The annual Rugby Christmas wish list

Brett McKay Columnist

104 Have your say

    Listen, Santa, we need to talk. I was pretty good in 2016 and remain confident having re-read the wish list from last year that I wasn’t asking for anything unreasonable.

    So what gives, Santa? What on earth did I do in 2017 to deserve one dud delivery after the next? And why did you keep it up for so long? I mean, an ordinary Super Rugby season was bad enough, but carrying that through to the Wallabies, too? And then extending that right through to the last Test of the year?

    That was harsh, Santa, real harsh. Harsh enough to make me question your motives.

    But when it comes to rugby, Santa, I remain an optimist. And I also believe that people deserve a second chance, mostly.

    So with all that in mind, Santa, and again underlining my willingness to forgive you for what still feels like a vindictive series of deliveries, I reiterate my ‘good boy’ status throughout 2017 by once again excitedly presenting the annual Christmas rugby wish list.

    Can we start with SANZAAR? Now that they’ve made the decision that threw domestic rugby in two of their major partners into complete turmoil in 2017, I’d really like SANZAAR to make Super Rugby the best-marketed and most-promoted sporting competition on the face of the earth in 2018.

    Yes, I know SANZAAR is an administrative body of the four-member unions. But that body is also a collective – a rugby co-operative, if you like – to ensure that Southern Hemisphere rugby is the strongest it can be, comprising competitions envied around the world and desirable for commercial sponsors and players alike.

    SANZAAR, as that collective, need to return Super Rugby to its former glory. The format changes have been made, and now the member units need to rebuild the value of the competition in this new format so that the next round of broadcast negotiations can commence from a position of strength.

    This has to be SANZAAR’s biggest priority in 2018, and thus it assumes top spot on the wish list. Indeed if all other wishes need to be sacrificed – bar the one at the end about putts dropping, obviously – then that’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make.

    (AP Photo/Phil Magakoe)

    I would like the other member unions to kindly request that South Africa lay their cards out on the table.

    Regardless of whether those cards indicate a desire for the remaining sides to follow the Kings and Cheetahs and play in the north or indeed to remain in Super Rugby, this needs to be known sooner rather than later. Not just so that the member unions know what the competition is going to look like beyond 2020, but so that negotiations for the next broadcast deal can be undertaken with no lingering doubt whatsoever.

    Locally, obviously, I’d really like the Australian sides to well in 2018. It’d be great if all four teams can be either in the top eight or just on the fringe of the finals by season’s end. No more three sides in the bottom five this season, please.

    While the Brumbies and Rebels look strong on paper going into next season, I’d like that perceived paper strength to play out for real. And I’d like the Waratahs to play as well as that roster of players should and the Reds’ decision to back youth to reap immediate awards. And if an Australian side holds the trophy up at season’s end, that’d be bloody tops, too.

    I want Australian sides to beat New Zealand sides. In fact I want Australian sides to be unbeaten at home and for teams entering through customs to know that there are no such things as easy points on Australian soil.

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    I’d love for all the talk about competition format to stop dead. The game’s gone through more than enough in the last few seasons, and SANZAAR just cannot let this narrative continue.

    I’d love for the June series against Ireland to be every bit as good as we all hope it will be. And I’d love for the honchos at ABC Grandstand to make this phone call a month out: “Brett, we’d really like if you could sit on the sideline for us for all three Tests…”

    Yes, I will, for the record.

    I’m hoping this is the year for the Wallabies and the Bledisloe to reunite. Not just because it’s overdue, but because it’d be a really tough ask with only one home game.

    And I hope the Rugby Championship of 2018 is more than just a race for second place. I want the All Blacks to have a tough year – not by letting their standards slip but by the Wallabies, Springboks, and Pumas lifting theirs.

    I want the Wallabies to finish the year with a strong Spring Tour performance that confirms an upwards trend, not a stuttering finish that confirms worst fears of regression.

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    I hope the NRC has yet another cracking time of it and that for the fourth consecutive season we find ourselves saying, “We’ve enjoyed the best year of the competition yet”. I hope the rugby remains great, the sponsors flood in, the coverage increases in all formats, that more games are broadcast and that any that aren’t are the easiest they’ve ever been to watch. And I hope we have another new winner. One from NSW would great and might finally bring the much-needed engagement from the Waratahs and NSW Rugby.

    I really want Rugby Australia to reiterate their commitment to developing the game in Western Australia. I want rugby fans in the west to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I want the game over there continues to flourish at all levels of involvement.

    And I hope that I’m busier than ever across the rugby season because there are so many good stories to tell, not just because of the continuation of an ongoing saga of some sort.

    To finish with yet again, Santa, could you do something to help those knee-trembling five-foot putts to drop? The new ‘rocket-booster’ putter (as my daughter calls it) is a wonderful start, but let’s go on with now, Okay? Thanks in advance.

    A very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Rugby Year to Roarers new and old. My humble thanks to all of you for reading along this year, and for (hopefully) coming back again in 2018.

    The comments and questions, interactions, debates of varying logical degree, insights, conversations, banter, education, nonsense and laughs make it all worthwhile.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (104)

    • Roar Guru

      December 25th 2017 @ 5:27am
      Train Without A Station said | December 25th 2017 @ 5:27am | ! Report

      I’m actually in the UK at the moment Brett’s and I must’ve say unless there are huge European Cup riches on offer,after attending my first Pro14 match, I just can’t see SA seeing this a song a better alternative for them.

      The TV money just isn’t good enough, and they bring in themselves more than they would gain.

      The you consider the size of the crowds. These teams aren’t capable of going to the next level financially.

      I’m off to Scotstoun Stadium next Saturday for the 2nd 1872 Cup fixture between Glasgow and Edinburgh. A reasonably big Top 14 game that will be played in front of 10,000 people or less. Edinburgh are now playing fixtures at Myreside, a 5,500 seat ground.

      I just can’t see a better future based around these teams.

      • December 25th 2017 @ 10:42am
        Bakkies said | December 25th 2017 @ 10:42am | ! Report

        Better then playing in a comp that has huge expenses and losses money.

        • December 25th 2017 @ 1:07pm
          Taylorman said | December 25th 2017 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

          Yes well when playing ‘away’ involves getting out the family bus pass what do you expect?

          • December 25th 2017 @ 8:58pm
            Bakkies said | December 25th 2017 @ 8:58pm | ! Report

            You still stuck in the 50s.

        • December 25th 2017 @ 7:50pm
          Train Without A Station said | December 25th 2017 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

          It loses money because it tries to compete for wages with England and France.

          That won’t change champ.

          And the savings in travel expenses is overstated. South Africa is still 8-12,000km away from all other nations depending on location and needs to play 10 or more away games in Europe.

          The transit costs for this are similar to Aus/NZ with the only potential saving being accomodation on the basis they fly up and back each game to save this, so it will cost more money.

          For reference, New Zealand is about 12,500km away but is part of a single 4 game tour.

          So any savings on distance are offset by greater frequency of travel.

          • December 26th 2017 @ 3:37am
            Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 3:37am | ! Report

            The transit costs aren’t the same, they play their away games in two week blocks and it is covered by their broadcaster. Do try again.

            • December 26th 2017 @ 9:55am
              Milan said | December 26th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

              Do try grow up Bakkies ffs

            • December 26th 2017 @ 8:42pm
              Train Without A Station said | December 26th 2017 @ 8:42pm | ! Report

              So they play 5 2 week blocks and this costs less than a single 4-5 week block?

              Absolutely not.

              More nights in hotels and just as much Travel.

              Then you are doing more longer flights in fact.

              And who cares if the broadcaster pays when the broadcaster are giving so much less?

              The entire Pro14 gets similar TV revenue to what the 5 and now 4 Aus teams receive for their Super Rugby teams alone.

              When you get about 1/3 the TV revenue per team, and less attending, how are you better off financially?

              • December 26th 2017 @ 11:53pm
                Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 11:53pm | ! Report

                I have already told you about a thousand times that Super Sport is forking £500,000 a pop to each side to cover their travelling expenses and they aren’t travelling to Argentina and/or Japan so the rest of your post is irrelevant.

            • December 26th 2017 @ 11:55pm
              Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 11:55pm | ! Report

              ‘Do try grow up Bakkies ffs’

              Go away Milan.

            • Roar Guru

              January 3rd 2018 @ 4:20pm
              John R said | January 3rd 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

              I thought the transit costs were covered by Unit Trusts

              • January 5th 2018 @ 8:59pm
                Bakkies said | January 5th 2018 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

                Well they are for the Rebels.

        • December 26th 2017 @ 6:55am
          James P said | December 26th 2017 @ 6:55am | ! Report

          Home games for the SA teams are attracting crowds of around 3500. With the much ower broadcast rights, I can’t see how this could be financially sustainable.

          • December 26th 2017 @ 10:31am
            Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 10:31am | ! Report

            The alternative is to keep playing in a Super Rugby comp that losses money and they have lost over 300 players to European and Japanese clubs.

            • December 26th 2017 @ 12:07pm
              julius said | December 26th 2017 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

              @ Bakkies

              “The alternative is to keep playing in a Super Rugby comp that losses (sic) money…”

              The competition doesn’t lose money, you clown. Badly managed teams lose money; teams that pay too much for players lose money; teams from a certain country where the currency is practically worthless will lose players overseas.

              • December 26th 2017 @ 12:18pm
                Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

                The Unions don’t bring in enough revenue to ensure that the competition as a whole is profitable. It is test Rugby that keeps it afloat.

            • December 26th 2017 @ 4:52pm
              julius said | December 26th 2017 @ 4:52pm | ! Report

              Super rugby is funded by broadcast revenue. That revenue is distributed by the member unions to the Superv rugby franchises. If they have costs that are too high they will lose money; if costs are managed they make money. If a union has too many teams, revenue is distributed too thinly–hence Australia and SA shedding teams.

              NZ franchises all made a profit because they are managed reasonably well.

              • December 26th 2017 @ 4:58pm
                Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

                ‘You are barely coherent. Super rugby is funded by broadcast revenue. That revenue is distributed by the member unions.’

                The tv revenue is largely driven by the Rugby Championship as part of the television deal. Super Rugby generates little in terms of the tv deal and is not sold as a separate package like it is in Europe.

                It is still not meeting the expenditure and costs serious money to operate.

                The unions still have to find their own commercial deals as the sponsorship structure is not the same as the European tournaments to drive revenue to meet their expenses.

                The union funding helps the teams pay their salaries. Individual team’s finances is not an argument to state that the competition is not losing money as a whole.

              • December 26th 2017 @ 6:10pm
                cuw said | December 26th 2017 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

                hence the need to reduce club level matches and play more tests – as they do in cricket with a proper calendar.

              • December 27th 2017 @ 12:00am
                Bakkies said | December 27th 2017 @ 12:00am | ! Report

                ‘hence the need to reduce club level matches’

                More the need for Super Rugby to be administered separately from the unions and negotiate its own tv and commercial deals to generate more revenue to go beyond the exorbitant costs.

                This article highlights where Super Rugby got it wrong from the start


              • December 27th 2017 @ 7:52pm
                Train Without A Station said | December 27th 2017 @ 7:52pm | ! Report

                And erode the National game?

                That’s the alternative.

                Either it’s set up to support the national teams, or it grows it’s own life and erodes the national game.

                Look at France as an example of what could very well happen.

              • December 27th 2017 @ 10:10pm
                Bakkies said | December 27th 2017 @ 10:10pm | ! Report

                The set up and structure isn’t eroding the French national game. That’s just the RA style spin.

                The French coaches now have the best set up in terms of rest, facilities and training (Marcoussis is fantastic).

                The coaches go through 90 players in a RWC cycle. The clubs and the unions don’t dictate that they go through that many players. Coaches are given a play thing in regards to a four year contract and use it to experiment. They can’t make up their mind in terms of selection.

                Players are being shuffled around far too much. Michalak has played 70 odd tests do the sums in what he has played at 9 or 10.

                What the clubs and unions can control is coaching structure for under age and putting the foot down on jobs for the boys.

            • December 27th 2017 @ 1:21pm
              AM_Bokke said | December 27th 2017 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

              The Aviva Premiership’s commercial and tv deals do not “generate enough revenue to pay for the competition’s exorbitant costs.”

              I personally like how Super Rugby and test rugby are closely linked. Test Rugby is the absolute best rugby product and I like how the SH has a continuous test rugby season and a continuous club rugby season.

              I can’t follow the stop-start domestic / european / international schedule that is NH rugby and I think that it is bad for the integrity of each of the competitions. It is not better than what SANZAR has done with the test schedule, Rugby Championship and Super Rugby.

              • December 27th 2017 @ 3:05pm
                Bakkies said | December 27th 2017 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

                You might have a case if Super Rugby hadn’t lost so many players.

                The domestic product in the Currie Cup gets put to the back burner due to the constant test season and players going to Japan.

                The AP gets money from the European tv and commercial deals that gets distributed to the clubs.

                The structure is fine in Europe. Super Rugby is the last competition I would be looking for integrity.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 4:15am
                AM_Bokke said | December 28th 2017 @ 4:15am | ! Report


                Case is point is Leinster ans Scarlets playing during the 6 nations. That effects the integrity of the Pro 14 way more than the Super Rugby conference set-up.

              • December 28th 2017 @ 11:10pm
                Bakkies said | December 28th 2017 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

                Club games have been going on during the Six Nations for a long while now.

      • December 25th 2017 @ 6:46pm
        Dan in Devon said | December 25th 2017 @ 6:46pm | ! Report


      • December 25th 2017 @ 9:19pm
        adastra32 said | December 25th 2017 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

        You’re watching the wrong competition for audiences – a pop down to Coventry would have allowed you to sit with the 25,000 who watched Wasps against Gloucester. Cracking game too. Certainly the popularity and money isn’t in the Pro 14. But maybe the SA teams are playing a longer game?

        • December 26th 2017 @ 3:39am
          Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 3:39am | ! Report

          They’re playing the long game. The Cheetahs have already improved their retention rate and picked up sponsors.

        • December 26th 2017 @ 8:22am
          Train Without A Station said | December 26th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

          But even in the Premiership only Worcester turned a profit last year.

          Wasps make money based on owning Coventry don’t they?

          • December 26th 2017 @ 7:51pm
            adastra32 said | December 26th 2017 @ 7:51pm | ! Report

            Think it was Exeter who made that profit. Worcester are desperate to be sold! I believe the Wasps model means that the rugby operation is subsidised by the Ricoh Stadium’s other business activities.

        • December 26th 2017 @ 8:23am
          Train Without A Station said | December 26th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

          And funnily enough I attempted to catch a Premiership game, only to find that both London based teams were away the weekend I would be in London!

      • December 26th 2017 @ 8:48am
        riddler said | December 26th 2017 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        yesterday’s crowd was 23,800..

        amazing effort from Edinburgh lads being 14 for the majority of the game.

        • December 26th 2017 @ 10:33am
          Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 10:33am | ! Report

          Munster to break Thomond Park attendance record against Leinster.

        • December 26th 2017 @ 8:44pm
          Train Without A Station said | December 26th 2017 @ 8:44pm | ! Report

          I can say they were mostly Glasgow fans though.

          Glasgow made no effort to exploit the one man advantage and paid the price.

      • December 26th 2017 @ 5:09pm
        cuw said | December 26th 2017 @ 5:09pm | ! Report

        @ Train Without A Station

        ” I’m off to Scotstoun Stadium next Saturday for the 2nd 1872 Cup fixture between Glasgow and Edinburgh. ”

        u mean to say they will play again ? coz Edinburgh pulled off the upset of the season last week against the unbeaten Glasgow ( in Pro 14 – coz Glasgow have been hammered in European cup games so far). 18:17 with a man red carded.

        to say Dave Rennie is pissed off will be an understatement 🙂

        • December 26th 2017 @ 5:38pm
          Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 5:38pm | ! Report

          I believe it’s a best of three this year due to the competition’s derby structure.

    • December 25th 2017 @ 7:32am
      Rebellion said | December 25th 2017 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Dear Santa,

      I hope:

      #1 Raelene Castle conducts a review of the Wallabies and strips Michael Chieka of all selection powers due to the conflict of interest with a bunch of favourites -90% who happen to be Waratahs
      #2 That Michael Hooper is stripped of the Captaincy, returned to the bench as a second half impact player and David Pocock reinstated as starting 7
      #3 That Nic Phipps, Ned Hanigan & Tom Robertson are not considered for Wallabies duties in 2018
      #4 That a worthy number 10 emerges from Super rugby to usurp Bernard Foley (one who tackles effectively in the front line)
      #5 That Jack Dempsey recovers from injury losing none of his pace/explosiveness
      #6 That Chieka is sacked and Vern Cotter, Matt Taylor and Jim McKay are appointed as new Wallaby coaches for the 2018 Spring Tour
      #7 That the Sunwolves and Jaguars are removed from Super Rugby immediately and conference system scrapped
      #8 That Liam Gill & Campbell Magnay sign with Australian Super rugby franchises
      #9 That All Australian Super Rugby and Test players improve their discipline in 2018
      #10 That CLL discovers career-best form for the Brumbies and Wallabies

      • December 25th 2017 @ 10:57am
        Tooly said | December 25th 2017 @ 10:57am | ! Report

        I’m with you Rebellious there is little use in wishing for change without taking action on the causes of the problems and you have identified most of them . They start with selections and end with the inane game plan ; we want to see them win games not try to play sevens .

      • December 26th 2017 @ 5:10pm
        Bakkies said | December 26th 2017 @ 5:10pm | ! Report

        Another big thing on Castle’s agenda is obtain new sponsors as the RA lost three in the space of a week and the June Series needs a sponsor.

    • December 25th 2017 @ 7:50am
      Aucklandlaurie said | December 25th 2017 @ 7:50am | ! Report

      I dont want a lot for christmas

      There is just one thing I need,

      I dont care about the presents

      Underneath the christmas tree,

      But the Blues havent won the comp since 03.

      • December 25th 2017 @ 5:59pm
        Taylorman said | December 25th 2017 @ 5:59pm | ! Report

        Yes Laurie, same wish, different year…?

    • December 25th 2017 @ 9:14am
      P2R2 said | December 25th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      “….I want Australian sides to beat New Zealand sides. In fact I want Australian sides to be unbeaten at home and for teams entering through customs to know that there are no such things as easy points on Australian soil…..”

      One wish too far Brett….2018 to be a repeat of 2017

      • December 25th 2017 @ 1:10pm
        Taylorman said | December 25th 2017 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        Yes I saw that one in Sanas bag and took it out just before he left for Sydney this morning. ?

    • December 25th 2017 @ 9:32am
      Athletic Park said | December 25th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

      What did the guy from the Castle say?

    • Roar Pro

      December 25th 2017 @ 9:49am
      GusTee said | December 25th 2017 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      Clyne and Pulver be held accountable for their gross mismanagement of rugby in Australia.

      • December 25th 2017 @ 10:45am
        Bakkies said | December 25th 2017 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        Clyne, Pulver, Clarke, Gray and co in handcuffs.

        • December 25th 2017 @ 9:26pm
          Train Without A Station said | December 25th 2017 @ 9:26pm | ! Report

          For what crime?

          • December 26th 2017 @ 9:57am
            Milan said | December 26th 2017 @ 9:57am | ! Report

            TWAS, its just one of Bakkies randy thoughts. Let him have it, it is xmas after all

          • December 27th 2017 @ 2:08pm
            andrewM said | December 27th 2017 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            Lying to a senate enquiry is one thing that comes to mind twas

            • Roar Pro

              December 28th 2017 @ 7:44pm
              Crazy Horse said | December 28th 2017 @ 7:44pm | ! Report

              Misconduct as a Director another

        • December 27th 2017 @ 3:13pm
          Ex force fan said | December 27th 2017 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

          I would also like to see the backs of Clyne, Pulver, Eales etc. They have done enough damage and do not belong on a governing body of anything especially not rugby union! They lost the union in rugby union and even the name of the governing body reflects it..

    , , ,