The best-of-three Bledisloe Cup format has never produced a grand finale blockbuster. Not once.
Here’s the full list of years the format has failed to deliver a Bledisloe blockbuster since the best of three format’s introduction in 2005.
2009 (four Tests, two dead rubbers)
After 17 years of dead rubbers, the format has clearly failed. The Bledisloe Cup is a Groundhog Day tournament in desperate need of a reset.
What is the point of playing three Bledisloe Tests?
Well, the best-of-three makes the Cup harder for Australia to win compared with a one-off test. It keeps the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand hands. That’s what the primary purpose is.
It’s also traditional for Australia to win the dead rubber. That’s the occasional win that keeps us addicted, like a punch-drunk tormented gambler who can’t stop playing the pokies. But an occasional win does not justify 19 years of losses.
The Kiwis snuck in this format change by claiming the new Rugby Championship didn’t need the credibility of association with the Bledisloe to get started. That might have been true at the time, but it’s not true now. Australian rugby’s fascination with the Bledisloe Cup is actually damaging the southern hemisphere’s premium rugby tournament, featuring the world champion and number-one ranked Springboks, which is about to kick-off in Queensland.
Even now, with the BC safely in NZ’s hands – still – the media are promoting Sunday’s ‘traditional dead rubber’ in Perth at the expense of magnifying the media profile of The Rugby Championship. This just doesn’t make sense.
But back to the Bledisloe. I have a solution.
Here are three great reasons why the Bledisloe should become an annual single winner-takes-all Test match. A Bledisloe blockbuster while the other two Wallaby Tests against New Zealand stand alone in the RC (preserving the three Tests against New Zealand that are allegedly required to earn income).
1. A winner-takes-all Test guarantees a Bledisloe blockbuster final every single year without fail – something the current format has never done once. Great for TV ratings.
2. The Wallabies will only have to beat New Zealand once, instead of twice, to lift the cup.
3. If the first Tests determined the winner, since 2005 the Wallabies win the Bledisloe Cup in 2007, ’08, ’15, ’19 and hold on to the cup in 2020 following the draw in Wellington.
That’s an undeniable tournament format enhancement – at no additional cost.
It’s time to say yes to an annual Bledisloe blockbuster.
You might ask why the best-of-three format has gone on so many years, and why no one has thought to make improvements to the tournament format since 2005.
In understanding why nothing has happened, you’ll be one step closer to understanding the challenging conservative mindset that exists in Australian rugby and rugby union administration in general, and the challenge facing Hamish McLennan to shift it.
Naysayers are everywhere in our game.
Winning the Bledisloe Cup begins with negotiations in the boardroom. RA must win the boardroom battles with NZR in order to give our Wallabies a fair chance of collecting the chocolates on the field.
Are our negotiators up to it?
World Rugby mens’ top ten rankings (2 Sept 2021)
1. South Africa
2. Aotearoa Oil Blacks
Earlier this season when the Wallabies played a three-Test series against France, a team closer to Australia on the rankings, a third Test blockbuster was instantly generated delivering a TV ratings bonanza.
There’s a clue in that.
We should be finding ways to increase the frequency of competition against unions closer to us on the rankings.
Note: Japan is closer to Australia in the world rankings than New Zealand is. Japan is in our time zone. It has the third-largest economy in the world and a 126 million potential TV audience. It also makes no sense for NZ, rank two, to play more Tests against Japan, rank 10, because the gap is just too big at present. New Zealand should be playing more Tests against South Africa, England and Ireland, but Australia?
Why wouldn’t we play an annual best-of-three Test series against Japan?