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Super Rugby needs changes, not the culling of franchises

Russell Peters Roar Rookie

By Russell Peters, Russell Peters is a Roar Rookie New author!


24 Have your say

    The ARU is poised to announce the culling of one Australian franchise this week after SANZAR reportedly agreed to return Super Rugby to a 15-team format. Either the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force will be scrapped.

    The 15-team formula was successful because of the intensity of fast, quality rugby. Super Rugby was then expanded significantly to cater for Japanese and Argentine franchises, which in my opinion resulted in a reduced intensity and quality of rugby.

    On the one hand the Super 18s met the objective of growing rugby, but on the other hand it weakened the standard of that rugby. This coupled with an overkill of local derbies resulted in falling spectator numbers and television audiences.

    The uncertainty and lack of professionalism in the decision–making process is not only impacting on the two clubs but on rugby around the country.

    Senior management has belatedly identified that there is a lack of appropriate funding at the grass roots level, fundamental to the growth of the code.

    Apparently, the need to channel more money into junior rugby has, in part, influenced the decision to cut one team from the conference. This action may improve the financial condition of the ARU, but the downside could be the irreversible loss of the rugby footprint in Western Australia or Victoria.

    If financial circumstances dictate the culling of a team, one would hope that all refinancing and restructuring options have been considered before culling occurs.

    Another consideration is that a four team Super Rugby conference will produce a more competitive conference and in turn improve Wallaby depth and quality. That remains to be seen, as there are other factors at play.

    Australian Super Rugby teams have become the whipping boys of the New Zealand teams in particular, with an ever-widening gulf in skill levels and fitness.

    In New Zealand much the same number of players as Australia has vie for a position in fewer teams. Hence the importance of having good skill levels and a very high standard of fitness.

    Australian rugby’s unique problem is that it competes with three other codes of football and consequently will always struggle to attract numbers and quality. Skill levels need to be improved at the grass-roots level.

    Israel Folau Waratahs Super Rugby Union 2017

    This inherently means increasing the competition for places in a team. To achieve this the number of junior clubs may need to be reduced.

    Australian Under20s performance at the annual world championships since 2008 peaked at second in 2010 and has been on the crest of a slump ever since. Australia averages fifth over the nine years the tournament has been played.

    New Zealand and England have dominated Under 20s tournaments since inception and it is not a coincidence that currently they are the top two senior teams in the world.

    With daylight third it is very unlikely that hierarchy will change soon. We need to understand why Australia is not doing better at this level.

    All avenues of finding a successful long-term strategy must be explored.

    Consideration should be given to the following:
    1 The ARU needs to channel more funds into junior rugby. Merging junior clubs within districts would have the result of driving funding further.

    It would definitely lead to increased competition for team positions which will drive better skill levels and better quality rugby.

    2 The international record of our Under 20s is not acceptable. Appoint appropriate people to review and develop a strategy to make our Under 20s more competitive on the world stage.

    3 Super rugby academies should develop Under 18 and 19 teams to strengthen the depth of junior rugby at the elite level.

    4 It is time for new thinking, direction and importantly leadership in the ARU.
    All of the above strategies involve funding. The ARU must get the sponsorship base and funding priorities right.

    Reducing the number of franchises is not necessarily a positive move.

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    The Crowd Says (24)

    • April 18th 2017 @ 1:44pm
      Rugby Tragic said | April 18th 2017 @ 1:44pm | ! Report

      “..If financial circumstances dictate the culling of a team, one would hope that all refinancing and restructuring options have been considered before culling occurs……”

      Exactly, I concur. The whole emphasis of the past troubled weeks is that the ARU have decided there is only one answer, and that is to cull a franchise.

      With respect to skill levels, I think that is another story. The code (or product) is and will always be the hero. That is why media fight and bid for rights to be able to profit by presenting the sport to the consumer. There is demand for good entertainment and Rugby either provides or promises that.

      The pedigree of U20’s is still relatively new, the global tournaments only started in 2008, but you are right it has been dominated really by NZ (5 titles), England (3) and South Africa (1). To compete here Australia needs a commitment to grass roots and junior rugby and I believe, in the employment of coaches.

      • April 18th 2017 @ 10:34pm
        Train Without A Station said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:34pm | ! Report

        Commit to just getting more kids playing.

        That brings in more fans.

        That brings in more money.

        Then you can worry about spending money on coaching when you’ve got more players that are under-utilised due to lack of coaching.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 1:53pm
      Leo said | April 18th 2017 @ 1:53pm | ! Report

      very interesting article which shows up the incumbent board- methinks they should be pushed one side and let somebody more interested in promoting rugby countrywide rather than people only in NSWs backyard. Too much bugger you Jack I am alright sttitude has run Australian rugby for last 4 years.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 18th 2017 @ 6:36pm
        piru said | April 18th 2017 @ 6:36pm | ! Report

        *100 years

        • April 18th 2017 @ 10:35pm
          Train Without A Station said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:35pm | ! Report

          Spot on.

          The current board has probably done more for equalisation of states than the previous board for example.

          But an equal share of nothing is still nothing.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 2:21pm
      Old One Eye said | April 18th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

      Absolutely mystified as to how culling junior teams improves skills. I’m the kids who don’t get into the team will sharpen up by observing rather than doing. Just about the most illogical comment I’ve ever seen a so called expect make. Maybe a focus on improving the standards of junior coaching would have a more beneficial effect.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 5:05pm
      Bugaluggs said | April 18th 2017 @ 5:05pm | ! Report

      Meanwhile they spend millions on NRL converts. Maybe they should consider letting go a few overpriced under performers both on and off the field first before amputating an appendage.

      From where I sit Super Rugby as a whole is played in largely empty stadiums anywhere it is on. This includes Sydney, Brisbane, Auckland, Jozi and Cape Town.

      It is a busted concept.

      Time to get back to basics. It could be forced on Australian rugby anyhow in the next 5 years. The fans that have walked away wont come back until the product improves and creates a buzz. How will they create that being stashed away on subscription tv and the best players are all over in Europe?

      • April 18th 2017 @ 10:36pm
        Train Without A Station said | April 18th 2017 @ 10:36pm | ! Report

        Because rugby is a professional sport.

        You pay to get the best players to win and the best players to get media coverage.

        Amateur thinking is not the future.

        • April 19th 2017 @ 8:25pm
          Bugaluggs said | April 19th 2017 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

          Funny, the biggest sporting league out of all sports, the NFL is on free to air tv. So you might want to do a little bit of research there. A little more local, do you reckon cricket would be that big if it was not on free to air. Just look at how poor the interest in tours that are on only on pay tv to see the difference.

          One thing Train man, you gotta learn to crawl as a sporting league before you can run and ask for big coin.

          Super Rugger is kaput, it will limp on for a while yet, but it is the sick man of world sporting leagues. It will go the same way the WLAF, which tried the same nonsense back in the 1990s with American gridiron playing in Europe and North America.

          On the other hand the AFL which is on free to air in Sydney will continue to grow exponentially in NSW and QLD.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 6:02pm
      davSA said | April 18th 2017 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

      I so agree with you Russell . In the case of SA and I am including Australia here , have the respective Unions looked at their own financial austerity measures , cutting costs , eliminating duplication , reducing unnecessary staff and other hangers on.etc before crying out that funding is an issue.? In SA,s case answer No !

      Cricket SA post apartheid faced a dilemma , in order to grow the game and legitimize it as historically because of most South Africans being excluded there was a strong element of antagonism towards the game. … They made a huge effort , taking the game to all sectors of society . I don’t have the time to go into their major programmes here but the success was phenomenal. Cricket is the fastest growing sport in SA and is free of the political baggage that rugby carries. The important thing is that due to these progressive policies the sponsors are lining up to get their logos and brand involved in the game. Conversely rugby which has had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st Century still battles with legitimacy to this day . They also are struggling enormously with sponsorships and have recently lost 2 major anchor sponsors. SARU blames the economic climate but why do big sports like soccer and cricket have no such problems. They in fact are spoilt for choice. As an added bonus the cricket team is highly rated and ranked in World cricket and needs no quota system as it truly is beginning to represent the countries diversity . Sponsors here love it.

      Point is as you are alluding to the ARU getting its act together at grassroots and developmental and marketing level as well as financially as a solution to the Superugby dilemma , exactly the same applies to SA . Cutting teams does not address these issues at all.

    • April 18th 2017 @ 6:18pm
      waxhead said | April 18th 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

      Russell thanks for at least making 4 positive suggestions but……………’s not enough imo

      Aust Rugby needs a full strategic review and detailed re-development plan plus
      sacking of the current ARU board.
      Bring in a new management regime and rebuild from ground up with new comprehensive strategic plan.

      And…………the decisions on Super Comp have already been made by SANSAR and ARU – now time to move on and make the best of it. Re-visiting past decisions is pointless.