It is beyond belief that SANZAAR can schedule this week’s round of the Rugby Championship on a Saturday. They must have known that doing so would in all probability conflict with the AFL grand final and one of the most important matches in the final series of the NRL.
Yes, I appreciate that to schedule anything during COVID is not easy, but the NRL and the AFL have for the large part defied expectations and shown great dexterity, pragmatism and common sense to successfully offer a full and regular diet of entertainment throughout the winter lockdown. Unlike Rugby Australia, they seem to be cognisant of the fact that in the world of entertainment a product not seen is soon forgotten.
What has Rugby Australia given us by contrast? Well, it is more a case of what they haven’t given us. Leaving aside the last two weeks of the Rugby Championship, they’ve delivered the rugby community and the broader Australian sporting public four domestic professional games. That’s it! Can you believe it?
You can count the games on one hand: three Tests against the French and one that was controversially rescheduled, admittedly through no fault of their own, against the All Blacks in Perth. That’s it.
Four international Test matches and no first-class games played in Australia throughout the heart of winter. This, when compared to all other major sporting codes, is a disgrace and a dereliction of duty.
I don’t subscribe to Stan to watch the Wallabies win; I want to be entertained, and Australian rugby for large slabs of this season has failed to engage. Sure, they have a duty of care to contracted players, but Michael Hooper and Samu Kerevi are not the only ones with a contract to Australian rugby – so too to does the paying public. I pay my hard-earnt cash to subscribe to Stan and I want to be entertained for doing so, not just so the Wallabies can win a couple of marque Test matches. It’s Rugby Australia’s responsibility to manage and balance player welfare with supporter expectations, and at the moment it’s favouring one at the expense of the other.
How can anyone follow a sport like rugby when it’s scheduled as it is? Even the Olympics against all odds managed to offer up more rugby than Rugby Australia did this winter. How does Stan hope to attract subscribers to its streaming service if that is all the domestic product that Rugby Australia is capable or prepared to supply?
Now, to add insult to injury, SANZAAR has scheduled a crucial round of the Rugby Championship that features the 100th Springboks-All Blacks Test match and a rejuvenated Wallabies side not on Sunday, as would seem logical, but on Saturday and in direct conflict with the AFL grand final and NRL finals.
It goes without saying that it has to be against rugby’s interests to go directly up against the two biggest winter sporting codes in the country. Are they stupid? Surely, they are not arguing that for player welfare a six-day turnaround is not sufficient. There are enough players in a regular rugby squad these days to populate a small island nation. Perhaps Townsville’s Country Bank Stadium is booked and they have the national rodeo championships on Sunday. Let’s face it: there’s probably been more top-level rodeo than rugby over the last three months in this country.
Rugby’s administrators would do well to spend a little more effort getting their house in order, because frankly, at the moment it looks as though it’s being run like they’ve forgotten the game’s turned professional.