Outside of Perth, very few of the rugby faithful would ever have heard of Geoffrey Stooke, but he has two genuine claims to fame.
He was the long-term president of RugbyWA from 1988 to 2011, and the only ARU director – in nine – to vote against Australia losing either the Force or the Rebels in a Super Rugby format shakeup.
It’s inconceivable just one in nine voted for Australia to retain five franchises when the ARU is the custodian of rugby for players, their sponsors, and their supporters.
ARU chairman Cameron Clyne and CEO Bill Pulver were the chief movers of the four-franchise vote – both having either a banking or financial CV.
Turn the clock back to the last chairman, Michael Hawker, and last CEO, John O’Neill, and there’s no way they would shirked their responsibilities as rugby custodians – and both of them came from banking backgrounds.
It was rugby first, then the financial for Hawker and O’Neill. Not financial first and rugby second as it is for Clyne and Pulver.
And for shirking their priority responsibilities, the current ARU board will definitely be sued by the Force if they go, and probably by the Rebels if they go.
Poetic justice as Clyne, Pulver, and six other directors that include three former Wallabies in John Eales, a legend in the code, plus Dr Brett Robinson and Paul McLean, as well as Elizabeth Broderick, Pip Marlow and Ann Sherry, seem to have forgotten their custodian briefs.
Axing a franchise will throw 30-plus footballers to the wolves on the open market, and leave thousands of supporters team-less.
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To be fair, the ARU has every right to be disgusted by the current Australian success rate in Super Rugby, with just seven wins from 23 games, including 12 losses out of 12 against New Zealand franchises.
But don’t shoot the messenger, correct the reason for the failures. That’s what the ARU should concentrate on, not keeping the bank balance looking good.
There are only three possibilities for the current failures – poor coaching, poor captaincy, or poor players. To be realistic, it’s a combination of all three. So fix it, don’t bury it!
That’s been the ARU way for the 52 years I’ve been dealing with the governing body. Whenever there’s been a problem, they swept it under the carpet, and the problem was out of sight and out of mind.
I had hoped the ARU had moved beyond this method, but apparently not, and the ARU directors will likely pay for it either in court, or at the annual general meeting.
In the aftermath, it’s been Bill Pulver’s words that have rankled:
“It’s tragic we have to lose a team, but it will be better for Australian rugby in the future.”
Like hell it will for those booted.