There is a lot of uncertainty in Australian rugby at the moment, particularly with regards to whether the nation is best suited by continuing with the SANZAAR model of Super Rugby.
But the COVID-19 crisis offers the opportunity to force change.
Rugby Australia was in the middle of negotiating its next broadcast deal. Coronavirus put a spanner in the works, and some may say it could not have been more timely.
Fox Sports has held the rights since day one, 25 years ago. However, there is a groundswell of opinion that free-to-air broadcasting is needed.
Unfortunately, there is only one network interested, so there is no likelihood of a bidding war.
As a result, there is a factional war going on.
Leading the push is Phil Kearns, who, while being a commentator for Fox Sports, is also pushing back against head office’s attempts to keep the game global.
Kearns wants to be the next CEO of Rugby Australia, and he seems to be an advocate for the grassroots. I have no problem with that as long as it’s not NSW or Randwick-centric. It has to be for the greater good of rugby right across Australia.
The school of thought appears to be that Australia should look inwards and go its own way, particularly since the perception of Super Rugby is that it makes it easier for New Zealand to win the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby World Cup.
Thus, HQ should focus on internal systems and structures to make us nationally stronger.
I would love to see the sport go back to its amateur roots, re-built and re-purposed into a model that is uniform across the country, with selection for the national team at the apex. We should also play fewer international matches to preserve the integrity and rarity of Test rugby.
I would really love this to be a philosophical discussion and not get into the specifics. The argument at the moment needs to be about the broad philosophy of which direction we head in. Specifics can follow.
We have this huge opportunity to position our game in the sporting landscape and can’t waste the opportunity.