Earlier this year, Australian rugby looked terminal.
The knives were out. The media were piling on. The public laughed as the previous administration scored themselves in the 70s for KPIs.
The game they play in heaven nearly ended up there. The game was hanging by a thread like Stallone’s character in Cliffhanger during the final helicopter fight scene.
We were all haunted by the tragic death of his female co-star character, Sarah, earlier in the movie and we feared RA’s fate would be similar.
Enter stage left Rob Clarke and Hamish McLennan. Just like Stallone, they were able to scramble to safety and achieve the desired outcome.
In this case, they resuscitated the game. The RA administration established a competition. They’ve injected the game with the financial adrenaline of a free-to-air broadcast deal.
They repaired the Anzac friendship to the point where the two bosses are frolicking on the beach together. They watched people tune in to a captivating tri-nations where all three teams put in strong performances.
Narratives were being generated with Australian youth, Michael Cheika’s Argentinian return and Pablo Matera’s Herculean performances.
I’d argue that RA’s achievements far surpassed what Peter V’Landys achieved with rugby league. I ask that with the same passion that the media were hounding rugby, we give them their due praise.
Australia has survived a near fatal challenge. Just like in medicine, survival must not been our sole KPI. Once we have resuscitated a patient, we must consider the quality of life. We still need to see what this new super competition looks like next year.
RA must continue to work with Nine Network to ensure the viewerships climb and in turn sponsors are attracted to our great game.
In a previous article, I made a number of suggestions as to how to improve the rugby spectacle. I was thrilled to see a number of these things implemented.
There have been two things that I’d support to improve the rugby spectacle. Eddie Jones proposed reducing the substitutions available in order to fatigue defences.
Fatigued defences are a ripe hunting ground for attacking rugby.
Secondly, there has been an overdue paradigm shift towards player safety and welfare in all sports. This is a good thing however it concerns me that teams are abusing it.
We are allergic to the stoppages in union and I find it frustrating when players go down like clockwork around the 60-minute mark and the field becomes instantaneously polluted with “high viz” hanger-onners.
It is reminiscent of the Matrix 2 when agent Smith’s come running from everywhere. It seems to take an eternity for this lot to clear off the ground. My Christmas wish for 2021 is for refs to police this better.
Super Rugby is due to start February 19. That isn’t very far away. So often the start of the season creeps up on us and most people aren’t even aware rugby is on.
We must put it on people’s radar. RA must keep up their great work and start to get the word out about the upcoming season. The advertising cycle should kick in mid January. Let’s get people excited about rugby again!