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Opinion

'We can’t sugarcoat this': Bring it in tight, Australian rugby

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Roar Guru
7th September, 2021
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3528 Reads

All right, Australian rugby, grab a jersey, bring it in close, get tight.

Heads up, look each other in the eyes.

There is no escaping we are in a rough patch but we cannot afford to drop our bundle. This is where we show what we are made of.

We can’t sugarcoat this, there are too many of us off doing our own thing and not working together and it’s been going on for way too long.

Sydney rugby union and the six clubs in control, I’m looking at you. RA board, former captains from both sides of the Tweed, CEO of RUPA and the rest of you, don’t snigger, they aren’t Robinson Crusoe.

Here is a statement – we’ll have greater success with all hands working together on any plan than we will with the very best plan and not all working together.

Shelve self-interest. Work together for the overall good of the code.

So, what’s our plan? Our captains, Hamish and Andy (McLennan and Marinos), have signed us up for two seasons of Super Rugby Pacific. That’s done.

Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

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We are also signed up to compete to the Rugby Championship through 2025, that’s done too.

The Rugby World Cup will be here in 2023, which is sooner than we might think.

What do we do working around those three commitments? I say step one is let’s have a look at how we go with the Giteau rule loosened.

The majority of our key players are contracted through to 2023 so let’s look at our key players offshore as we build to the Rugby World Cup.

Super Rugby Pacific teams, there isn’t a lot we can do there apart from work harder to lift our standards.

Premier Rugby? Shift your seasons earlier and run concurrently with the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

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Super AU – bring it back to run after Premier and Super Pacific. Run it concurrently with the Wallabies competing in the Rugby Championship.

Premier players can step up and fill spots in the Super AU teams that are open due to Wallabies commitments and injuries.

Invite the Drua and Moana Pasifika to participate. Even better invite Samoa and Tonga to participate individually, rather than as Pasifika. Hopefully World Rugby will continue to support with funding.

Could we have an Indigenous team and a West Sydney team? That’s a ten-team round robin I’d watch alongside the international season.

Finally, Hamish and Andy, I know you want a big wad of cash to bail the code out of the challenges we face.

Well you need to do a better job of telling us your vision. So far all I see is motherhood statements and an appeal to greed for your constituent unions.

(Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images)

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To those constituent unions, do not accept the bucket of cash just to get more funding. The sale of revenue will not be easily reversed. Private equity gaining a stake in the code nationally is not the only answer.

I’m not saying private equity is wrong, I’m just saying we haven’t heard what we’ll do with the money we receive that makes it worth letting them in.

If we had to stop having professional rugby in Australia for a period while we tighten our belts and pay back loans, that isn’t the end of the world.

Wasting a big bucket of cash and then having a perpetual drain on revenue could be.

So, that is:
• A two-year Giteau experiment
• Premier Rugby shifting earlier
• Super AU with new teams, in a new window
• Make a compelling argument for private equity or shelve it

Anything else? Constitutional reform and streamlining of administration looms as an obvious one but I wouldn’t know where to start and I think that needs its own article.

Re-implementing the national coaching strategy feels like another that should be achievable.

Anything not doable above? What else should we be looking at?

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