Last October I wrote an article proposing the reunification of the rugby codes, league and union, in Australia.
Given the grave threat that the coronavirus pandemic poses to both codes in Australia, I simply ask the question now: is this the time that serious thought should be given to the reunification of the codes in Australia?
The following points are pertinent to the discussion.
The financial crisis arsing from the pandemic will have a serious impact going forward on the availability of funds from sponsors, broadcasters, and other sources. There simply will not be the funds available to throw at sports as there has been in the past. Consolidation of sports makes sense to access and maximise the limited funds that will be available.
Union has a stronger international presence than league and international games will be a source of revenue that league cannot match by itself. Therefore it makes sense that the reunified codes should adopt union rules going forward in order to have access to the lucrative international Test matches and World Cups.
League has a strong domestic competition, while union’s domestic competition is very limited. If the NRL adopted union rules of play (it could still be called the National Rugby League), it would provide access to players to international teams (Wallabies and others) with far greater opportunities than league alone offers.
This would also ensure that as many as possible of the current NRL clubs survive, albeit they would play by union rules going forward.
Australia could become a world rugby powerhouse, having access to current highly talented and athletic league players. It may take a season or two for their abilities to develop and shine under union rules of play, but being the athletes that they are, and with little other choice if both the codes collapse by trying to stand alone, there could be a great opportunity to develop a truly exciting rugby future for Australia and the players.
This is the perfect time in a currently very imperfect world to consider drastic steps in order to ensure the future of rugby, where both codes are threatened with extinction.
Reunification of the codes in Australia provides one strategy that might actually ensure that a strong rugby code survives.