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Opinion

Are Australian rugby's administrators courageous enough?

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Roar Guru
18th August, 2021
42

I’m a football fan with a soft spot for rugby via the Woodies, as I used to live near TG Millner Field.

Geoff Parkes’ recent article about what’s wrong with rugby got me thinking about rugby’s systems and structures.

Rugby is a game that takes an enormous amount of courage to play, especially in the forwards and the front row, folk have a special kind of courage, and hooker – wow, what can you say?

Rugby is also a very tactical game with many different plays, and even within a game, the pattern of play can vary depending on if you are winning or losing and the margin involved.

The courage to take the ball into a ruck and know you are at the bottom with the ruck above you – with feet, shoulders, legs and arms all around you is not for most.

Rugby administrators and writers laud the courage of players, teams, the spirit within the team etc.

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But do those who run rugby, even former players, have similar courage to the players and the game they have stewardship over? Specifically, Australian administrators.

Part of the answer pertaining to RA admins, is who they try to please, who they dip their cap to.

RA’s focus of reporting is to their various stakeholders and related groups.

What’s interesting to me is many of the stakeholders RA need to bend the knee to have different desired outcomes. Further, the fan, the pleb, who goes to matches and watches on screens is not a stakeholder. The fan is more often an afterthought.

Fans show support during the International Test Match between the Australian Wallabies and Franc

(Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

The structure RA have means decision-making is meant to please other stakeholders’ groups.

It’s difficult to think of any successful sport or code that does not put the fan of the code as its primary focus.

The accepted way the world does put the fan first is via domestic competitions. Followed by, if the code is big enough, Champions League-type international tournaments after the conclusion of the domestic season.

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It’s the obvious way for rugby to move forward and expand in Australia.

Yet in Australia, RA kicked out the Western Force, then had to let them back in recently. Recently, I believe Penrith has been kicked out. Inspired by a callous rugby fan post, I read How to Shrink to Greatness.

The pressure on RA from its various stakeholders is, I assume, intense.

But for rugby to survive in Australia it needs to become fan-focused, or in business terms, client/customer-focused.

To make the break and take on the stakeholders will require courage and tactical awareness.

The question is: does the RA board have the courage of its players to take the challenge on?

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The jump from what exists now and having a fully-functioning domestic competition – even if it all runs smoothly – will take at least three years.

I read somewhere that Japanese and US teams look like being invited. If true, I am gobsmacked.

I will keep an eye on rugby and hope it gets its act together, but unless structural change is made to operating systems, I fear over the next ten years rugby will experience decline, not growth.

In closing, does the RA board have the courage to challenge its stakeholders?

Time will tell.

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