Where to for Australian rugby at the midnight crossroads?

Steiner Roar Pro

By Steiner, Steiner is a Roar Pro


49 Have your say

    It is not quite midnight yet at the crossroads for Australian rugby, but that hour is approaching.

    The road ahead and to the East is the chosen and bloody path of four Australian teams in a revamped Super Rugby competition, dimly lit and uncertain after 2020.

    Behind and to the West smokes the carnage, anger and sorrow from the destruction of the Force.

    To the north, the winding road leads to Asia and the prospect of an Indo-Pacific Championship – an illusory ribbon.

    The final, mountainous road, to the south, is guarded by the New Zealand Rugby Union, a bastion committed to defending its South African alliance and the impressive rugby edifice it has built.

    Every crossroad holds the twin terrors of uncertainty and change.

    The crossroads are remote, lying in a featureless and desolate shadowland, the hollows and barrios of which are inhabited by TV and media executives, bankers, brokers, lawyers and market researchers. It is a desperate land, way beyond where the beating heart and soul of rugby dwell in the clubs, schools and green playing fields of Australia.

    The heart and soul bitterly resents the preoccupation of its royalty with these dark hinterlands, and how they spurn their local communities except to raise taxes to fund the next ill-planned foray into the shadowlands.

    The new queen needs to address this lingering distrust and fix the broken relationship between the rugby community and its leadership. Removing the Rugby AU levy on junior clubs and implementing grassroots funding as promised would be an important start.

    The grassroots have survived despite a lack of attention, and the commoners have sought refuge in their tribal traditions and rivalries. They have turned up in droves to support their clubs and schools, while in turn spurning the elite brands of rugby so beloved of the royalty.

    The royalty are not inherently evil or malevolent, but they are aloof and out of touch with the commoners. Their obsession with gold and treasure has not been moderated to include the interests of the smaller rugby.

    In constantly chasing the best corporate deal, they have lost sight of why the deal was so important in the first place, and in the process become the very people in the shadowlands they are chasing.

    The royalty’s moral compass has swung onto a war footing, where the ends justify the means to meet specific terrors emerging from the dark hinterlands. Thus, they have decided they must mobilise all resources in order for the kingdom to survive, but lost its direction along the way and the faith of the people in why they are doing so, because for the most part the shadowland wars are invisible to the commoners.

    A mobilisation without the support of the common people, without their voice, and without their common will to sustain it, is doomed to failure.

    This is actually the critical decision that lies buried beneath the crossroads. The direction is meaningless unless it represents progress. Without unity, there can be no progress, just different tribes moving in different directions looking after their own interests.

    Meanwhile, the royalty counts its coffers and wonders how it will pay its chosen knights to keep them in the kingdom and competing at the next tournament so they can win. Apparently to win is all that is required to appease the commoners and the forces that inhabit the shadowlands.

    The payment of some of these knights is emblematic of the royalty’s failure to develop its own professional class of warriors. The kingdom lacks effective development and training systems, and the foresight to produce enough quality knights itself, so it spends vast amounts of treasure to poach more athletic knights and instructors from nearby fiefdoms.

    This is a short-term and expensive patchwork solution to securing the realm that the commoners view with suspicion. Why not invest more treasure in the tribes to produce better knights of your own than employ famous mercenaries whose loyalties are uncertain?

    The queen must convince the royalty that the commoners and their views matter, almost as much as financial capital does. The royalty does not own rugby and it is not theirs to sell; they are custodians with a responsibility both moral and fiduciary to nurture and strengthen the code. Neither do they own the heart and soul of the game.

    The tribal oxygen and bellows that breathes life into rugby is produced every weekend and weeknight across thousands of fields, hearths and clubhouses. As a child of the crossroads, royalty and the commoners, there are signs the queen understands this, whether she can convince her royal council and demonstrate positive actions towards the grassroots tribes remains to be seen.

    No road is wrong at the crossroads, if the choice be unified then the path forward will be lit and the common armour of mutual trust will see off the challenges arising from uncertainty and change. The Queen would do well to bear this in mind as rugby approaches that dark crossroads in 2019 and 2020.

    Then all the running you can do should indeed be enough to get somewhere else. Hopefully, that somewhere else is better than where we are right now.

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    The Crowd Says (49)

    • Roar Pro

      February 7th 2018 @ 4:00am
      GusTee said | February 7th 2018 @ 4:00am | ! Report

      While King Camo has the throne it will be business circa 2017 as usual.

      We in the Land of Oz are doomed until the current guard changes.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 2:01pm
        Steiner said | February 7th 2018 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        Will be interesting to see how that Camo / Raelene relationship goes Gus.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 4:31am
      Ex force fan said | February 7th 2018 @ 4:31am | ! Report

      Very put, although the queen in this case is a servant of King Cameron. She has no royal relatives but at least have to increase diversity at the Knights that will increase the probability to win some trophy in some competition somewhere.

    • Roar Guru

      February 7th 2018 @ 7:25am
      Kia Kaha said | February 7th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

      Nicely written, Steiner.

      I think Raelene Castle would do well to look at the momentum that appears to be in sevens at the moment in both the men’s and women’s teams.

      It is possible to see positive change but it doesn’t happen by chance.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 11:06am
        Steiner said | February 7th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Cheers Kia, the 7s success is definitely a positive start to the year. A lot will depend on how our Super rugby teams go though to sustain this momentum leading into the June test series against Ireland.
        Apparently Kafer held a national coaching conference for about 300 level 3/4 coaches a week or two ago and the national 7s coaches held a series of workshops and clinics, which is all positive news too.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 8:24am
      Malo said | February 7th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      The Aru have disgarded club rugby at its peril, hence limited quality catttle and concentrated solely on the wallabies. Super rugby is dead because it is soulless as it has lost the club supporter. The wallabies no longer rep the people but the aru elite. Watch the numbers at international tests die. Rugby can only grow from the bottom up ie supporters, not from the top down.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 2:05pm
        Steiner said | February 7th 2018 @ 2:05pm | ! Report

        I think the bottom up point is a good one Malo. This seems to be having success in Ireland in conjunction with David Nucifora running the high performance systems.

      • February 9th 2018 @ 10:50am
        Taylorman said | February 9th 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

        After Brett’s article yesterday surely the Rebels are doing the right things to address that. Sounded like a comprehensive drive going on at the lower levels with players and fans.

        • February 9th 2018 @ 4:55pm
          Steiner said | February 9th 2018 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

          Sounds like it Tman from Brett’s article. I hope it is the case. I’m more familiar with the Brumbies approach over the last 5 years. The franchises and Twiggy Forrest seem to get it, let’s hope the headshed at RA follow suit.

    • February 7th 2018 @ 8:32am
      Malo said | February 7th 2018 @ 8:32am | ! Report

      Raelenes heart is with the nzrfu, could not careless about Australian rugby but a politically correct appointment that will do nothing to advance rugby here but hey anything was better than Bill

    • February 7th 2018 @ 8:52am
      Jimbo81 said | February 7th 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

      love the article. I was hoping for some faustian deal at the midnight crossroads but the kingdom model worked perfectly.

      • February 7th 2018 @ 11:11am
        Steiner said | February 7th 2018 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        Thanks Jimbo. The editors took out my quote at the start of the article from Through the Looking Glass where the Red Queen says to Alice:

        “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you need to run at least twice as fast as that!”

        Which is why the last line refers to all the running you can do.