Why SANZAAR has got it right – and wrong

Geoff Parkes Columnist

By Geoff Parkes, Geoff Parkes is a Roar Expert

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    SANZAAR cops plenty of grief from fans, but they're actually doing a fair bit right. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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    Among the many unflattering quotations about committees, one stands out: ‘a committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, meet and decide that nothing can be done.’

    Comprising four national rugby unions, separated by thousands of miles of ocean and markedly different rugby cultures and domestic circumstances, SANZAAR is the ultimate committee. And with all decisions requiring unanimity, it should thus come as no surprise that this camel designed as a horse produces outcomes that frustrate rugby fans in all four precincts.

    In my book A World In Conflict: The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy, I outlined how Super Rugby has evolved into an awkward hybrid of; a provincial competition; a professional franchise competition; a development pathway for national teams; a vehicle for showcasing southern hemisphere rugby; a means of keeping players in their home nations; a critical revenue source for its partner nations and a vehicle to expand into new markets.

    It’s a hotchpotch of conflicting objectives, and when local factors are added, like quotas and safety concerns in South Africa, other more popular competing
    sports in Australia, a small professional player base in Argentina, and the affordability for fans to continually attend rugby in New Zealand, the cross-purposes, the conflicts of interest, and constraints that SANZAAR must work within are laid bare.

    Simply, they are trying to cover too many bases at once, and it’s no wonder fans are crying ‘enough’.

    But for all SANZAAR’s failings – and there are many – the stark reality that is conveniently ignored by agenda-driven commentators and those who eagerly jump on their bandwagons is that there is yet to be put forward any alternative solution that provides a better, financially viable outcome for all the four member nations, who are operating in a global commercial marketplace.

    In a revealing interview last year, New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew conceded a number of problems around Super Rugby but emphasised how the results from the 2015 Rugby World Cup – with the SANZAAR unions filling all four semi-final places – demonstrated that the SANZAAR nations were getting many important things right.

    World rankings ebb and flow, but with the Rugby World Cup universally considered the ultimate yardstick, it’s hard to argue against the four leading southern hemisphere nations blanking the northern nations to finish 1-4.

    But this is only part of the story. Not only is SANZAAR fighting to ensure the on-field success of their four Test sides, but also to ensure that the primacy of Test rugby itself is maintained. And for this rugby fans should be grateful.

    Imagine for a moment that Super Rugby was somehow made the best rugby competition in the world, containing the best players, all being paid the highest wages, in front of full stadiums and eager free-to-air TV audiences at friendly hours. Even if that were possible (and I assure you it isn’t), it could only be achieved to the detriment of the status and quality of international rugby.

    That’s a game SANZAAR isn’t playing. Hence the delicate position where they want Super Rugby to be better, but not so much better that they too get caught up in the global scramble to claim the world’s best franchise/club competition – at the expense of keeping Test rugby at the forefront.

    Since Scotland hosted England in Edinburgh in 1871, rugby’s pinnacle has always been Test rugby. Just 23 years of professionalism, however, has changed the dynamic. The tardiness of the RFU and FFR in allowing players to be contracted to clubs rather than centrally to their unions has not only ceded control over their own destiny, but is now impacting on all rugby playing nations around the world.

    Anyone who believes Test rugby will continue as of right – just because it always has – only has to look at cricket, where private ownership in India, fuelling the greed of the three wealthiest cricketing nations, is well on the way to destroying the game’s longest format.

    Ditto soccer, where the majority of international fixtures are meaningless friendlies, mostly played without star players, ordered or influenced to sit out at the behest of their clubs.

    Every four years the British Lions tour is compromised further and further – to the point where, despite the resounding success of last year’s tour to New Zealand, the English clubs will almost certainly wield enough power over the home unions to ensure that future Lions sides will either cease or be so constricted they won’t be worth having.

    All Blacks British and Irish Lions New Zealand Rugby Union 2017

    (AAP Image/ David Rowland)

    Of course, SANZAAR knows that all is not right with Super Rugby. It acted hastily last year to make changes, but any amount of tinkering around the edges can’t hope to give it what it really needs. That would only come from relinquishing control and administration to an independent commission – free of the national unions’ direct influence.

    This move would almost certainly deliver a far better Super Rugby competition, and would include the possibility of players being selected for franchises outside of their country of origin – ostensibly with a view to evening up the competition.

    But consider how the drawbacks far outweigh any benefits:

    1. If the Sunwolves were to be made more competitive by the addition of Beauden Barrett and Malcolm Marx, for example, the impact on tribal fan interest in Wellington and Johannesburg would be massive;

    2. Steve Hansen and Michael Cheika would lose control over their Test players’ preparation, coaching and availability, leading to inferior outcomes for the All Blacks and Wallabies;

    3. While a better Super Rugby competition would please the broadcasters who fund the game, the component that carries the most value in SANZAAR’s broadcast deal is Test rugby;

    4. Anything that elevates the status of franchise/club rugby at the expense of Test rugby is a net negative for the sport (who believes that the French model is one to aspire to?).

    Need more convincing? New Zealand’s ongoing success, Ireland’s rise up the world rankings and Leinster’s European Championship glory are no accident. Central contracting and focusing on developing your own talent actually works; freeing up player movement across borders is the antithesis of this.

    Why should successful countries be made to copy what unsuccessful countries do? When people say that Super Rugby is broken, perhaps what they really mean is that they are sick of one country dominating. One of agitator Alan Jones’ so-called fixes is to abandon Super Rugby in favour of a trans-Tasman competition. How this would result in Australian sides suddenly winning over New Zealand sides, and make Australian fans feel better about the game, is conveniently left unexplained.

    Another popular view is for Australia to revert to a purely domestic situation. That might fix the problem of New Zealand dominance, but only at a club/franchise level. Take care not to get knocked over by the swarm of elite players headed overseas seeking market value, and don’t expect to see the Bledisloe Cup or the World Cup again – ever.

    Kieran Read 2017 Bledisloe Cup

    (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

    So what does this mean for Super Rugby moving forward?

    For one, neither Super Rugby nor SANZAAR are about to self-combust. Swedish professor Hans Rosling – one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world – wrote of ‘the negativity instinct’, where he explained how the human instinct is to notice the bad more than the good. This, he says, is due to the misremembering of the past, selective reporting by journalists, and the feeling that as long as things are bad it’s heartless to say they are getting better.

    How much does that sound like it was written for Super Rugby?

    The hysteria that accompanied recent reports about expansion into the USA was instructive. SANZAAR was attacked for something it was patently not doing. What it was actually doing was exploring potential options for the future, like any prudent business does. To this list add exploring ways to bring Andrew Forrest and World Series Rugby into future alliance.

    In the short term, don’t expect too much to change coming out of this weekend’s SANZAAR board meeting in London. SANZAAR is about to ramp up a new round of broadcasting rights negotiations that are crucial for all four nations. Irrespective of uncertainty around South Africa’s long-term plans, and Australia’s woes, SANZAAR’s primary focus is to extract maximum value from a post-2020 broadcast deal, which they hope will allow it to keep its best players in the southern hemisphere for the forseeable future.

    It is true that South Africa have more options, but the only financial outcome that would justify them pulling up stumps and leaving their SANZAAR partners whistling in the wind is admittance into the Six Nations. And not even the Welsh rumour mill is claiming this as a realistic possibility in the future.

    Just before I’m consigned to the ‘loony bin’ for defending SANZAAR, please allow me a few of swipes of my own.

    SANZAAR’s most consistent failing has been its inability to connect itself to fans of the game, and to connect fans to itself. The fact that most fans (and potential fans) do not understand what SANZAAR is and how it works, and have been allowed to develop antipathy towards Super Rugby, is an indictment on SANZAAR’s inability to step beyond the constraints of committee and employ marketing expertise that would ensure that fans ride the journey with them, not against them.

    The admittance of the Sunwolves into Super Rugby, without first ensuring that they were sufficiently organized and resourced to be competitive with the world’s best sides, was rank stupidity.

    Sunwolves super rugby

    (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images for Sunwolves)

    And there is another failure looming. The ladder confirms most people’s view that the Hurricanes and the Crusaders are the two best sides in this year’s competition. Because the winner of each conference is guaranteed a home final (a sensible move to ensure interest in each main market is maintained into the finals series), the side that finishes second in the New Zealand conference will be ranked fourth overall, behind the three conference winners, as the top wildcard.

    Should results go according to seeding in the first playoff round, the sides ranked 1 and 4 (currently the Crusaders and Hurricanes) will meet in an elimination final – there is no permutation that allows them to play off for the title.

    This is a horrid mistake that needn’t have been made. Allowing the top wildcard to be ranked in line with their final overall ladder position – letting the chips fall where they may – would still allow the two other franchise winners their home final. In this example, they would simply be ranked 3 and 4, instead of 2 and 3.

    Despite inconsistencies and anomalies, Super Rugby has a great history of delivering the best side across the season as the ultimate champion. By potentially preventing the Crusaders and the Hurricanes meeting in the final, SANZAAR is short-changing fans and needlessly putting that record at risk.

    Geoff Parkes
    Geoff Parkes

    Geoff is a Melbourne-based sports fanatic and writer who started contributing to The Roar in 2012 under the pen name Allanthus. His first book, A World in Union Conflict; The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy, was released in December 2017 to critical acclaim. For details on the book visit www.geoffparkes.com. Meanwhile, his twin goals of achieving a single figure golf handicap and owning a fast racehorse remain tantalisingly out of reach.

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    The Crowd Says (302)

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:11am
      Kane said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:11am | ! Report

      My idea Geoff is as follows (copied from another piece and based on last weeks rankings):

      How’s this for an idea for playoffs.

      The winners of each three conferences get a home quarter guaranteed. But once they’re allocated. They are reorganised 1-8 based on log points. So based on that the Crusaders Lions and Waratahs are guaranteed home semis. Now the interesting idea. Once reorganised on points you have the following:

      1 Crusaders
      2 Hurricanes
      3 Highlanders
      4 Chiefs
      5 Lions
      6 Waratahs
      7 Rebels
      8 Bulls

      Then you choose who you want to play.

      Crusaders get first choice and might fancy the Rebels over the Bulls. That’s the first quarter, the Crusaders host the Rebels.

      Hurricanes are next up. Because they’re the highest ranked team to not win their conference they have a dilemma. They can host a quarter against anyone but the other conference winners. Or they can choose to travel to Sydney or Pretoria and play them. In this instance they decide they want the Bulls in Wellington.

      Highlanders are third on the table. They can’t host a final as they’ve all been allocated. They can choose to go to Sydney or Joburg. They choose Sydney.

      That leaves the Chiefs to travel to Joburg

      QF1 Crusaders v Rebels
      QF2 Hurricanes v Bulls
      QF3 Waratahs v Highlanders
      QF4 Lions v Chiefs

      In this instance I pick Crusaders, Hurricanes, Highlanders and Lions to win.

      Now back to choosing. Crusaders get first choice and they decide they’ll make the Lions travel. SF1 is Crusaders v Lions

      That leaves the Highlanders to travel to Wellington as the Hurricanes were the next best team.

      SF1 Crusaders v Lions
      SF2 Hurricanes v Highlanders

      In this instance the Crusaders beat the Lions and Highlanders beat the Hurricanes.

      Next weeks final is in Christchurch where the Crusaders lose and there’s a massive party at Tony Browns!

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2018 @ 7:26am
        Diggercane said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Next weeks final is in Christchurch where the Crusaders lose and there’s a massive party at Tony Browns!

        Seems harsh to make everyone head to Japan to kick their heels up? 😉

        • May 21st 2018 @ 8:05am
          Kane said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:05am | ! Report

          I assumed there’s a rental property here.

          On an unrelated note four Highlanders were released to play club footy, but due to the local University team having a bye in the Premier grade, the four Highlanders were dropped down to the Premier 2 grade.

          Uni added Josh Dixon to the loose forwards and Fletcher Smith, Richard Buckman, and Matt Faddes to their team and still managed to lose by 20 points.

          How good is grassroots rugby 🙂

          • May 21st 2018 @ 8:10am
            KiwiHaydn said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:10am | ! Report

            I ran the social rugby competition in Dunedin for a few years. We had Highlanders turn up to play every now and then and, while not playing at 100%, they always struggled playing with the rank amateurs due to the lack of structure and players not being able to focus solely on their role – was always good to have them there, but interesting to see the impact of amateurism on the pros.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 8:16am
              Kane said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:16am | ! Report

              That social grade was great. Was good to be able to go warm up with a game for them and then play the serious grade after lunch.

              I agree with what you’re saying but when you’ve got a 10 12 13 that are super rugby players at least your inside backs are only doing their role.

            • Roar Guru

              May 21st 2018 @ 8:18am
              Diggercane said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:18am | ! Report

              That’s brilliant Kane.

              I recall a few years back now wandering down to the local park to watch a prem game where Kirkpatrick and Shields were fronting up, with Shields it was painful to watch, he appeared to be going at about 50% yet was still head and shoulders above the rest.

            • Columnist

              May 21st 2018 @ 8:29am
              Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report

              Hi KH, as it happens I was social grades convenor for the University competition for a couple of years too. Many of the sides were aligned with the halls of residence or faculties like the Surveyors, although there were also some other great drinking sides too like the Shamrocks.

              The worst part of the job was having to track down each team captain/manager, collect the subs from each team, and give them a new ball, and pass that money back to the University club treasurer. As you could imagine some of the teams were better organised than others, so the money came in dribs and drabs. Invariably when the time came to reconcile I’d already put most of the cash over the bar at the Cook and so was considerably short…

              • May 21st 2018 @ 8:54am
                KiwiHaydn said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

                Some things never change then Geoff! A great competition, up to 30 teams playing in the spirit of rugby each week before heading off to the ‘after match’ at midday.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 9:33am
                Kane said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report

                The particular team I was involved in was the Otago U65kgs.

                Named after our self appointed captain who fell ill before the season droppping 25kgs.

                There were a surprising amount of teams that legitimately thought they were going to be playing the U13 rep team.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 8:03am
        KiwiHaydn said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

        And when exactly would the teams choose who they are playing the following week? At the conclusion of that weekend’s round of games? Giving teams 5 days to travel half way around the world, while the venue organisers at every site wait to hit the ‘go’ button on match day preparations?

        Why not just guarantee one finalist from each Conference, if they must, with play off positions based on the points accumulated during the round robin? Simples.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 8:14am
          Kane said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

          As the competition stands now you may not know who’s hosting where until the final game of the round robin anyway?

          Can always ensure there are no Sunday games on the final week.

        • Columnist

          May 21st 2018 @ 9:35am
          Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

          Kane, the idea that top sides can choose who they play in the finals is, I think, a bridge too far for most people to get their head around.

          I agree with KH that simple is best. The current format basically does that APART FROM making the mistake of automatically ranking the highest wildcard as no 4.

          If they ranked the top 4 according to where the highest wildcard actually finished then they’d still achieve the same simplicity, still provide for a home final for each conference winner, BUT you’d also allow for the two top ranked sides to come through and meet in the final.

          • Roar Guru

            May 21st 2018 @ 5:04pm
            jeznez said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

            I love the choose your opponent idea – saw it floated the other day and thought it was brilliant.

            Imagine these boards if you thought your coach had picked the wrong opponent. I can hear the gnashing of teeth and wailing already.

            Need to ask doesn’t the switch ranking add to complexity? You could have a team win their home elimination final and then need to travel instead of getting to build on that for a home semi final?

            I think the simplicity argument suggests that conference leaders are either 1-3 or they aren’t?

            4th can avoid 1st until the final as long as at least one of 5th or 6th beat a conference leader.

            Taking the current log, is the Chiefs knocking over the Tahs in Sydney that unlikely?

            • Columnist

              May 21st 2018 @ 5:43pm
              Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:43pm | ! Report

              Granted Jez, it would certainly spice up the finals. But somehow I don’t see it taking off…

          • May 21st 2018 @ 5:46pm
            cuw said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:46pm | ! Report

            @ Geoff Parkes

            i think the way Top 14 operates is nicer.

            they have 14 teams

            the top 6 on the table go to final round.

            then 3 and 4 play 5 and 6 to qualify for semis.

            then 1 and 2 play the winners of the qualifier.

            of course it can create upsets – like those who ended regular season as 3 and 4 on the table losing to those who ended 5 and 6.

            but at the end of the day it is TV company demand that drives these final rounds.

            why on earth shud there be finals in a league that has a straight table with all playing all on a home n away basis? it does not happen in footy leagues.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 6:44pm
        OldManWootton said | May 21st 2018 @ 6:44pm | ! Report

        A very simple solution to what you want. Only sides east of the Tasman Sea and west of the South Amaerical continent can play in the semi finals.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 9:20pm
        Oddball said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:20pm | ! Report

        I disagree going it alone will be a disaster. Seems to be working fine for AFL and NRL. NZ is just too small an economy to be bothered with, it’s not even the population of Melbourne. Their player pool is like one of their sheep, there to be shorn. We would draft in their players to play alongside our local players. It is what the fans want, union needs to serve up what they want, not some anonymous team in NZ or SA.

        We’ve tried the provincial approach, doesn’t work. Time to try something we know that works for every other sport under the sun.

        • Columnist

          May 22nd 2018 @ 7:40am
          Geoff Parkes said | May 22nd 2018 @ 7:40am | ! Report

          Oddball, The AFL and NRL aren’t competing for players in a global marketplace.

          How are you going to “draft in” players from NZ, when they can play in other leagues for more money? You won’t even be able to include the best Australian players.

          It’s professional, global sport. The players will play where they are paid what they’re worth. Where is the money coming from to fund an Australian league and pay players?

          • May 22nd 2018 @ 9:50pm
            Oddball said | May 22nd 2018 @ 9:50pm | ! Report

            Rugger is sort of global. It is played around the world, but in only a few places seriously professionally. You have France, England and a smattering of other clubs in Europe that play Pro 14.

            South Africa has Currie Cup, but seriously their economy is so weak, we could pretty much buy them out and still have change left over.

            Then there is good old Kiwi. I went on holidays there a few times. Auckland is a decent size, but how big are crowds to their sporting teams? The rest of the joint reminds me of country Australia. Gorgeous country, but they couldn’t afford a chip packet amongst the lot of them.

            Argentina is amateur. They are dabbling in the pro game with the Jaguares. Think GWS Giants, but a lot, lot smaller.

            So, you tell me out there. Having a 3rd or 4th rated union comp ain’t too bad with plenty of scope to get to 3rd or 2nd in time. We don’t know what the devil will become of league which might allow even more growth in our domestic union comp.

            One thing we know for sure is, Super rugby and playing these distant monikers for locations is dying the death of a thousand cuts. It’s over.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:24am
      freddieeffer said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:24am | ! Report

      Thanks for your take on it Geoff,
      Underneath this, and the recent stories and posts on the faults and failings of SR is a strong desire for the game, it’s structures and the overall experience to be much better than what we have been getting.
      I think I can sum up the recent commentary along the lines of our instincts telling us that SR, and rugby in general can and must be better than what we are getting, and seem locked in to.
      I just hope these issues get picked up by ‘the committee’.
      We need some hope. Mine has just about been extinguished, and I’m an Oz true believer.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 8:06am
        KiwiHaydn said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        What about two conferences – Atlantic and Pacific, played across a round robin format, with the top teams in each conference making the playoffs, like they do in the NFL. SA, USA and Argentina in one conference, NZ, Oz, Japan and Pacific Islands in the other.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 8:19am
          Kane said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

          The NZRU want to play the SA teams?

          Also the NFL has cross over draws too

        • Roar Guru

          May 21st 2018 @ 8:40am
          Derm McCrum said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:40am | ! Report

          If an Atlantic conference was ever considered the PRO14 comp should be part of it. The regular conference stages would finish at end May, and then a separate global finals series in June for the World Union Club Cup. Host it in Europe and South Africa alternately – bigger crowds, tv revenues, etc.

      • Columnist

        May 21st 2018 @ 8:42am
        Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

        Hi freddie

        I think you tap into a very important point that has been missed by most of the Australian critics of Super Rugby.

        Many of them blame Super Rugby for Australia’s woes. Or else they seek a better solution from Super Rugby as a fix for Australia’s woes.

        Any amount of tinkering with Super Rugby or shifting to a different model won’t change Australia’s fundamental problem one iota. The real underlying issue is around player identification, player skills development, developing more athletic ability, coaching development- right across the board from schools, club through to semi-professional and professional levels.

        And the bigger picture tied to that, which is people involved at all levels of the game deciding to work together for the common good of the game in Australia and respecting governance structures.

        Get this right and results will take care of themselves and many of the current negatives around SR won’t seem important.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 9:18am
          Drongo said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          Wrong. Changing the model to a domestic centred competition will help fix all of the issues you raise. We need to focus on rugby in Australia and give the potential market what they want. SR is a convoluted, contrived, make believe competition, organised as if it is between franchises but subject to overriding rules with player embargoes that make it effectively a competition between nations. Hence NZ’s total dominance despite structural changes designed to artificially improve the performance of SA and Australian teams. NZ teams mostly thrash the non-Kiwi teams week in, week out.
          The Australian fans don’t buy it and are leaving in droves. Australia is not NZ and has a completely different market with strong competition from three other codes. What works in NZ will not work in Australia. Engagement levels are in freefall. Yet we have both Spiro and Geoff; two Kiwis, arguing for its survival. It is already dead.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 9:29am
            Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:29am | ! Report

            Interestingly, Matt Toomua, tweeted Paul Cully saying he agreed with Paul’s article that the competition is done in Australia.


            Doesn’t bode well for those of us who want Matt to return…

            • May 21st 2018 @ 11:57am
              Cynical Play said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

              He’s playing in a great domestic comp that’s why. Doesn’t have to travel to Argentina or Japan. These guys have family and friends.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 12:03pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

                I agree, mate. I agree. I can totally empathise with them.

                The importance of spending time with family and friends cannot be overstated.

          • Columnist

            May 21st 2018 @ 9:43am
            Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:43am | ! Report

            What do you mean ‘what works in NZ won’t work in Australia’?

            Are you seriously suggesting that improving coaching standards and developing better players won’t work in Australia?

            It is true that one solution to stop losing and get more close games is to simply give up and just play domestically.

            But because there will be no money, the best players will not be in this domestic comp, they will be overseas. And judgement day will come in Test rugby.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 9:48am
              Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

              Geoff, what do you have to say about Matt’s tweet/opinion?

              Surely we should listen to what the players are saying, if nothing else?

              • Roar Rookie

                May 21st 2018 @ 10:14am
                Paul D said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

                I think as a general rule we shouldn’t pay much attention to what footy players say on twitter.

                He’s advocating for Super 12, even though his own career didn’t take off until Super 15. I wonder if he would have ever got an opportunity if it remained S12? You know, if the Force never existed Giteau would still have been a Brumby when he started there.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 10:17am
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:17am | ! Report

                As a general rule I think that Twitter is definitely not the best forum.

                However, I do think that it is the only forum that we can actually get direct communication with the players.

                The days in which the competition best thrived was Super 12 (and I know I would say that as a Brumbies fan) and arguably Super 14 (but S14 was only around for 5 years or so, and did have fair more uncompetitive matches with the new teams). I think it is fair to say that S12 was the comp’s glory days though.

                Giteau’s career took a nose dive when he moved away to become a flyhalf. So that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

              • Columnist

                May 21st 2018 @ 10:53am
                Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

                Hi Fionn

                I’d say it’s instructive to look at what Matt is doing.

                He’s playing in the UK not in Australia. I suspect he’s one of those guys for whom money played a role in his decision but also the opportunity to travel and enjoy everything that Europe offers. Good luck to him, but no matter the reason, he’s not playing in Australia.

                If Australia exits SR and reverts to a domestic competition, the salary disparity will become even larger, which means more leading players will follow his lead.

                So what is he really saying? That one of the main reasons SR isn’t working for Australia is because too many good players like him aren’t playing in it? Or that it’s time to give up on trying to keep the best players in Australia?

                I bet he isn’t saying that if there is a domestic competition formed that pays half of what SR players get today he’d be on the first plane home.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 10:58am
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:58am | ! Report

                Geoff, I am pretty sure he is saying ‘Or that it’s time to give up on trying to keep the best players in Australia?’.

                I’ve suspected for a long time that within 5 years the Wallabies will basically be selected from abroad at this rate.

              • Roar Guru

                May 21st 2018 @ 11:21am
                PeterK said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

                Fionn – It is in Toomuas’ self interest that aust exits super rugby and extends wallaby eligibility to all o/s based players.

                As Paul Keating said you can always back peoples’ self interest.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 11:28am
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

                I understand that, Peter.

                But I do think it is reflective of an attitude that I suspect might be present for Australian players.

                Why would you want to stay in Australia and play in poor teams that are constantly losing as opposed to go overseas, expand your horizons and play in better teams for more money?

                It would be different if the Aussie teams were good. But they’re not.

              • Columnist

                May 21st 2018 @ 12:45pm
                Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

                I don’t buy that side of it at all Fionn. “Poor teams” compared to what?

                The Crusaders and Hurricanes maybe.
                But compared to sides in the middle and lower half of the NH competitions?

                No way. Everything is relative.

                If he is saying that we should give up on Australian rugby and just become a feeder nation for the NH competitions, then my counter is that this is too soon, too easy and too convenient to say.

                Let’s just say that RA agreed and announced today that it was all too hard and they were going to pull out of SANZAAR and forgo well over half of it’s revenue, and in the process become less competitive at international level. Would people really accept that?

              • May 21st 2018 @ 12:58pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

                Geoff, let’s not obfuscate here. The Australian teams (which the Aussies play in) since 2015 have been annihilated by their Kiwi competitors to an extent that only the very bottom of the English sides, for example. We’ve won 1 of the last 41 against Kiwis.

                Good Australian players also have the ability to sign for good English sides.

                Would we become less competitive at international level necessarily? Look at the best soccer nations. Do Brazil, Argentina, Belgium, Iceland (couldn’t but throw that in), etc have the best domestic leagues that keeps most of their top talent? The answer is ‘no’. England does, followed by Spain/Italy. Having your players play abroad does not preclude international success.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 21st 2018 @ 4:07pm
                Huw Tindall said | May 21st 2018 @ 4:07pm | ! Report

                Can’t we split Super Rugby from TRC in any analysis? Super Rugby has issues but nobody is saying TRC is a waste. How much revenue does Super Rugby actually bring in? Furthermore, i’d assume any replacement comp would get some TV revenue so what’s the net loss?

              • May 21st 2018 @ 9:31pm
                Bakkies said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:31pm | ! Report

                Huw the 4 Nations also has similar issues to Super Rugby declining crowds and the draw. The draw has not changed since 2012 when Argentina were brought in to the comp. Any organisation that is supposed to govern that calls itself a joint venture is just plain lazy.

                The just like to blame others rather than look at what is staring them in the face.

              • May 22nd 2018 @ 5:50am
                Ed said | May 22nd 2018 @ 5:50am | ! Report

                The draw hasn’t changed due to JON, who arranged the first match for the RC to be the Sydney Bledisloe followed by a return match in NZ the following week for TEN years. Australian interest in the tournament is typically killed following the opening fortnight.
                South Africa and Argentina should have said, “nah, let’s change it around. Make the Kiwis and Aussies travel to us first for a change.”

              • Roar Guru

                May 21st 2018 @ 1:08pm
                PeterK said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

                Fionn – The national coach would have less access to its players, less time for training together etc.

                Also the coach would have no input into the fitness regime, skills work or whatever the player does whilst at the club.

                Also the players would be playing even more rugby , they play more club games in europe.

                I can’t see how the wallabies would be better served.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 1:14pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

                Peter, do we seriously think that fitness standards and coaching standards are higher in Aussie Super Rugby than in England and the Celtic nations?

                I’m not saying I necessarily agree with Toomu. But both sides of the argument should be analysed fully.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 1:20pm
                KiwiHaydn said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

                Absolutely. NH players (incl SH players who’ve been in the North) regularly struggle when heading south, while SH coaches are heading north not vice versa.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 21st 2018 @ 1:15pm
                Paul D said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

                “Why would you want to stay in Australia and play in poor teams that are constantly losing as opposed to go overseas”

                But the last person we should be paying any attention to in that regard is Toomua.

                2013 the Brumbies made the final
                2014 the Waratahs won
                2015 Brumbies and Waratahs made the finals and he signs for overseas just after the RWC.

                At most it probably sheds light on some of his motivations for staying OS. He probably thought 2013 was his chance for a Super Rugby title. Now the reason he’s staying overseas is he doesn’t rate Super rugby at all. Nothing to do with the Wallaby selections or Cheika.

                In fact, every time I see you advocate for a relaxation of “Giteau Law” to permit Toomua to be selected, I wonder how much a factor having to compete with Giteau for the starting 12 position was in his decision to leave in the first place. Who would a returning Toomua push out of Australia I wonder?

              • Roar Guru

                May 21st 2018 @ 1:23pm
                PeterK said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

                Fionn – The standards don’t need to be higher but different.
                Say the club coach wants a power game but the national coach a lighter faster game.

                Also the euro clubs do spend more time on set pieces and a lot less on the passing handling skills that Bryne is doing.

                I remember an article that both Mitchell and Gits when they joined for 2015 had to do a lot of fitness work to get in the shape needed.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 1:26pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

                Gits was 33 and had last less than a half on the field before getting injured against the All Blacks the last two times, Paul. It was evident to all and sundry that he wouldn’t be competing for the 12 spot for much longer.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 2:19pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:19pm | ! Report

                Gits and Mitchell came from France though, not the U.K. or Ireland. And, remember, Cheika complained the Australian players were unfit last year anyway.

                Paul, if he was selected he would push out the 12 most likely as none of two 12 options can defend well.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 3:38pm
                Ed said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

                There is no way Cheika would pick Toomua over one of his favoured players in Kurtley. Cheika convinced Beale to return early from his higher paying gig in the UK.

              • Columnist

                May 21st 2018 @ 2:44pm
                Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:44pm | ! Report


                What’s the measure of international success? You obviously didn’t speak to any Brazil fans after they were humiliated by Germany at the last WC!

                Australia has won two RWC’s and finished runner up last time. It’s a world power. I don’t see how picking and coaching the Wallabies from overseas clubs helps them get better. Only worse.

                It’s different for the Socceroos because they’re world ranked a lot lower and have never had a world standard league. But for Australian rugby to emulate this from where it has been, it would be a huge step backwards.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 3:18pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

                First, yes, Brazil was humiliated in the semis last WC. However, they did make the semis, they did win in 02 (more recently than Aus won the RWC) and are currently leading for WCs won. They’re also one of the favourites going into Russia.

                Australia WAS a world power. However, it is not a world power any longer as the game’s domestic appeal collapses and more and more of our top players are bought by cashed up NH clubs, as you well know (your book makes this clear).

                Rugby is a newly professional sport, and salaries in the north are going up at an alarming rate while the appeal of the sport declines here and the success of our national and super rugby sides collapse also (the result of a range of factors such as poor coaching and pathways, Super Rugby not connecting with Aussie fans, salaries from the north, the utter domination of New Zealand for 15 years and the fact our super rugby teams suck – vicious cycle in which the more we suck the less incentive there is to stay, and the more the Wallabies suck the less appeal the jersey has).

                Let’s not pretend Australia is still a rugby super power or that Brazil isn’t a soccer super power.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 21st 2018 @ 2:49pm
                Paul D said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

                “Paul, if he was selected he would push out the 12 most likely as none of two 12 options can defend well.”

                The question about who he’d push out is rhetorical. And more of a statement of how if you keep selecting overseas players, players will continue to go overseas. This is not a good result for Rugby in this country.

                My main point is Toomua is hardly the person to listen to in relation to a supposed diaspora due to players not wanting to get flogged weekly. Not to mention he wants to revert back to Super 12, when he would have likely never got the opportunities afforded to him by 5 Australian teams if we had stayed with Super 12.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 3:22pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:22pm | ! Report

                I didn’t take his statement as a want to return to S12, but to point out the factually true statement that when the game generated the most appeal in Australia it was S12, and to a lesser extent S14.

                No, it isn’t a good result. But picking players who have no reason to be anywhere near the Wallabies isn’t a good outcome either (Ned Hanigan a case in point – when Mowen, Jones and Fardy were all superior players).

                The South Africans have scrapped the 30 cap rule for the reason that they want the Boks to be the Boks. Not the B-team made up of domestic players. And I’m not saying that we should just make everyone eligible, but there has to be a mid way point. Our two options at 12 lead super rugby for missed tackles. Just think about that for a second.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 21st 2018 @ 3:39pm
                Paul D said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

                “I didn’t take his statement as a want to return to S12”

                Really???? What honestly do you think he meant then?

                “Glory days of Super 12 is gone. Need to stop expanding for purely marketing reasons

                Very specifically refers to Super Rugby as Super 12, and specifically addresses stopping expansion.

                I think his meaning is pretty obvious

              • May 21st 2018 @ 3:41pm
                cuw said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

                @ Fionn

                problem for rugger is – it is a far more complex game than footy.

                there is not much variations in footy as opposed to rugger – which requires more time together to practice and perfect.

                not having a team together for a long time certainly affects the rugger teams – for eg i believe teams like Samoa and Fiji , if given a month to be together will play much better than they do now.

                the other thing with footy is that there are no regular tests – it is always matches that will relate to some competition , say a world cup or European cup or some other regional cup.

                also due to the amount of money in footy , clubs have big squads and ensure players remain fresh.

                but on the other side – only few clubs in the footy world are absolutely rich. if u look at any country not more than 4-6 teams are rich out of 20 , except in England.

                the thing with footy is – it is the world’s game and a lot of people like to watch it , at a ground or on telly. even in India 😀

              • May 21st 2018 @ 3:49pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:49pm | ! Report

                But Paul, you and I both know that Twitter is certainly not the best place to provide nuance in terms of your opinion. It’s a place to give sound bite answers to get it across as bluntly as possible.

                Let’s go through this, what did he actually say? Did he say we need to return to Super 12? No, he did not.

                Did he say that Super 12 were the glory days of Super Rugby (at least from the Australian fan engagement perspective)? Yes, he did.

                Now, was Super 12 the glory days of Super Rugby (at least from the Australian fan engagement perspective)? Yes, it was. Arguably the first few years of Super 14 also.

                His comment is nowhere near as black and white as you want to make it.

                I took it to mean that for too long the monetary and marketing side of Super Rugby has driven expansion at the expense of the product. And that there needs to be a fundamental shift in the competition.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 4:30pm
                Fionn said | May 21st 2018 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                Yeah, Cuw, I get that.

                But nevertheless Argentina have made two RWC semifinals before they even had a domestic professional team.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 11:19am
              Drongo said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report


            • May 21st 2018 @ 11:19am
              Drongo said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

              No, a domestic comp will attack crowds and hence sponsors. Look at AFL, NRL and the A league. Add netball, basketball, etc, etc. The game will thrive on national interest. It is dying fast at the moment and will continue to do so while SR is the main focus. How is SR improving coaching? We have a single Australian coach at the moment.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 11:33am
                Drongo said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

                The focus must be on building a sound foundation for the game in this country, not just trying to develops a few more good players so we can beat NZ teams in a competition that no one really cares about.

              • May 22nd 2018 @ 2:45am
                Percy P said | May 22nd 2018 @ 2:45am | ! Report

                A hypothetical question:- do you think the Tah team of 2010 is superior to the Tah team of 2018? I believe that today’s team would give a pretty good account of themselves in any match up, which would give the lie to the notion that Super Rugby is in terminal decline in this country. I think there is a bit of life in the old dog yet. I’m hopeful that after 2 more seasons of NRC Oz SR teams will be more competitive with the Kiwis.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 2:25pm
                Jacko said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

                Drongo I think if Aus goes to a domestic comp then at least all their players wont get bought by NH clubs as who buys club players from a country that would be ranked outside the top 10 international teams in the world. Any decent current players would be asked to half their contracts and half would go OS instantly. That leaves the shute shield and Brisbane comps as your feeder and the standard would deteriate due to coaches with experience going OS as well. Soon you have no playters of International standard in Aus and a shrinking group OS. 5 years and their would be very few Aus rugby players left to select a team for the 2023 WC and may even need to go to the qualifying matches

          • May 22nd 2018 @ 5:06pm
            Malo said | May 22nd 2018 @ 5:06pm | ! Report

            Every rugby mate watches league until the internationals start and then you have the internationals and state of origin. SR does not get a mention.

        • May 22nd 2018 @ 8:56am
          RahRah said | May 22nd 2018 @ 8:56am | ! Report

          Sure, like killing the game in the West so that a team from Japan can benefit. Great way to fix the game here in Aus, make sure that only the East coast is where the game is played – SANZAAR be damned!!

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:26am
      Cynical Play said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:26am | ! Report

      Thanks GP.

      You rightly identify ‘connectedness’ as where the Australian fan experience is lacking. Unlike you, I favour a predominantly domestic competition as the premier competition. I can’t explain the funding model but bear me out.

      Fans in Oz want to connect to local teams with mostly local players and a few marquee players. They want games at Suburban grounds televised Friday and Saturday night in the 3.30 to 9pm timeslot. They want a good splattering of international tests, and there would be nothing wrong with any franchise inviting an overseas franchise to a game for pre-season, or in the test windows for the non-test players(ie as the Force is doing with Crusaders).

      That is what many fans want. Connected to a local team, with Australian derbies, in the right timeslot for watching live or going to the game, and frequent tests. We have enough players. There are as many in Europe as in Oz. Marquee players would be invited to augment teams (eg Parling, Potgeiter). Fans want teams that can compete and have a chance of winning. The Avivia model is a good example. Local clubs playing for the premiership, and the top 2 teams have a chance to win a second regional competition. Excellent.

      That is what would increase local fan bases and interest the huge Oz football crowd, Many AFL and NRL fans want a second code. My team is the Tahs, but my 2nd code team is the Swans, Why? I can see them play in prime-time EVERY weekend. I understand the derbies and the games can be truly exciting.
      Not the Tahs for a 1/4 of the season. They are playing half way round the world. They play only a few home games. Ticket prices would have to adjust to attract the crowds. The platers don’t want to play in Argentina or Japan or SA. It exhausts them.

      What fans now get is the opposite. One or two Ozzie team games per weekend, and some nights there are none. NONE, No games on a Friday night that an Oz rugby fan can watch any Oz rugby franchise play.

      SANZAAR will not deliver the above, but it is what I want, and it is what the Oz rugby game needs.

      10 teams, in rugby heartlands. Bring back the force. Round Robin. local grounds. good timeslots. FTS and pay TV. Top 2 teams enter a Pacific Championship against NZ, Pac Is, Japan teams. 10 tests a year.


      • May 21st 2018 @ 9:04am
        Highlander said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

        I was at Allianz on Saturday and with the Swans playing next door.
        We were there a couple of hours early to ensure parking and get dinner prior and there was real observable crowd differences.

        Apart from just the larger numbers the Swans fans seemed all decked out in the merchandise, hats scarves and jackets.
        They have a really broad demographic – lots of older (is that the word we use) couples, family groups spanning generations, kids everywhere kicking footies and there were lots of people there way before kickoff.

        Tahs just didn’t seem to have the same connected tribalism – nowhere near as many Tahs colours on display, actually they were rivalled by the displaced Mainlanders coming to see their HIghanders, we met people who came from Lithgow and Canberra to support their old team.
        Also very quiet in the stadium.

        You are right that the AFL guys have got the connectedness right, but perhaps no more so than any NZ franchise who have embraced the intl nature of Super rugby. AFL have done something to imbed a moved franchise side into the Sydney fabric, there is surely something here to follow.

        Perhaps the solutions are more cultural than structural, but differences there certainly are and it was very interesting to compare on the same day.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 9:46am
          Train without a station said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

          What the AFL has done to imbed them into Sydney is dumped 30 years into it.

          It took them 12 years to get traction.

          They had additional salary cap allowances until they recruited Franklin.

          How could RA do something like that when the consensus of path forward says there’s so many scenarios that may need to occur?

          When the Swans moved it was part of a competition approaching 90 years of existence. Stability seemed very likely.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 10:07am
            Highlander said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:07am | ! Report

            How long have the Tahs been there?

        • May 21st 2018 @ 9:34pm
          Oddball said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:34pm | ! Report

          Don’t forget the travelling fans AFL attracts. It is a lot of fun for us Vics to go up to Sydney to cheer on our beloved clubs against the Swans. Sydney is a fine place to visit, every once in a while.

      • Columnist

        May 21st 2018 @ 9:55am
        Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

        Hi CP

        All of that makes a lot of sense and i suspect would align with a large number of fans.

        But unfortunately the key words are “I can’t explain the funding model”

        Rugby’s problem (unlike AFL and Rugby League for the most part) is that it exists in a global marketplace. I understand the natural instinct in Australia to turn away from this and seek a domestic solution. And in truth, whatever happens around SR, Australia still needs to solve it’s domestic problem, which is to determine the right balance between club rugby and pro rugby and to co-ordinate this and have all rugby people embrace it.

        But because it is a global marketplace Australia’s best players and coaches have a market value. And if Australia cannot financially sustain a competition that pays competitive salaries, those players and coaches will play where they can be paid fair market value. So you will end up with a domestic league somewhere between ok and 2nd rate by global standards.

        This is essentially what happens today in football/soccer in Australia. If we didn’t know any different then yes, perhaps this would be an ok outcome. But I think it’s a substantially worse outcome than what exists today.

        • Roar Guru

          May 21st 2018 @ 12:08pm
          PeterK said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

          I would offer a solution longer term that meets most of everyones criteria.

          1) teams play in their timezones a lot more
          2) you get more domestic games
          3) there is more revenue from broadcast
          4) overall there is no increase in games
          5) Interest in finals would be increased

          1) It wouldn’t meet is less travel despite being away less
          2) Strongest conference would not get more teams into finals

          Have 4 conferences of 6 teams. You play your own conference home and away , that is 10 games, you play 2 teams in each other conference with only 1 game away, that is another 6 games.

          Top 2 teams in each conference makes the 8 team finals with the top team getting a home final the rest seeded as you finish.

          The conferences
          Aust – 5 aust teams + sunwolves , same timezone
          NZ – 5 NZ teams + combined PI team, same timezone
          Africa – 6 African teams not just SA
          Americas – 2 Canadian, 2 US, 2 argentine teams

          So Aust teams you would only play 1 away game in the americas, 1 away game in africa, 1 away game in NZ

          • Roar Guru

            May 21st 2018 @ 1:40pm
            Dogs Of War said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

            I like that. Though I would make it home and away when you play the other conference. And you could have it so that the first placed team plays a first place schedule and so on. This would ensure we have different challenges, and the best teams have the best matchups each year. While allowing those lesser teams to be seen to be better than they are (though the conference matchups should ensure they remain out of finals contention).

          • May 21st 2018 @ 2:50pm
            sheek said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:50pm | ! Report

            PK – not bad, not bad.

            Not crazy about your proposal, but could live with it if it came to pass.

            • May 22nd 2018 @ 5:52pm
              Ken Catchpole’s Other Leg said | May 22nd 2018 @ 5:52pm | ! Report

              Peter, Sheek i also like that model.
              It is similar to your Heineken Cup type model, Sheek, no?

          • Roar Guru

            May 21st 2018 @ 2:52pm
            Corne Van Vuuren said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

            The problem is those few matches outside your conference.

            If you are going to qualify from within your conference, then you should only have matches within your conference.

            • Roar Guru

              May 21st 2018 @ 3:13pm
              PeterK said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

              only way you get enough games, you don’t want to play teams in your conference 3 times.

              The interconference games add interest, variety and value and can help with better seeding of the finals.

              • Roar Rookie

                May 21st 2018 @ 5:11pm
                Paulo said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

                I like it. And even though you need to qualify within your conference, everyone would have to play outside your conference twice, so still relatively even (as much as it can be).

              • Roar Guru

                May 21st 2018 @ 6:34pm
                PeterK said | May 21st 2018 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

                My proposal has each team play 10 games intraconference and 6 games interconference 3 of which are away and 3 home so 13/16 are in the same timezone

                The interconference games would help rank the teams 1-8 as they do now

      • May 21st 2018 @ 11:40am
        Treetops said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

        Spot on CP!
        We need a professional national comp.

        RA are employed to make this work. If they can’t (and they probably can’t), leave it to Twiggy and his team.

        I’m done with meaningless games being played at ridiculous time slots.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 2:35pm
          Jacko said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          I really dont get this “meaningless games played in rediculas timeslots” claim…..Every week we have at least 3 and generally 4-5 games in either Aus or NZ which are games of meaning and are in a timeslot suitable to Aus…. this weekend we have 2 games on friday evening with 2 NZ teams up at 5.30pm and an Aus team v sunwoolves at 7.30pm…then saturday night its the Tahs v Chiefs and then the Reds v Highlanders so where is this issue? if you had a domestic 10 team comp you would get 1 more game at an Aus frendly timeslot…It is a misconception that games are all outside our time friendly zones

          • May 21st 2018 @ 7:32pm
            Reverse Wheel said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:32pm | ! Report

            This weekend isn’t typical though. We always get a Friday and Saturday NZ game at 5.30 but that’s hard for club players because they’re generally still at the post-match, and families are having dinner. Still, you can always record and at least it’s consistent.

            The oz conference doesn’t offer the same consistency though. It seems rare to have 7.30 games both Friday and Saturday. Byes, sunwolves games and Sunday arvo games mess it around. You can’t just switch on the TV at 7.30 and assume there’ll be a game, because half the time there won’t be.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:57am
      Jamie said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Hi Geoff

      Really enjoyed that. Thanks for posting. I’m actually really enjoying the rugby this year. Hopefully it only gets better on the way to the final

      • Columnist

        May 21st 2018 @ 9:56am
        Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:56am | ! Report

        Cheers Jamie. I haven’t seen a match over the last three weeks. Very much looking forward to getting back to normal this week.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 8:13am
      rugger said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:13am | ! Report


      Couple of points:

      Test primacy is OK but to the strategy that AFL drives – target kids and develop game bottom up and we know cream will always rise to the top rather than flawed strategy of RA which is top-down.

      You are more likely to have more people happy say if we have 6-8 franchises and assuming half lost at least 4 set of fans will feel good about themselves rather than current reliance of Wallabies to make rain in winter when we know two successive weekend defeats to Kiwi’s and gloom and doom sets in.

      In any event test matches can only be played so many times without diluting the products, similar to Cricket.

      Failure of SANZAR to treat Super Rugby with respect and integrity – the constant resting of AB’s for World Cup and recent camps for AB’s.

      Long term in Australia and New Zealand there will be dual threats for athletes – AFL, NRL, etc for young athletes and obviously threat from Europe for stars to be playing in their comp and AB’s brand will be threatened by this dual threat as well given money involved.

      Alan Jones saying Wallabies jersey means the world will no longer hold and money rules.

      What is NZR and RA collectively doing about this?

      Seems to be bigger base of players and formats of the game is the way to go but SANZAAR seems to not get this point.

      Case in point is lack of focus on 7s Rugby, womens rugby to be used as vehicle to drive growth and money in Asia, America’s.

      It seems NZR care about AB’s and again question is for how long will the last?

      Lastly, Ireland’s rise up the world rankings and Leinster’s European Championship glory are no accident. Central contracting and focusing on developing your own talent actually works..think Bundee Arkee and few other Irish player, more like Nucifora’s project players.

      • Roar Guru

        May 21st 2018 @ 8:45am
        Derm McCrum said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        “Lastly, Ireland’s rise up the world rankings and Leinster’s European Championship glory are no accident. Central contracting and focusing on developing your own talent actually works..think Bundee Arkee and few other Irish player, more like Nucifora’s project players.”

        This is silly thinking. Any cursory examination of Ireland’s or Leinster’s squads would tell you this.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 2:36pm
          Jacko said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          What is the real situation then? Easy to say its silly but why is it silly?

          • Columnist

            May 21st 2018 @ 5:51pm
            Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:51pm | ! Report

            Run your eye over the Leinster team sheet for the Euro final Jacko. That’s a club that is fully focused on building from within rather than relying on imports.

            It’s true that Ireland has selected imported players in recent years but it’s by no means an emphasis and players like Aki are now the exception.

            • Columnist

              May 21st 2018 @ 5:53pm
              Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

              Leinster’s best import by the way isn’t Fardy or Nacewa but a rugby analyst based in Wales 🙂

            • May 21st 2018 @ 6:48pm
              cuw said | May 21st 2018 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

              i dont know why Nacewa is retiring – he is still fantastic.

              maybe he will come back to NZ and play for Blues ?

              just wonder if Lowe and Gibson-Park can qualify with the new 5 year rule and play at a world cup ?

              they will be in 30s by then and perhaps slower…

              • Roar Guru

                May 22nd 2018 @ 7:18am
                Derm McCrum said | May 22nd 2018 @ 7:18am | ! Report

                Nacewa may want to retire from professional rugby in Ireland/EU if he wants to benefit from Irish Revenue’s Sportsperons Retirement Tax Relief since he’s been in the country for over a decade.

                Gibson Park’s contract ends at same time as he would residency qualify in June 2019. Probably too late for consideration for RWC 19. After that, it would depend on who else is coming through for 2023.

                Lowe’s contract ends in May 2020 but he wouldn’t be 3 years resident until mid-Nov 2020 so it would be 6 Nations 2021 before he could be selected, if his contract was renewed or if he wanted to stay. If he figured it was too late, then he’d probably get a better offer overseas.

                A number of the current Irish squad e.g. Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Henshaw, Ringrose, Furlong are likely to be targeted post RWC 19 with offers from French clubs already being rumoured.

              • May 22nd 2018 @ 2:28pm
                cuw said | May 22nd 2018 @ 2:28pm | ! Report

                it was a pity nacewa never took the 7s route and played for ireland or was not selected to play for Fiji.

                time and again he has showed the class – playing anywhere from 10 -15 in the line.

                and his calmness is second to none – i have seen him kick several times under pressure when his regular 10 and also the sub have gone off.

                he is someone BLUES shud look for – the kind of leader they lack.

                am sure Ireland will like to keep Lowe at least. he came with the aim of playing test rugger – so he will stay if given a signal.

                JGP is an ok player i guess – even he may stay.

          • Roar Guru

            May 22nd 2018 @ 3:31am
            Derm McCrum said | May 22nd 2018 @ 3:31am | ! Report

            Ireland were ranked 7th after 6 Nations 2016; 4th after Six Nations 2017; and 2nd after 6 Nations 2018.
            In that time, Schmidt has used 70 players – 5 of whom were residency-qualified.

            Next season, there will be a total of 44 non-Irish born players playing in Ireland out of 258 senior/academy players.

            20 of them (46%) are Irish-qualified with parents or grandparents born in Ireland e.g. Carbery, McGrath, Herring, Dillane, etc.

            6 (14%) are foreign capped players – non-Irish eligible NIE e.g. Jaco Taute at Munster, Fardy at Leinster

            8 (18%) are foreign uncapped players – non-Irish qualified NIQ – e.g. Chris Cloete (Munster) Gibson-Park (Leinster),

            5 (11%) are uncapped residency-qualified players – some here from young age e.g. Abdaladze, some not good enough e.g. Ludik, McCartney, Herbst

            5 (11%) are capped residency-qualified players:
            a) Ah You – a temporary fill in with 3 caps for Ireland Wolfhounds in 2014
            b) Adeolokun – 1 cap with Ireland, not selected since 2016
            c) Roux – a third choice lock behind Toner, Ryan, Henderson, Beirne, along with Dillane and Treadwell.
            d) Aki – selected in part due to first-picks Henshaw and Ringrose out injured but in the mix as a starter along with Chris Farrell, Stuart McCloskey and Rory Scannell.
            e) Stander – now a first choice pick at 8 due to Heaslip’s retirement and with Conan and Deegan coming up behind him.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 9:51pm
        Bakkies said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:51pm | ! Report

        To me the decline of Super Rugby started when Graham Henry pulled out the ABs from the first half of the Super Rugby in 2007 to run around cones in conditioning camps should have been nipped in the bud then.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 8:17am
      Rugbyfan86 said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

      Hi Geoff
      I have asked this question before and ask it again here.
      What level of crowd and viewer support for SR games by oz fans will RA tolerate?

      What is the good of SR if it pushes fans away from the game? Because that is exactly what it has been doing over the past 5 years or so.

      Are empty stadiums and less than 50k viewers per game ok, as long as it keeps players here?

      Australian fans have walked and they aren’t coming back.

      And the results are showing with some Brisbane private schools introducing league at the behest of parents. Why? Because the NRL wins fans. SR loses fans.

      • Columnist

        May 21st 2018 @ 10:01am
        Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        Here’s a question for you RF86… is it really SR that is pushing fans away from the game? Or is it Australia’s lack of success?

        The crowds at Sydney’s Bled Cup Test have decreased substantially over the last few years. Is this because the Bledisloe Cup has pushed fans away? Or is it because there’s been a series of heavy defeats and fans don’t wan’t to keep paying big money to see their team get flogged?

        Secondary question… if it isn’t SR, then what is it?

        • May 21st 2018 @ 10:08am
          Rugbyfan86 said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:08am | ! Report

          So let’s talk about the “win more” response.

          This response assumes that oz rugby hasn’t been trying to win. Which is of course rubbish. It has been.

          “Structures!!” the crowd reply – yes our structures make it hard to gain alignment – and in twenty years of pro rugby and 100 years of amateur we have zero movement to change this! But it’s assumed we can now???

          And finally on “win more”. The Brumbies made the SR finals 3 years running and crowds fell during that time.

          I’m sorry but “win more” is just doing more of the same of what we already do. And it’s not working. And history tells us it’s unlikely to change.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 10:29am
            Rugbyfan86 said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:29am | ! Report

            In addition to this, the barriers to access SR such as pay tv, poor tv schedules and timezones, means that any drop in performance makes it easy for fans to fall away. The only times we have seen spikes in viewers and crowds is literally when a team is going to win the comp (reds ‘11, Tahs ‘14). This is not a sustainable model for building fan engagement.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 10:38am
            Rugbyfan86 said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

            And a bit like my question about how little fan support is tolerable – how many years are we prepared to wait for all oz teams to be playing better ?

            Ignoring the 15yrs of no Bled or the paltry lack of recent SR success – how many years do we give ourselves to fix this issue? Can it be done in 1, 3, 5 years?

            You asked ‘if not SR, then what?’, I in turn ask you ‘when and how will SR success be delivered?’… I’m sure there are fans, players and coaches galore who’d love to hear your ideas.

          • Columnist

            May 21st 2018 @ 10:59am
            Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:59am | ! Report

            “I’m sorry but “win more” is just doing more of the same of what we already do.”

            No it’s clearly not.

            Happy to hear any ideas that will bring those fans back to the game Rf86.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 11:03am
              Rugbyfan86 said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

              Build something rugby fans care about and make it easier for them to watch.

              Otherwise once the fans go, the participation numbers will follow, and player quality will continue to go south.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 11:39am
              Drongo said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

              The ‘win more’ strategy appeals to Kiwis because it elevates the importance of the ‘Australia V NZ’ aspect to absolute primacy. For NZ fans, that and the SA v NZ aspect is the most important thing. That is great for BZ fans. You can conquer the world. Here in Australia we have to keep the game breathing before we can break world records, or even manage a single win. For the Australian potential market that aspect of the product is not important at all. Our crowds want domestic competition. Have you seen the State of Origin concept in action Geoff?

              • Columnist

                May 21st 2018 @ 12:54pm
                Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

                The thing is, everyone has a different idea as to what works best domestically.

                Rf86 says “Build something rugby fans care about”, but the problem is people can’t stop arguing and fighting about what that actually is – many see the NRC as a step forward while others are howling it down in favour of building off Sydney club rugby.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 1:18pm
                Rugby Tragic said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

                In terms of rugby, the ‘win more’ strategy appeals to Aussies as well … that I can assure you from family experience and more in particular to those other than die-hard rugby fans.

              • Columnist

                May 21st 2018 @ 2:46pm
                Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

                Spoken like a true Blues fan 🙂

            • May 21st 2018 @ 7:40pm
              Reverse Wheel said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:40pm | ! Report

              A regular Saturday night live game on free to air.

              Fox are shooting themselves in the foot with their intransigence on this. Their ratings and subscriptions are falling because no new audience are being exposed to the game. They need to give a little to gain a lot. Let channel 10 show a regular live game and build an audience, then maybe some of that audience will start saying ‘hey this is good, I want more, better go get me some foxtel’.

              My mates follow sr at a distance. They check the results, know basically what’s going on but rarely watch a game because they don’t have foxtel. If it was readily available to them they’d watch, 100%. They’ll come to a game if i invite them but would never think to go otherwise. They simply aren’t connected.

              • Columnist

                May 22nd 2018 @ 7:53am
                Geoff Parkes said | May 22nd 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

                Not sure what you mean by Fox’s “intransigence” RW.

                Say you pay $50k for a new car.
                Your neighbour wants to use it once a week on Saturday nights.
                You refuse, quite reasonably thinking that if he wants a car he can buy one himself.
                Are you being intransigent?

                Fox is operating a business not a charity.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 11:46am
          Ed said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

          Good article Geoff.

          I think lack of success is a strong indicator.

          Our winning rate against NZ and SA sides split into periods:
          S12 (1996-2005): NZ 47.9% SA 66.8%
          S14 (2006-2010): NZ 38.3% SA 53.9%
          S15 (2011-2015): NZ 43.4% SA 38.6%
          S18 (2016-2017): NZ 5.8% SA 36.7%
          This year: NZ 11.1% SA 45.4%

          Unfortunately the trend has been as we have added more AUS sides, our winning percentages have dropped. I don’t advocate for us to revert to three teams.
          You would have thought after the then worst season for AU SR sides – 2016 – that alarm bells would have been sounded but it wasn’t until after the nadir of last year that something truly had to be done.

          On a side note – there was a good long article on the other site last week about Australian rugby. One of the points the author made was the RFU using some of its proceeds from RWC15 to invest in coaching, infrastructure and grassroots. What did the ARU do with our 2003 bounty and the boosts from the Lions tours in 2001 and 2013? Was any of this seen at the bottom of the pyramid?

          If Australia hosts a world cup again, a percentage of the profits should be reinvested like what the RFU has done, not giving extra bonuses to the players.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 12:09pm
            Angus Kennedy said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

            Correlation is not causation. The decrease in win/loss ratios and the decrease in crowds may both be caused by the same thing. The wrong structure and focus in Australian rugby, perhaps?

            • May 21st 2018 @ 12:35pm
              Ed said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

              That is true Angus.

              Let’s consider the performance of our U20 team. The team qualified for three straight semis – 2009 to 2011 – but have not progressed to that part of the tournament since. Maybe we don’t have the talent any more, or other nations have invested in their junior programs while we have sat on our hands?
              We would have to look at our programs with schools and junior clubs. How much effort is being placed here by the national and state bodies?

              • May 21st 2018 @ 10:19pm
                Bakkies said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:19pm | ! Report

                Other nations have invested in and changed their youth structures for the better. Even with the same issue of a separate body governing schools Rugby. They also play more games then the Aussie boys play.

                England under 18s play in a European tournament than go to South Africa that’s game time against quality opposition. The Italian under 20s have improved a lot recently they have also under 18s sides to South Africa.

                The Australian Schoolboys are touring for the first time in 5 or 6 years this year and it is about time. One way to keep players engaged at a young age is to provide touring opportunities. It is also an aid to the under 20s as they have spent more time playing together at a younger age.

                With Queensland starting their comps in term three I don’t think the best Aus Schoolboys side is being selected on form. Now with a tour at the end of the year the Queensland boys have form and game time on the board for the selectors to look at.

          • Columnist

            May 21st 2018 @ 12:58pm
            Geoff Parkes said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

            Well put Ed. I understood the approach to drive the public profile of the sport from the top, but definitely not at the expense of dropping the ball at grassroots levels.

            I’ve got no doubt that today’s administrators (and the rugby public) are paying heavily for mistakes made 10-15 years ago.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 5:48pm
          Malo said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:48pm | ! Report

          Sr definitely , you need to speak to the grassroots.

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