Let’s get engaged with Australian rugby’s future

Boof Head Roar Rookie

By Boof Head, Boof Head is a Roar Rookie

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35 Have your say

    As an Australian rugby fan, it seems that these days the focus is on the blight of the game at the professional level, the inept performances of our domestic sides, and our inability to compete with league, football and Aussie rules.

    Some may see this as a negative and even shameful. Why can’t we simply sit and enjoy the sport we follow, regardless of who else is following it?

    I personally find the critical mindset to be not only valid but constructive, as it prompts growth and development of the game by pushing those in charge to take initiative and make changes.

    Surely it’s safe to assume – as the cries become louder and more desperate – surely the response will be one of drastic proportions?

    You’d hope so, anyway.

    One thing my AFL and NRL following mates are willing to acknowledge is that rugby’s edge over the other codes will always be its international presence.

    Test rugby is a great spectacle, regardless of how many penalties are kicked, and it will always hold a significance and quality hard to replicate in a Parramatta versus Canterbury local derby.

    However, this will only ever keep us in the fight, within landing any knockout blows that will take us to the top.

    Simply possessing a strong Test team in a competitive global environment is respectable but not enough to capture the hearts of picky, easily distracted Australians.

    For us to truly engage with a greater fan-base we must, surprisingly, connect more to our traditional tribal roots, nurturing these, and allowing them to spread further from where they stand today.

    On the one hand, the current structure of the game isn’t strong enough to compel the development of a greater fan-base. With the NRC being introduced, an arguably greater pool of Super Rugby and Test rugby players has been unearthed, but no new fans have really been budded as the crowds for the competing teams only really consist of current diehards.

    On the other hand, it takes time to develop loyal fans and tradition by nature. Cult followings don’t pop up out of nowhere, and significance is established through generations.

    In saying that, more could be done to streamline, organise and prune the current model to make it more accessible to not only current fans but also new ones.

    TV broadcasting is one issue, but nothing is stopping Rugby Australia from hosting more games live around the country. To do so would require another rejig, but it’s not as if there haven’t been any of these in recent times. Of course, we must reach a point where little or no rearrangement of the tiers is needed.

    Currently, all major rugby states possess their own local competitions. Some, such as NSW, possess several, with the Sydney teams playing in a different competition to, say, the Illawarra teams. But, to promote equal, balanced growth around the state, Manly should have an opportunity to test themselves against the Central West. Interstate tournaments should make up the first few months of the year.

    Following this, a nation-wide tournament – similar to that of the Currie Cup – should take place, involving the same teams.

    After rankings are determined from the interstate tournaments, the strongest from each state, with NSW and Queensland supplying more teams than, say, Western Australia, should take place, dissolving state borders to create a true nation wide competition, that, again, maintains local tribalry.

    Cottlesloe against Brothers. Parramatta against Box Hill.

    The shape or length of the tournament isn’t my point here, but more the gradual progression of scale and level of the competition.

    Queensland Country NRC Grand FInal

    Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

    Next, in place of the Super Rugby, shall stand a similar competition in which our best provincial sides play against the best from New Zealand. If it’s logistically feasible, also from the Pacific Islands, Asia and South Africa.

    Just as the Bulls are both a Currie Cup team and a bolstered Super Rugby team with players from surrounding provinces, North Sydney, for example, would merge the best from surrounding teams to take on Wellington, Durban and Tokyo.

    Let’s remember that a player who played for Hunter or Melbourne – if they’re quality – will now have progressed to the level of this tournament.

    Again, which teams become the representation of others is not my issue here but more the idea of maintaining a strong pathway.

    Finally, Test matches will make up the rest of the year, with each country assembling the best from their respective provinces, as they already do.

    Part of what makes this model enticing is that it recaptures the magic of Wallabies playing for their clubs again, giving fans a reason and a glimmer of hope to see Jed Holloway and Jake Gordon running out for Southern Districts.

    Of course, this concept seems to occupy a large portion of the year and could potentially create a greater load on players.

    Additionally, arranging such an overhaul alongside other nations to time this would certainly be easier said than done. Not to mention the whole story of contracting and administration that would deter anything this drastic from occurring.

    I’d like to reiterate that rugby union’s global presence will only hold it among the best codes, but fostering greater engagement with fans will push it to compete for the top spot.

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • June 5th 2018 @ 5:21am
      Danny said | June 5th 2018 @ 5:21am | ! Report

      Geez you need to change your name if you going to come up with such good ideas Boof Head! I know it just a dream scenario thing and plenty will explain why it can’t be done, but I think if the kind of comp structure you talk about here could be introduced, I think it would be bloody brilliant. The big thing is a fan would hopefully be real invested in the teams from his area as they played in all forms of the comp, and I think would be able to ‘own’ the teams as they all could be traced back to their local club. I know logistics and player welfare etc will all get mentioned, but as a rusted on rugby man I would be in heaven I think!

      • Roar Guru

        June 5th 2018 @ 9:45am
        jeznez said | June 5th 2018 @ 9:45am | ! Report

        Those lucky few supporters that have their clubs go through would be able to ‘own’ a bit harder for someone who supports one of the clubs that misses out and then has to cheer their players now playing for a rival in the next tier.

        I’m massively in favour of tiering but do it the traditional way. Have rep teams that genuinely represent an area that merge the clubs – don’t keep the name of just one club in the region and have others flow in to it.

    • June 5th 2018 @ 8:42am
      Steve said | June 5th 2018 @ 8:42am | ! Report

      Rugby’s edge at the moment is that it’s a pretty good product on the field. I’m not Rugby obsessed but I’ve watched a lot more this season and it’s bloody enjoyable. The problem is that perception is reality and it’s really hard to change. The Wallabies could score 15 tries and kick 2 penalty goals in this 3 test series but everybody will still say that rugby is all about penalty goals. Somebody at RA needs to believe in their product and force the message a little bit. They’re so passive, where are rugby’s Andrew Voss, Simon Hill, Andy Harper etc.

    • June 5th 2018 @ 9:46am
      Birdy said | June 5th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

      Why did I watch rugby?
      Because 45years ago I played it at school.
      Why don’t I watch rugby now?
      Because the premier competition, sanzaar, is rediculous and there is no FTA coverage.
      All areas of the game has made it a more watchable product for the non rugby purist like myself, which , correct me if I’m wrong , is the target growth area.
      Both my above reasons have been discussed many times on the roar by many people but no one in power seems interested.

    • June 5th 2018 @ 10:16am
      TomasB said | June 5th 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      Well, that is actually what is happening in Arg. They realized people had much more attachment to their clubs than to provincial teams. So they scrapped the old provincial tournament and made a National Club Tournament, with 4 pools of 4 teams. Each pool with teams of different provinces, passing on to QF, SF, and finals. And starting in 2020, a South American Pro League is going to take place, with the provincial teams, while the regional internal tournaments are taking place, all the pros will then go join their clubs for the National Club Tournament.

      We can tell you how that works out

    • June 5th 2018 @ 10:25am
      Jock M said | June 5th 2018 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      The game is not more watchable and the empty grandstands and lower viewing audiences are proof of that.
      The money men changed the laws of the game and in doing so,not only did they dumb Rugby down but they turned it into a boring repetitive spectacle.
      People who never played the game but obviously watched it on TV have asked me what have they done to the game and where are the Ellas and Campesis now.
      Unfortunately the Ellas and Campesis either do not recognise the problems or they are reluctant to raise the issue though Campo did say once that the backline is clogged up
      with defenders ;this is a function of there being little competition at the breakdown and forwards retiring as they do in League.

      • June 5th 2018 @ 11:12am
        Birdy said | June 5th 2018 @ 11:12am | ! Report

        Interesting comment Jock,
        So your saying that crowds are down world wide because the game has been dumbed down

      • June 5th 2018 @ 11:20am
        Jock M said | June 5th 2018 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        In my view Birdy the game they play now is not Rugby as we knew it- a sort of abridged League if you like.
        Do you ever remember being able to go to ground in a tackle and then being able to play the ball – remember how we would attempt to day on our feet and set up a maul.The modern laws encourage the ball cartier to not only run at defenders (multiple phases are a consequence) but to go down and play the ball because there is little chance of losing possession.
        I am keen to continue this chat.

        • June 5th 2018 @ 12:26pm
          Birdy said | June 5th 2018 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

          Sorry Jock
          I’ve tried to reply several times but signal is up the $#it in my area.
          Might have another crack later on.

      • Roar Guru

        June 7th 2018 @ 10:38am
        Train Without A Station said | June 7th 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

        The game is not more watchable and the empty grandstands and lower viewing audiences are proof of that.

        No they aren’t. They could be easily explainable by far more alternative forms of entertainment. TV on demand. Video Games. Increased covered of other sports, etc.

        Maybe it’s not more watchable. That’s entirely possible. It’s equally possible it is more watchable, but alternatives have just been made even more appealing.

    • June 5th 2018 @ 12:15pm
      Ex force fan said | June 5th 2018 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

      Rugby’s alure has been it’s values and international dimension. The ability to smash someone on the field and still have a beer with them after the game is special. The game was always bigger than the players, administrators and fans. If you put winning or money ahead of the game, you end up with cart in front of the horse solutions and.competitions we have today and decisions not to grow the game but contracting it.

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