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'Oh, what a tangled web': The need to unravel the rugby centralisation conundrum Down Under

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Roar Rookie
18th November, 2023
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The rugby world down under is spinning like a Shane Warne leg-break.

The big news? Six member unions, including the heavyweights Queensland, ACT, and Western Australia, have thrown a curveball, demanding Hamish McLennan’s resignation faster than you can say “rugby scrum.”

Now, I have had my fair share of footy dramas, but this one has got more twists than a Quade Cooper sidestep.

The unions kick things off with a classic lawyer-esque double shuffle, saying: “This request is not about opposition to Rugby Australia’s centralisation proposals – we remain committed to supporting high-performance alignment”.

Oh, what a tangled web we weave.

High-performance alignment? Sounds like a diplomatic way of saying, “Yeah, we’re not thrilled about centralisation, but let’s keep it on the down-low”.

But then, just a hop, skip, and a jump later, the truth spills out like beer at a post-match celebration – “To date, despite months of media speculation and commentary from Rugby Australia, the Board and executive have brought us no substantive strategy or any outline of how centralisation would work.”

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But fear not footy fans, because I have got a remedy for all this confusion. If we are going to stir the pot, let us do it right. If the member unions want a substantive strategy and an outline, then we will give it to them.

How about we start by clearly laying out the benefits of a centralised model – think streamlined development, a united front, and a rugby powerhouse on the global stage.

And do not just take my word for it; look across the ditch at the mighty All Blacks and over the pond at Ireland – both rocking a centralised model.

Australia and England, on the other hand, not so much. It is like trying to win a game with one hand tied behind your back – not ideal.

Last month World Cup semi-finalist England got smart; they are moving to a centralised model. Now, we have to steer our ship back on course. None of that lawyer talk, just straight-shooting footy wisdom.

For the best interests of the game, prior to any meetings, the six unions should quit being tricky and propose a united strategy and outline for centralisation.

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Queensland Rugby Union CEO David Hanham. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

I propose CEOs sit this one out and simply put four men in a room: Stephen Larkham (ACT, Munster), Michael Cheika (Waratah’s, Leinster, International Coach), Eddie Jones (Brumbies, International Coach), and Brad Thorn (Reds, All Blacks legend).

Between them, they know what it takes to win; they have multiple World Cup Trophies, Super Rugby championships, and most importantly detailed insights into not just the Australian system but also successful centralised models in Ireland and New Zealand. Add to that also coaching knowledge from France, England, South Africa, and Japan.

Hold on – I have just had an epiphany. Maybe this is the problem; our best coaches end up improving the quality of our international opponents!

For mine, I want to see entertaining rugby, the players’ welfare looked after, the Wallabies winning, and our powerhouse regions being competitive and not being diluted.

I do not want to see Queensland, New South Wales, and ACT suffer at the expense of propping up Rebels and Force.

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At the end of each season, the first picks for locals born/bred in Queensland go to the Reds. For the ACT, it is all about the Brumbies. Likewise NSW and the Waratahs.

Like backyard footy – you stick with your mates, your team, and your roots. No dodgy footwork here, just a fair go for every state.

Further, no pork barrelling the Waratahs team at the expense of Queensland and ACT.

Israel Folau played for Waratahs. Why not ACT, or the Reds? This is the type of detail that needs to be resolved in the centralisation model. Who chooses where the gun players go – and what does the system look like?

Streamlined development means nurturing talent from the grassroots up, creating a conveyor belt of top-notch players. It is about not burning out the players. Ireland’s IRFU controls when players rest and play. Player welfare needs to be key.

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A united front means every state and territory standing together, singing from the same rugby hymn sheet.

As for a rugby powerhouse on the global stage? Well, that is a no-brainer – it is about time we reclaim our spot among the world’s rugby elite.

So, there you have it, footy fans. Aussie rugby deserves a game plan that is as strong and true as a Bledisloe battle. Cheers to keeping the footy fires burning, the Aussie way!

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