after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    Rugby advocates will claim there is little wrong with the game itself; just the way it’s currently being played in Australia. Truly loyal fans probably won’t even admit that.

    However, ‘rusted on’ fans are not what drive a game’s growth, for they will always be there. What does ensure a game is headed in the right direction is the recruiting of new fans, or converting back some lapsed ones.

    Given the product Australian rugby is presently serving up, recruitment and conversion is a tough sell. Whether you deride the sport as boring, or simply acknowledge the lack of talent is having an impact on the quality of play, the fact remains that rugby union is currently an inferior product to its competitors.

    The key word to analyse in that sentence is ‘currently’. All sports experience some lows, so are we simply witnessing the ebb to the flow in Australian rugby, and the game will bounce back again soon?

    Sadly, that is extremely optimistic.

    There are few signs that this downward trend will abate soon. Which begs the question, what is the future for rugby?

    It’s not going anywhere internationally. It remains the number one game in New Zealand, is a large part of the fabric of South Africa, goes from strength-to-strength in Europe, and it’s growing in other parts of the world.

    Yet in Australia, the news may be a little starker.

    Romain Poite Bledisloe Cup Rugby Championship 2016

    Given the success of rugby elsewhere around the globe, World Rugby is under no pressure to make rule changes to make the game more attractive simply to suit the Australian market.

    However, those other markets don’t have to contend with AFL, and rugby league is not a large threat. Yet in Australia, both those codes are behemoths compared to union. That means that young talent, sponsorships, TV deals, new regions, and fans, are all fought over, with rugby losing the fight.

    The AFL is even making serious inroads into that most sacred of rugby union strongholds: the Sydney GPS system. It was once almost the exclusive nursery of rugby’s future, but now it’s just another battleground for recruiting athletic youngsters.

    With the AFL and NRL’s war chests full – thanks largely to lucrative TV deals – and strategic plans in place to grow their respective games, they will continue to place immense pressure on the ARU, whose financial cupboard is bare.

    Kurtley Beales infamous slip while attempting to win the game for the Wallabies against the Lions


    The quality of play isn’t great. The results are poor. The crown jewel, the Super Rugby competition, is confusing. We’re probably going to lose a franchise. The average fan thinks the game is boring. Grassroots development is a major concern. Competitors – armed with money and plans – are encroaching. The ARU isn’t swimming in cash. There isn’t a revenue-spinning Lions tour or World Cup hosting on the horizon.

    I could on, and discuss things like the infighting and disconnect with clubs, but you get the picture.

    All in all, I’m struggling to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I sincerely hope someone can tell me I’m being melodramatic, and give me cause to be more optimistic.

    My genuine fear is that Australian rugby – as we know it – is on death’s door. Should that be the case, it’s a massive shame.

    Ryan O
    Ryan O'Connell

    Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.

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    The Crowd Says (414)

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:13am
      Bring Back...? said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

      Thanks for saying it as it is Ryan. It was only 3 years ago the Tahs had 63,000 at Homebush to watch a gripping final against the Crusaders, and 2015 when the Wallabies surpassed all expectations in the RWC. I thought rugby was re-born but how quickly it has regressed in Australia. With performances like the Tahs dished up last Saturday night, is it any wonder? Only chance here is to revert back to 3 teams – assuming super rugby stays.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 7:24am
        AGO74 said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:24am | ! Report

        Would australian rugby be better off just playing a trans Tasman comp with NZ teams? I mean apart from hard core rugby fans, does anyone really get excited about playing teams from South Africa, Japan and Argentina. I’m not talking about the international game just the provincial super rugby game. For those teams who you would no longer played at provincial level it may actually then serve up a bit of extra interest when you finally play them such as South Africa and argies in 4 nations.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 8:44am
          DH said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:44am | ! Report

          Why teams from NZ? If you’re going to cut out all the low games, cut them all out, add another team in Qld (Cairns can support an NBL team) and Sydney and have a 7/8 team Australian tournament.

          Even the people I watch rugby with (albeit mostly new to the game) have no idea where the Highlanders or the Chiefs come from.

          Being beaten by NZ teams every week does nothing for Australian teams.

          Plus an expansion of an Australian-only league means more pathways for young players in all markets.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 8:58am
            Magnus M. Østergaard said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

            Cairns can support a NBL team which only needs crowds of maximum 5300 (arena capacity) to keep it afloat. I daresay a prorugby team would be far more expensive and need far higher crowds.

            You probably could manager a second team in QLD on the Sunshine Coast or something I suppose.

            • March 21st 2017 @ 10:28am
              Art Vanderlay said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

              Plus the Cairns NBL team is bankrolled by a University whose VC throws money around like confetti.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 10:56am
                Rt said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

                And you want to be my latex salesman!

                Btw bond uni on the GC is putting a heap of money into rugby

            • March 21st 2017 @ 1:18pm
              Stripes said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

              Trust me,

              We could not support a pro rugby team here… 🙁

          • March 21st 2017 @ 9:07am
            gman said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

            There has to be merit in rolling the state based comps.into a national comp via NRC and seeking out a free to air tv deal

            NETBALL managed it ….

            • Roar Guru

              March 21st 2017 @ 9:08am
              Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:08am | ! Report

              Netball managed $3.4M a year for it…

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 10:37am
                Joey Johns said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:37am | ! Report

                I’d view it as short term pain for long term gain.TWAS. The Big Bash went in partnership with Foxtel for the first 2 years to establish the competition, then they took a paycut for the next 3 in order to be on FTA tv. They are looking at a TV rights bidding war to reap the dividends next year.

                I wouldn’t include NZ in a domestic comp until they agreed on a complete freedom of player movement between teams, otherwise it’ll be much like today with Aus teams getting whipped.

                I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing Fiji and perhaps Tonga & Samoa competing in a revamped NRC. Force, Rebels, Brumbies, Waratahs, Western Sydney, Reds, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa,

                There’s 3 Islander teams funded by World Rugby, which brings the ever important international broadcast appeal $$ and more games per round. Facilitating a professional pathway is the right thing to do for the pacific after decades of pillaging their local talent. Pichot (head of World Rugby) wants the rebalancing of the Pacific to be his legacy, we should leverage this more. (Kudos must go to Pulver for Fiji’s addition to this years NRC).

                I think the formula is pretty simple. 3 FTA games a week. Friday Nights, and a double header Saturday afternoon/evening, which is remarkably easy to schedule when Perth’s around, and when you consider the grounds in the pacific may not cater for night football. The NRL doesn’t broadcast on FTA on Saturday (it’s just AFL), so that’s a bread and butter opportunity for casual rugby fans.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 10:48am
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

                Joey Johns I agree with that.

                But you need to be in the position for short term gain.

                The fact is that 9 are paying $3.4M per year for 4 local games. 2 in prime time and 2 delayed (seemingly because they consider that to be what demand is for).

                Now let’s say a broadcaster felt there would be demand for 4 prime time games. That’s 8 teams.

                Let’s be generous and say they’d double it. They would give $6.8M per year for this.

                Currently the ARU pays somewhere in the vicinity of $6.7M per team for salaries and support. That’s about $33M per year.

                So the ARU would have to be willing to lose close to $26M per year to maintain the same salaries in the market (which would see it spread across 8 teams now, not 5) and financial support for teams from the deal (which would be around $1M per team now, not $1.7M).

                These details are all hypothetical but at best you need to maintain the current level of financial support to 5 teams prevent further erosion of talent.

                They would need $125M to just sustain the losses over the life of a TV deal, which they would then need to home they make closer to $40M or more a year to increase salaries and support.

                The ARU was almost insolvent in 2016 for reference.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 10:58am
                Rt said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:58am | ! Report

                Except the team costs would be much lower.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 11:07am
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:07am | ! Report

                Why would they be lower rt?

                To retain every player we have now they’d need to be paid the same as they are now.

                So the salaries remain at $25M in total. Even my plan to distribute that $25M across 8 teams will see us lose some players.

                $1M per team won’t provide much support either.

                Travel costs won’t change as they are provided by Qantas as a part of sponsorship. At best the difference in cost price of international vs local travel would be added to the sponsorship. If you know anybody who gets Jetstar staff travel, you’d know this is not very high.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 11:29am
                Joey Johns said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:29am | ! Report

                Yeah, I agree the financials would be hard, however we’re heading towards insolvency anyway. If Super Rugby folds, broadcasters and home unions alike would organise a Heiniken Cup quick smart, which could plug some of revenue shortfall

                Locally however, The idea is that the pacific teams pay for themselves (via WR) so don’t cost the ARU a cent in wages or administration overheads. We benefit from the extra 6 rounds of competition, and the extra game a week for broadcast revenue.

                Japan could actually be viable if they don’t want to change their season to compete in a theoretical Super Rugby (Heiniken)Cup. There was significant corporate financial interest in Super Rugby from Asia, I don’t see how this would change if the top 4 or so qualify for Super reincarnated.

                The ARU could start small, and build sustainably. 9 teams (Super Rugby franchises, plus Tonga, Fiji & Samoa, Sunwolves) for the first 2 years. Put a Western Sydney license out to tender for year 3
                Start the competition in the first week of Feburary with nothing but derbies.

                If there’s a proper league structure, and I get to see my team play the best in australia (twice!) and the most entertaining rugby nations (Samoa, Tonga, Japan!, Fiji) in my own back yard, I’ll be a pretty happy chappy.

                Imagine how much more each game would mean if you were fighting for a Super Rugby spot later that year!

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 11:37am
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:37am | ! Report

                I agree with what you say, but it’s important to note that with the current revised TV deal, the ARU receive an extra $25M per year.

                for that extra $25M my understanding is they will outlay $1.7M per Super Rugby franchises.

                So the expenses increase by $8.5M against $25M more revenue. $16.5M more profit per year.

                This is no silver bullet, but a very timely cash injection to prop up the cash reserves over the 5 years of this TV deal.

                Imagine if they spend $6.5M of that on increase Wallaby payments, the 5 year strategic plan and other expenditure they considered necessary, and then banked $10M a year for 5 years?

                That’s more than they had after the RWC. Whilst with the value of money it’s not the same as 20 years earlier it’s a good position with a Lions tour windfall coming around in 2025.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 12:05pm
                Joey Johns said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

                Do we get that extra 25m a year if we lose a team though?

                If we do.. then Pulvers a bloody genius for getting Fiji on board with the NRC.

                I’m a glass-half-full optimist guy and thinks that we’re gonna get full Pulverised with some short term pain for long term gain. Pulver’s first move was a domestic tier, his next move might be to professionalize it

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 12:07pm
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

                I’m guessing we probably lose 20% of it. But then we may lose some of the remaining $25M.

                But ultimately, if the TV deal is reduced by more than $6.7M, we are worse off potentially.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 12:26pm
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

                FYI in 2010 our TV deal was around $20M

                In 2011 this increase to $25M in a shortened RWC year and $28M in 2012.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 12:15pm
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

                I think the short term goal should be to provide a wage of $30k for non Super Rugby NRC players who make the first choice NRC squads of 30.

                That would be about $3.5M.

                What that would do is provide enough money for young players to basically be full time athletes and train unpaid in Super Rugby Wider Training Squads.

                It’s not going to solve all the problems but it will help stopping the loss of fringe Super Rugby prospects who probably attract less than $100k overseas. That means when a well paid player leaves we have players to replace them like in NZ. It would also increase the quality of NRC.

                This would then mean that the only players who play for very little are injury replacements, who then play to try and get a full time contract for the next year, with the hopes of making Super Rugby.

                If that could help improve performance over a few years at may help Aus Super Rugby have more viewer and therefore commercial appeal, which would then fund either higher salaries, or more lower salaries for players outside that group.

              • March 22nd 2017 @ 11:31am
                Cpt crow eater said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

                Totally agree TWAS.

                We need these NRC boys full time in a professional set up.
                Get the skills up, get the bodies bigger and close the gap a little for when they’re needed at Soup level.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 3:14pm
                Joey Johns said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

                I don’t think we’re in a position to pay our third tier, especially at a cost of 3.5mil a season.

                I’d rather we used this windfall to expand the Super Rugby Squads to 40 and added another professional team in Western Sydney.

                If the rumours are true and Australia’s cutting a Super Rugby team, we should be using the financial windfall to expand our professional player pool and establish the NRC as the dual 2nd tier.

                Tell RUPA and the players to suck it up or perish, and that an extra 14 competitive games are being played a year to bring us up to speed with NH content. The top 4 teams (from Australia) qualify for Super Rugby the next year.

                Ideally, if the Brumbies were cut from Super Rugby, that year they’d still play 14 games in the regular season in the NRC, almost as many as they play in Super Rugby now. If they won/made the finals in the NRC they’d qualify for Super Rugby next year. That NRC season see’s the introduction of the Western Sydney franchise. Sunwolves & Fiji compete at no cost to the ARU (because the Sunwolves need more games)

                Presto, Australia has a functional Domestic competition that has a potential ROI in the triple figures.
                Plus an extra team and plenty of derbies with creative scheduling.

            • March 22nd 2017 @ 11:15am
              Bakkies said | March 22nd 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              ‘Ideally, if the Brumbies were cut from Super Rugby, that year they’d still play 14 games in the regular season in the NRC, almost as many as they play in Super Rugby now. If they won/made the finals in the NRC they’d qualify for Super Rugby next year.’

              A big fat no. Relegation from Super Rugby was a huge money drain for the Lions. They’re lucky they got the Emirates sponsorship when they did. There isn’t enough money within Sanzaar to have that.

              They also also lost players such as Josh Strauss (who never came back) and Jaque Fourie

          • March 21st 2017 @ 9:12am
            Jeff Morris said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:12am | ! Report

            A simple first step would be to add “first names” (the city/locale the team represents) back to their names. Its annoying to try to remember which team goes with which city.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 12:41pm
            HardcorePrawn said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

            You raise a good point, one that I’ve said since moving to Australia: the Super Rugby clubs really struggle with their identity. Being unfamiliar with the clubs when I moved here I had no idea even which country many of them were from.
            Cheetahs, Lions, Brumbies… OK. But Stormers, Force, Blues, Reds etc. these names mean little to casual fans.
            It’s also difficult to foster any loyalty amongst locals, especially for new clubs, when they’re being marketed with names like the Rabobank Rebels (as my local team were for their first few years).

            • Roar Rookie

              March 21st 2017 @ 1:06pm
              piru said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

              Western Force is pretty self explanatory!

              Only Aussie team west of Melbourne

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 1:18pm
                HardcorePrawn said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                That means little in an international competition. South Africa is west of Melbourne too, & Cape Town is the capital of the Western Cape province.
                Besides, it’s rare for the Western part of their name to be used, they’re usually just called Force.

                My point being that, to the uninitiated, a team called Western Force could come from pretty much anywhere within Super Rugby’s geographical area, these are not clubs with 100+ years of heritage and history to fall back on, or strong ties to local communities; but relatively modern clubs often with names decided upon by a committee of marketing types.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 21st 2017 @ 1:40pm
                piru said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

                Yeah fair call, I was just being a knob.

                I can understand the Kiwi franchises not wanting to name themselves after the province as they cover several provinces, but in Australia it should be easy enough.

                Although (and again using the Force as an example) the Western Australian Force really doesn’t roll off the tongue.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 3:04pm
                Rt said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:04pm | ! Report

                Actually both Canberra and Melbourne are west of Sydney.

              • Roar Rookie

                March 21st 2017 @ 3:08pm
                piru said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:08pm | ! Report

                Only Aussie team west of Melbourne

              • March 21st 2017 @ 8:55pm
                Rt said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:55pm | ! Report


        • March 21st 2017 @ 8:46am
          Ryan said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

          Whilst I like the idea of a TT comp you would be very hard pressed to find many Kiwis who would support it.

          It would mean killing off the NPC even further, and why should current provinces be omitted to admit Australian teams?

          To compete Australia would need to play their Super Rugby franchises where as New Zealand teams split into many different provincial teams.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 10:39am
        Casual fan said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:39am | ! Report

        BB? Even if we go back to three teams we will select the largest slow players available. They will tuck the ball under their arm and run at the opposition. Why, because many of the junior players play both league and union and are not coached correctly on the intriciscies or Rugby v League.
        As a Norths follower, Ryan knows that coaching makes all the difference. Under Simon Conn, Norths have gone from a rabble to a successful club team. In addition their style of play is very watchable. My sons are another case in point. One is coached by an ex WB. He has shown them defensive patterns, systems of attack, mental and physical toughness required to play rugby The coaching and games are highly stimulating and enjoyable for players and spectators. The other is coached by the teams 5/8. It is brain dead pick and drive as in play the ball. Most dads are hoping their sons gat pick in the B team so they get a champers to play Rugby. I spent the summer unsuccessfully trying to get this son playing AFL.
        The game is not dead, but it does need to deal with the skills gap. While numbers are down in some competitions there are young boys (and some girls) who thrive on the physical challenge of running to exhaustion and competing in the contact zone. They just need good coaching to go with their enthusiasm.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:27am
      Scrumpoacher said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      She’ll be right mate. RWC finalists 18months ago, SR winners recently too. Just a bad patch for all SR teams and the Wallabies? Hey let’s see them in June v up and coming nations then judge-if its close we’ll know we’re in trouble…

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:27am
      DH said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:27am | ! Report

      It’s got to the point that Australia should just withdraw from SANZAR. Australia is one of the most lucrative TV markets but doesn’t have access to the best players in the competition and will never be able to compete with NZ clubs who have millions of players to draw on while Australian clubs have far less.

      For there to be any sort of growth means keeping a team in each state which already has a team, perhaps expanding to two in Brisbane and Sydney. for these teams to be competitive means we need to break from NZ.

      We could have an Australia-only competition and reap all of the money, and truly be able to grow the sport.

      I don’t agree that the expansion clubs haven’t achieved their goals. participation in rugby is up in Melbourne, one of the few places where it is headed in a positive direction.

      The domestic sport is shrunk by 7% from 2015 to 2016.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 8:54am
        Ryan said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        You are having a laugh aren’t you?

        No broadcaster in their right mind would pay Australia anywhere near what they get now as part of SANZAAR if they were to breakaway from their partners.

        New Zealand and South Africa are who the broadcasters are paying the big money for. Any competition less the All Blacks and NZ teams will be worth significantly less than anything you could generate on your own.

        The All Blacks and NZ rugby have huge sponsorship deals that help keep their rugby thriving on top of what the receive as part of SANZAAR.

        I have never seen a Aus provincial game on TV in NZ but I’ve seen the NPC on Aus TV (albeit whilst on holiday). That in itself speaks volumes.

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 9:26am
          SportsFanGC said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

          DH and Ryan – Hypothetical question for you re: TV Rights:

          What do you think a broadcaster is going/willing to pay for a competition containing NZ, SA, Japan and Argentina teams without Australia?

          There would be a huge loss of agreeable TV viewing time with AUS missing considering the time zone differences between NZ, SA and Argentina.

          While AUS would take a hit initially would they be able to rebuild and make a comeback ala A-League who now have signed a $346M TV deal for 6 years with Fox based on a 10 Team competition?

          • March 21st 2017 @ 9:34am
            Ryan said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:34am | ! Report

            The reality is Australian fans have this sense of entitlement and importance that just isn’t there. Everyone would take a hit but don’t think for a second that it would all collapse without Australia.

            There’s a reason why NZ teams have not been touted for cutting.

            Think about that when using your calculator.

          • Roar Guru

            March 21st 2017 @ 11:08am
            Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

            Where’s the billionaire who is going to fund us in the mean time ala A-League though?

            • Roar Guru

              March 21st 2017 @ 11:33am
              Joey Johns said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:33am | ! Report

              There’s serious money to be made here. Especially in front of a fickle Australian sporting public.

              Disgusting fun fact of the week: If you were to come in and steal a 1/3rd of League & AFL’s TV right’s you’d be sitting on 1 billion dollars.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 11:42am
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                I agree.

                The biggest issue is that Super Rugby no longer appeals to the Australian market.

                Lack of teams loses relevance and too many games in SA (Because they are played in poor times) or vs SA teams (Because they play most of their games in poor times) cause loss of interest.

                Look at the Lions for example. They are playing as good rugby as NZ teams but due to being unknown nobody in Australia cares about seeing us play them.

              • March 21st 2017 @ 12:34pm
                Jock Cornet said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                Last year you were saying super rugby was fantastic with no need to change. TWAS you finally gettin your head out of the sand

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 12:37pm
                Train Without A Station said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

                Nope. Never said that.

              • Roar Guru

                March 21st 2017 @ 12:12pm
                Joey Johns said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

                Yeah I know. I’m still all for keeping SA in the loop, just in a truncated 10 week Cup tournament that can still bring some dollars. Hell, we can guarantee the final is played in South Africa (or even Twickenham hheehe) for the first 4 years to really make it count financially. Even guarantee them 6 /16 teams too.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 11:57am
        puff said | March 21st 2017 @ 11:57am | ! Report

        DH, sorry mate you are hallucinating. We are in trouble because the OZ officiators of this great game sat on their hands during the good times and never engaged with the public at all levels when the Wallabies were showing promise. The ARU continued to support the sport at the elite level and not once gave credence, to the small mum & dad clubs where all talent is discovered and tutored. Prepared rugby players, don’t just arrive booted and suited and go knocking on conference doors. In NZ where rugby is the second biggest recreational sport the journey begins at an early age, where kids slowly progress through many age cycles and increase their skill level and awareness. The big kicker is, the NZRU take a keen interest in all stages of this development process. Encouraging kids with certain qualities, that they could have a future in the sport. If they engage in the right mind set. NZ have been worried about OZ rugby for a considerable period but we declined their input. NZ, are cognizant that the deteriorating rugby standards in OZ, will, and is affecting the SH game. Further, Rupert has little regard for OZ rugby as a standalone competition, it’s NZ / SA rugby that excites the world t/v audience. We continue to hemorrhage a once healthy fan base and stadium bums on seats. The sad reflection is, women’s AFL matches are attracting the same level of interest. The ARU have nothing of significance on commercial t/v, the fox games are enjoyable but the Tues, Kick & Case program is almost dribble and offers very little to profile the sport or the direction of the game. It is a poignant reminder that perhaps the ARU lack direction, as I see or read little, to showcase how rewarding this sport ready is.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 3:35pm
          DH said | March 21st 2017 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

          What’s done is done, I only care about what to do next.

          If you’re saying start at grass roots, that takes not only money, but also the need to displace three other sports two of which are chasing almost the exact type of player.

          It’s a bit different to NZ where soccer takes all the scrawny kids and the tough kids play rugby. ARU has traditionally had to pick the tough kids who go to private school and don’t want to play AFL. The grass roots available is very small and in Melbourne seems to be limited to a handful of private schools and islander kids from low-socioeconomic areas.

          ARU would gain stuff-all by putting on school clinics where they try to teach kids who learn AFL to throw the ball and catch it as if it’s a regression from learning AFL skills. That’s if the school would allow the kids to do it after their AFL clinic and soccer clinics.

          The best way to grow the game is to have an Australian competition with teams which are relevant to Australian viewers. Melbourne are playing who? Bloemfontein? Never heard of it. Otago, never heard of it, Dunedin, where’s that? And that’s if you know where the team’s from and don’t just use the bland club name like Cheetahs and Chiefs.

          Super Rugby is just so irrelevant to an Australian audience that it’s boggling. Melbourne v Sydney, game on!! Don’t care what it is, Melbournians will turn up to watch us play our rivals in anything.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:32am
      Jeff dustby said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      What does the kiwi fans want done with super rugby ? Stay the same?

      • March 21st 2017 @ 7:40am
        DH said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

        It seems they want to keep their domination going by not letting good players leave NZ for other franchises which means the league will collapse.

        Under the current settings, either SANZAR cut Australian clubs which will have immediate benefits but long term pretty much stop any chance of growth in the sport or they equalise the league with drafts and free player trading/movement without national team selection problems.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 8:43am
          Bill said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:43am | ! Report

          Very good point DH around player movement. SANZAAR should allow players to move within the 18 teams and still be eligible to play for their respective countries.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 8:56am
          Ryan said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:56am | ! Report

          One minute you want to cut NZ loose then in the same thread you are demanding NZ let their players prop up your struggling teams.

          What is it that you want you can’t have it both ways.

          Also pays to note its the national unions who dictate how their players are eligible to play for their country not SANZAAR.

        • March 21st 2017 @ 9:09am
          handles said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:09am | ! Report

          What? Not letting good players leave? Those dastardly kiwis. Luckily a few have slipped through the fence. Daniel Braid, Adam Thompson both did a pretty good job for Queensland.

        • Roar Rookie

          March 21st 2017 @ 10:48am
          Shane D said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:48am | ! Report

          So NZ should invest time & money into developing players so they can be playing for other countries franchises? How do you think these better players become better DH? Perhaps it’s quality coaching from a young age & a developmental pathway that works well.
          NZRU has a policy that works for them around eligibility for their national team. SANZAAR has nothing to do with that.
          Australian franchises can sign any kiwi outside of contract anytime they want. They just need to convince the player that being or becoming an All Black is not a reality.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 12:10pm
            Whakaata said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

            And that is the ultimate, convincing these Kiwi’s to give up on their All Blacks dream to play for Australian teams.

            It’s absurd to suggest that New Zealand is to blame for the demise of Super Rugby and then demand that New Zealand bolsters the ranks of the Australian teams.
            By doing so; would it not be taking a spot away from an Australian eligible youngster?
            Because that’s what will happen, next is folk like DH will start complaining that there are too many Kiwi in their teams.

    • March 21st 2017 @ 7:40am
      Worlds Biggest said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:40am | ! Report

      Hard to disagree with you Ryano, like yourself I love both Union and League. I was a Member of both the Waratahs and Rabbitohs last year. When it came time for renewing the Tahs Membership I didn’t hear boo from anyone. Meanwhile the Bunnies sent me a few email reminders, a couple of texts and a call. I have since renewed my Bunnies Membership however not the Waratahs. I found it absolutely staggering that I didn’t receive a letter, phone call or email to renew. Sums it up really.

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2017 @ 7:42am
      sheek said | March 21st 2017 @ 7:42am | ! Report

      Thanks Ryan,

      Enjoyed the read. Brutally honest, I love that.

      Here’s the thing about all this talk about culling an Aussie province.

      Here’s my analogy of what is happening, & i hope it has some relevance.

      ARU invited Force & Rebels to their house, then did….. nothing.

      No dinner party, no nibbles, no drinks, no music, nothing.

      Force & Rebels sat around twiddling their thumbs wondering why they had even been invited in the first place.

      Same thing happened with previous house guest Brumbies. After showing initial interest in Brumbies, ARU lost interest in them, leaving them to sit in corner twiddling thumbs also.

      Of course, it is purely an analogy, but the point is, the ARU, part from yes, bailing all the provinces out financially at one time or another, simply haven’t done the job in laying down the structures to ensure the long-term vitality of domestic rugby.

      ARU is at fault, but it seems one of the provinces will pay the price for their dithering & short-sightedness.

      Meanwhile ARU is on Skype, talking to its new wanna-be friends in Asia, who aren’t true friends, but just seeing what leverage they can get out of ARU & their not-so-true mates in NZ, SA & Argentina.

      Was it George Bernard Shaw who penned, “What a tangled web we weave, when we do attempt to deceive…..”

      In this case, ARU & SANZAAR deceiving themselves mostly.

      Well done Ryan, I’ve had a rant with just about everyone now!

      • March 21st 2017 @ 8:08am
        Onside said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:08am | ! Report

        Hi Sheek,

        I googled the ‘tangled web’ reference because I had no idea.

        The quote is attributed to Sir Walter Scott in a poem Marmion.

        The info is not me being a smart alec . I am trying to find out
        if George Bernard Shaw played in the front row for England.

        • Roar Guru

          March 21st 2017 @ 8:10am
          sheek said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:10am | ! Report

          Thanks Onside,

          I appreciate the correction. The memory isn’t always as sharp as it used to be. As soon as you mentioned Marmion, it all came back to me!

          I remember in my youth, in the late 60s, there was a good sprinter racehorse in Victoria named Marmion. Some years ago I googled his name, & now I remember the correction you have made.

          • March 21st 2017 @ 8:30am
            Onside said | March 21st 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            George Bernard Shaw was related to Anthony Alexander Shaw who captained the Wallabies.

            ( not April 1 just yet)

          • March 21st 2017 @ 12:18pm
            greypower said | March 21st 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            There is also a half decent Irish halfback named Marmion!!

      • Columnist

        March 21st 2017 @ 9:24am
        Ryan O'Connell said | March 21st 2017 @ 9:24am | ! Report

        Nice analogy, Sheek!

        • Roar Rookie

          March 21st 2017 @ 6:00pm
          Pman said | March 21st 2017 @ 6:00pm | ! Report

          I agree with the article regarding the complexities of Super Rugby. The 12 team comp was easily the best and most successful, notwithstanding 2014 when the most deserving super rugby team won its only flag.

          This is a genuine rumination though.

          I appreciate the ARU are the country’s governing body, but shouldn’t the individual clubs do more to ensure the code’s success? Each level is governed by an individual board/committee. Yet I hear a lot of whining from the levels below the Wallabies, all levels being professional, semi professional and amateur levels, about the ARU not looking after grass roots. It’s baffling.

          I ran an amateur cricket club within the SCA for a few years in the 2000s, and we raised all money ourselves (except a small token grant for balls via cricket NSW) through subs and sponsorship. We weren’t blaming Cricket Australia for any financial or participation woes. And hiring turf wicket cricket grounds for 6 months a year ain’t cheap!

          Why can’t the clubs do the same? Is it because of the 4 winter code competition (as opposed to cricket being Australia’s number one summer code)? There seems to be a lot of self interest and finger pointing rather than the occasional look in the mirror.

      • March 21st 2017 @ 10:29am
        Republican said | March 21st 2017 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        ……..are not the Brumbies the exception, in respect of any ARU bail outs?

        • March 21st 2017 @ 1:06pm
          Joe B said | March 21st 2017 @ 1:06pm | ! Report

          Didn’t the Reds get bailed out in the late noughties? Or some ARU intervention?

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