With the COVID-19 pandemic, Super Rugby 2020 is dead in the water.
Super Rugby to date has been an internationally FIFO sport. With international travel now in lock-down for the remainder of this year, international rugby is looking increasingly unlikely.
In the NRL, the innovation committee is considering two conferences: one in NSW, and one in Queensland. All players would be quarantined for the duration of the competition. Sure, it would take a commitment by players and their families, but it could certainly work.
Perhaps Super Rugby could follow suit.
So what would a quarantined domestic Super Rugby competition look like? Well, it couldn’t be the endless merry-go-round of four teams constantly facing off. Aside from the fact the four teams are interstate, a silo conference would very quickly become tedious to the viewing public.
The best way to pull this off is a national club tournament comprising 16 rugby clubs (four conferences, four clubs per conference) that makes use of a draft system to bolster teams with Wallabies and Super Rugby players. That, of course, is when the time is right. That time would require close scrutiny and agreement by all parties.
Four conferences would neatly fit into the four Super Rugby franchise locations.
1. Reds conference in Brisbane: semi-finalists from the 2019 Hospital Cup.
2. Waratahs conference in Sydney: semi-finalists from the 2019 Shute Shield.
3. Brumbies conference in Canberra and Country NSW: finalists of 2019 regular season John I Dent Cup, and the finalists of the NSW Kentwell Cup (Country NSW).
4. Rebels conference in Melbourne: 2019 Dewar Shield finalists, plus 2019 Pindan premier grade finalists.
How would it work with COVID-19?
After a mandatory 14-day isolation period for players and officials, the format would see each conference feature quarantined regular-season games. The top two teams from the conference would face off in a knock-out eliminator to determine who qualifies to play against other conference champions.
Then it is straight to business. Private planes and buses would ensure safe passage to championship venues.
1. Qualifying final 1: winner of Reds conference versus winner of Rebels conference.
2. Qualifying final 2: winner of Brumbies conference versus winner of Waratahs conference (these conferences are within driving distance).
3. Grand final: Winner of qualifying final 1 versus winner of qualifying final 2.
Getting it off the ground will be monumental challenge. That said, a willingness from the often-warring stakeholders and power brokers to turn crisis into opportunity could be just the tonic Australian rugby needs. Fox Sports should see the value in club content, rather than no content.
Where do you stand: give Super Club Rugby a crack? Or are there any other options people see out there?