What an interesting week for rugby in Australia.
After naming a solid squad for the Test series against England, followed by an awesome development team for Australia A in the Pacific Nations, Rugby Australia chose to throw a grenade.
Rugby Australia might go it alone?
Is that for real?
Firstly, I’m a huge believer in the newly formatted Super Rugby Pacific and am also about growing the game in Australia.
The key issue Rugby Australia has is that there is no regular Australian champion.
This is in stark contrast to NRL, AFL and the A-League.
It’s quite a strange situation.
All other codes have a fantastic crescendo, when Australian rugby does not, unless a team makes the final, first and foremost, and then win it, for the full accolades.
If the Brumbies made the final this week, there would’ve been a significant increase in media coverage for the code, but they didn’t and it wasn’t covered.
It’s simple, really: if they made it, almost 400,000-500,000 extra viewers would watch, so the broadcaster loses out.
That’s a significant drop in numbers for Stan and Nine.
Now let’s flip this.
Purely from a developmental perspective, clearly the Aussie teams require regular engagement from our brothers across the ditch.
Looking at the improvement from Australian franchises in one year is significant.
The Kiwi audiences embraced it rather than panning our teams and most games were level pegging.
In terms of the threat from Rugby Australia, I certainly understand and despite most pundits saying there is a lack of depth to expand, I disagree.
Funding is the issue.
In order for Australia to have a national competition, it has to be able to field a minimum of eight teams.
Perhaps the current five, plus an additional side from NSW and Queensland – I’m unsure of the other – with a two-round round robin.
Will this create greater exposure in Australia? Maybe.
You could at least crown an Australian champion and have some fanfare around the event.
But the exposure against the best is not there.
This is where a Pacific Super Rugby could be initiated.
The top five teams from Australia, NZ and Japan could play a knockout comp, with the bottom teams playing for a plate, with the addition of Pasifika and Drua (or include in each conference for Australia and NZ in the first place to ensure an even 16 teams).
Seedings of the top six could transpire with the others determined by their standings.
16 teams – week one
8 teams – week two
4 teams – week three
2 teams – week four
Could this work? It works for European football and rugby, so why not in the Pacific?
It would create terrific content and, in regards to the depth, TV revenue would increase and our brethren across the ditch get what they need.
If you build it they will come.
I think there is a bluff here from RA, but I also see opportunity for something different.
New Zealand and Australian rugby definitely need each other, but there has to be self-interest.
Crown an NZ champion.
Crown an Aussie champion.
Crown a Japanese champion.
Play out for Pacific supremacy.
All parties win.