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Rob9

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Joined September 2011

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Roar Guru
Roar Guru

What the west needs now

Covid has brought so many sectors of society to their knees over the last three or four months. Professional sport has been at the forefront of these losses with its inflated overheads driven by the ongoing quest for success.

Roar Guru
Roar Guru

Dissecting another Wallabies loss

Well, another Test and another loss for the 2013 Wallabies (sigh). Being the last match of the southern hemisphere’s Test season I feel compelled to put my thoughts down about our most recent failure to cleanse myself before we try our luck up north.

Point is RA wasn’t gaining much out of having NPC to show on Fox. Again, vast majority of Australians that aren’t part of the rugby community wouldn’t know that the NPC is a thing. A few might learn while channel surfing but the NPC never was and never is going to be the gateway to getting non-rugby Australian’s into the game.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

‘ I can tell you from personal experience that Australian NRL fans were taking notice of the NZ NPC games shown on Fox.’

I can tell you from personal experience that 95% of Australian (non-rugby) NRL fans wouldn’t know what the NPC is.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

All your examples are at the international level. They have the sort of pull where two ‘away teams’ can still draw a decent crowd.

I don’t think a 24 (or 16) team club-based tournament is going to have the same aura. These teams are better off playing home and away on a weekly basis as they did-so for Super Rugby. As well as the ‘engagement-fatigue’ for the host country, it would also serve be beneficial to maximise engagement for each club if they played games at home.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

Rugby in a post-aBokalypic world

This was my idea for test rugby without the Boks.

Even if SA do remain in SANZAAR; I think The RC should be confined to even-years only, can it in odd-years (drop the farce that it is in a RWC year) and run some sort of tournament in the odd-year between RWC that includes the PI’s.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

If SA pull out of the RC then we’ve certainly got to look at those sort of options.

Keen to engage the PI’s more on international on the international scene.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

I know Jacko. My ideal scenario doesn’t involve them (at least those teams in that capacity) but that’s a whole other issue.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

Thanks LG,

Ok, ‘need’ might not be the best way to frame it. As you say and I do agree, the Aus-only option can produce some positive outcomes that represent a significant improvement on were we’ve been. But I think the potential for a Trans-Tasman model outstrips what’s possible if we were to go it alone. That is when taking into account the potential revenue under each model and their associated costs. For example, I think we would need a minimum of 6 teams in an Australian-based competition to keep fans engaged (minimum of 3 games per weekend and 10 games per season for each team). That’s another possible revenue stream but it’s also another mouth to feed at the table.

Adding another team right now is a risk that I believe can produce fruits in the long term; but the environment isn’t one that’s favourable for taking risks in at the moment. We’ve got our 5, let’s align with NZ’s 5 and build something that has the best chance of closing the gap on what’s available in the Northern Hemisphere. Aus-only can close that gap, but I don’t believe to the same degree as partnering with NZ.

You also can’t compare pre-covid Super Rugby to a purely Trans Tasman model. TT removes everything that was bad about the global Frankenstein that SR was.

In terms of a Champions-League concept, I wouldn’t have it as round robin (only 5 games with those in your pool) and I don’t think it being hosted in the one country would work. You would have to condense it when there wouldn’t be a need to. 8 weeks would mean a game a week and with smart scheduling, it’s very achievable for teams to play games at home which would be important for revenue and fan engagement.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

I think we just need to take a collective deep breath and re-adjust our expectations and the understanding of our needs a little bit.

In the fog of covid, Super Rugby, SRAU, SRA etc.- there’s the potential to carve out a productive way forward with our NZ partners who we must leverage as a significant rugby stakeholder that’s geographically and culturally similar. We just need to understand 2 things:

1. Our combined population is 31 million. We’re competing for our players with European powerhouses that represent a market size in excess of 130 million people. It not only makes sense to hitch our wagons together, it’s almost a ‘must’.

2. We’re partnering with an (on-field) rugby powerhouse (which is advantageous in itself) and let’s celebrate 1 or 2 of our teams mixing it with their best 2 or 3 instead of using it as a trigger to run to panic stations. We can structure a ‘league’ where we play our own teams twice which presents an opportunity to play some of those exciting ‘derbies’, then expose ourselves to the NZ teams with 1 game against each of their sides. This is a 13 round competition with 8 games against Australian teams and 5 against the kiwis. If we were to use the SRAU and SRA tables as a starting point, plus the 1 round of SRTT that’s in the books then predicting the remaining 4 rounds- such a competition table could look like the following (just using 2 points for wins and taking away bonus points for this exercise):

Crusaders 22 (5 wins vs AUS)
Chiefs 20 (5 wins vs AUS)
Brumbies 18 (3 wins vs NZ)
Reds 18 (2 wins vs NZ)
Blues 16 (4 wins vs AUS)
Highlanders 12 (3 wins vs AUS)
Hurricanes 10 (2 wins vs AUS)
Force 10 (1 win vs NZ)
Rebels 6 (0 wins vs NZ)
Waratahs (0 wins vs NZ)

Obviously a bit of crystal-ball gazing here, but structuring the competition in such a way still gets 2 of our teams in the top 4 (give or take with BP’s). Our tail is good bit chunkier than theirs, but there’s still 4 games that our lower teams play amongst each other that they’ll all fancy themselves in and I’m sure the Rebels and Force will be eyeing off their games against the Canes and Highlanders as their chance to get one over the Kiwis, not to mention push the Reds and Brumbies in their encounters (as the Force certainly did most of the time).

So there’s still plenty of opportunity to build-up encounters and produce exciting spectacles although there are two pretty clear halves in the competition. And no doubt the strongest and weakest teams in Australia is a cyclical phenomenon too. Of course the Tahs will peel themselves off the canvas overtime and with Twiggy’s support, hopefully the Force can continue to drag in some OS talent to strengthen their team and raise their prospects.

As well as such a 10-team Trans Tasman league, ideally we add on a ‘Champions-League’ style tournament later in the year too (possibly between TRC and EOYT). It would be perfect if SA decided to go it alone with the 6 teams that they pushed so hard for, while rebirthing the Jaguares for a 7-team competition. Link up with them plus the best 7 teams from the new Japanese Top League for a 24-team ‘Indian Pacific Championship’. 4 pools of 6 teams with the top 2 from each groups progressing to the Quarter Finals. It presents another 8 weeks of rugby on top of the domestic league, some important Japanese yen thrown into the mix and another (at least) 5 games of rugby for our tail where they’ll fancy their chances in potentially 3 of those encounters.

Australian rugby's new pyramid (scheme)

It’s really funny how you can’t distinguish between those two apple and paint brush scenarios. I won’t tell you what that’s called as it might be a bit confronting for you.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Yea it hasn’t really sold me. There’s only the commercial aspect- which as you suggest in terms of crowds; is pretty indifferent when compared to a normal round of football. May be the contract the League signs with the QLD government is the kicker?

I think double-headers have a place somewhere, but when teams like the Warriors (I see the sense this year), Storm and Titans are taking home games away from their fans- I think Magic Round really misses the mark. Throw in the fact that the field looks like a cow paddock by Sunday arvo too.

Magic Round? What's the point?

Not a bad structure for a 20-team comp (although I’d take out NZ2 and Adelaide and replace with the Sunshine Coast and Central Coast)- but what exactly do you think the difference is between conferences and divisions? There’s more divisions than conferences?

Your shutdown of the NRL conference model is really based on a definitive finals structure, but there were a couple of options presented. It wasn’t necessarily all about keeping the teams in their conference through until Grand Final day. An option was presented where there would be inter-conference play in the finals and 2 teams from inside or outside Sydney could still potentially meet in the GF. I’d have the top 2 from each conference occupying positions 1 to 4 in the finals (eg. Sydney 1 v Non Sydney 2 etc) and then take through the next 4 regardless of conference to fill up spots 5 to 8.

Still, I like the idea for a 20 team comp. I just think you’ll be waiting a while to get there and the NRL’s conference idea is a decent one in the interim.

Why divisions, not conferences, are better for the NRL

‘In Australia you’re simply not going to convert many AFL or NRL fans. It’s not in their culture or that of their friends and family.’

Not sure how familiar you are with the fan landscape here JD. Speaking as a NSWelshmen living in QLD where League is the top dog, I’ll throw some very rough numbers at you;

I’d say 10 to 20% of league fans fall into my category- genuine fans of both codes. Watch on TV, go to games and follow their SR team and the Wallabies in rugby and their NRL club and state in league.

Then around 30 to 40% are league fans with a casual to moderate interest in rugby. A lot of this group played rugby between league games which was their gateway and they liked it. They’ll watch Wallaby games and have an idea how their Super teams traveling. They’ll go to a game on a free ticket or if a ‘rugby friends’ keen to go and as the ‘bandwagon group’, their interest will peak if their Super team runs into form. As rugby league has gone ahead in leaps and bounds since Super League and rugby’s equivalent tier (Super Rugby) tried to take over the world (instead of Australia) and sat behind a paywall- this group has gone more and more quiet.

Then there’s that 40 to 50% that we’ll never crack and that’s ok. In addition to that 10 to 20% of league fans who are also passionate rugby fans, there’s an even larger chunk that are very open to engaging with the game if the right product is put in front of them. That quiet mob have shown themselves in the past- the Reds were outperforming the Broncos in attendances during their more successful years.

We have the potential to share half of rugby league’s fan base with them and if the right concept can unlock that (which Super Rugby was so clearly not), rugby will be riding a wave of success in Australia once more.

Half of league’s fan base may not sound like a lot but we’re a state with a larger population than New Zealand. There’s another state in a similar boat that’s even larger just south of here. Throw in some minor traction in the AFL states and the possible (and realistic) growth from where we are will be anything but marginal.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Not to mention the fact that the QLD Cup, VFL etc. aren’t national or professional, have minimal overheads and are not money making machines.

SR is professional and with multiple teams across each nation, it’s the tier that takes the elite game to fans. It’s this tier where an opportunity exists to engage with a mass fanbase to generate a sustainable (and substantial) stream of revenue. That’s not what the QLD Cup or VFL are about.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

I’m not suggest SuperSport would throw big money at a competition that doesn’t include SA teams. But it’s fair to assume that a quality concept, that’s treated as a premium domestic offering and isn’t shackled by SA involvement will be able to draw out greater interest from local broadcasters. That might not be the case initially given where we’re coming from but it certainly represents a landscape that’s conducive to unbridled growth.

There’s independent tiers in sport and then there’s feeder tiers. The Intrust Super Cup is a legitimate feeder tier for the NRL. At the other end, of course QLD and NSW pick their teams from the NRL but these 16 clubs operate independently of their programs. And there’s certainly no input or influence from the Kangaroos coach into how NSW and QLD should be picked and play. Do you really think the EPL operates as a feeder league for England Football? Of course there are things such as international windows and training camps etc but if whoever the England Football coach is told Jose Mourinho how he wanted Harry Kane to play, I wouldn’t have expected Jose to say very nice things in return.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

We all know what angle you’re coming from… but unfortunately you continue to misinterpret points.

Again (for the twelfth time I think we’re up to), nobody is denying NZ the right to make their own decisions in regards to what’s best for them. And nobody is suggesting that Australia rely wholeheartedly on NZ to turn our prospects around. Your tone in regards to the expectations around how partners engage is an interesting insight into the NZ psyche where may be being one of the most isolated countries on the planet has infused an extremely siloed approach to your thinking. But going to a partner and saying, ‘hey, how about this’ and ‘we know this has been an important aspect of your system, but these are some benefits you might want to consider’. Things such as; NZ players having greater access to professional contracts while still playing under the nose of the NZR and against NZ teams. And an engaging competition that’s more evened out with fewer ‘gimme’ games.

As you’re such a big NRL fan you’d know that much of the current discussion around the game has centred on the gap between the head and the tail of the competition. Never in the NRL-era has that gap been as pronounced as it is currently and it’s turning fans off. The NRL used to place great value on the fact that despite having your ‘favourites’, any team could beat any other on any given day. Those days aren’t with us anymore and it’s not a good thing for the league. Wouldn’t this be something worth trying to capture for domestic rugby? Don’t answer that because I fully comprehend the fact that the NZR has other priorities, but it’s certainly an argument for free player movement and an outcome that benefits NZ rugby, although I appreciate what it withdraws may have more perceived value for NZ.

As a sport fan in 2021, I have absolutely no problem where the makeup of the teams I support come from. Until 2016 I was a long suffering fan of the Cronulla Sutherland Sharks and until now it never crossed my mind that our 17 in the GF against the Storm included Gerard Beale, Sosaia Feki and Sam Tagataese- 3 kiwi representatives. That still doesn’t concern me one iota.

While Super Rugby hasn’t been the cash cow that test rugby has, it certainly has turned a profit. That’s primarily due to the contributions made by SA broadcasters. That’s been a double-edge sword as SA involvement and a competition that’s played across the bottom half of the globe is one of the more significant aspects that’s held domestic rugby back from reaching its potential in Australia.

One things for sure; while this tier is viewed as a ‘feeder’ in the eyes of fans, the funding it’s able to capture will reflect this.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Yea I think a lot of us are holding out hope that the gap isn’t as pronounced as it was back in the days of the 40-odd NZ winning streak. I think we’re in line for a bit of reality check but hopefully not a dramatic thud back down to earth.

That’s it; it’s all well and good when you’ve got a golden goose at the pointy end of your program that doesn’t know how to lose. Although they’ve done their best to prove this wrong over the last 15 years- you can’t rely on being gifted that forever. Especially given the growth of the sport around the globe and may be we’re seeing some of the first few wobbles that start to pull the AB’s back to the pack (although I’m sure they’ll always remain close to the head).

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

“Geez even the best AFL player is a Kiwi!”

And doesn’t that statement just speak volumes about where you’re coming from… (hand on forehead emoji which isn’t an option on the roar)

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

If Australia wants to get traction on our landscape and start to push the sport in a positive direction once more (something you’ve rightly been critical of RA for), then we have to focus our attention on our 2nd tier and domestic footprint. Some success in that space with the recent Super Rugby AU season is what’s put a spring back in the step of the game once more. Still a long way to go but we’ve peeled ourselves off the canvas on the back of this. By no means do I suggest we follow the NRL/AFL model to the tee and that this has the potential to match or emulate what they’ve achieved. But a more domestic orientated approach is what’s needed here to continue to grow. That’s why RA was desperate to break away from those geographically and culturally distant partners and why they were non-negotiable when the heat was being applied to outcast the Force once more.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Yep- nit-pick and it’s not ‘best of the best’. But it’s not ‘some of the best vs some of the best’ either. It’s always been almost all of the best and nobody really cares (at least in QLD and NSW where rugby league is followed passionately) that there’s a handful of international players that miss out.

I don’t care how long you’ve been here. If you think messing with this winning formula and a rivalry that’s up there with the biggest of them in world sport is what’s in the best interests of the concept- then you have not got the foggiest idea about what makes origin… origin.

What a throw-away line… ‘put it to the test’. We know that’s not going to happen. Who else would be a shoo-in to crack either squad? The Kangaroos may lose to the Kiwis and Tongans from time to time- it’s sport and there’s no such thing as a for drawn conclusion. But you pull out the best 34 rugby league players in the world and (to use that term again) the overwhelming majority of them (but not all) are Australian.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

You’re treating RA and NZR as if they’re in silos and not working together for a common good as proficient entities in any partnership should.

I’ve been crystal clear about this; I don’t expect the NZR would change their thinking in this regard. It was a theme in my original comment. And that’s their right to hold that line. It’s also RA’s right to breach the topic with the NZR as an active partner and put a case forward to them in the hope that they might change their mind (as unlikely as that may be). I’m not sure how familiar you are with partnerships and/or negotiations but this sort of stuff sits neatly underneath these spaces and it’s not breaking any rules or being unreasonable to operate in this fashion.

The issue for RA and the NZR is that they are small fish in a pond where some of the big fish are getting fatter. These large fish are growing on the back of their domestic structures. It’s also these domestic structures that engage and take the elite game to the public on a consistent basis. It’s a vital cog in the growth and sustainable success of the game. While there’s little doubt that test rugby is the cash cow in Australia and NZ, our unions have to work out ways to draw more out of the next tier down if they want to stay in touch with the big fish (which should be a priority).

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Yep, my bad. I put an extra ‘it’ after ‘and’. Apologies.

While I don’t profess to understand the intricacies of NZ sporting histories and traditions- if you think messing with SOO in this way is a good idea then it’s very clear that you don’t understand Australia’s.

Consistently sold-out stadiums and an unprecedented TV audience don’t suggest it’s fake at all. I agree, it may not be purely the ‘best of the best’- but it’s bloody close and it’s not meant to be. It’s about pitting the 2 states (and deep-seeded rivals) that produce all of Australia’s rugby league talent against each other. And while there might be a sprinkling of talent that might crack the best 34 in the country (RTS, NAS a certain kiwi-born/Australian-schooled Tongan and a pom or 2), you couldn’t say there are many gaps in most of the squads that these 2 states put forward.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Jacko, (surprisingly) I’m not arguing with any of that- well it’s not necessarily to only ‘lure back talent’, but that’s beside the point.

Are Queensland and Australian rugby dropping the ball? 100%! Thankfully, there’s early signs that suggest that tide is changing. But for things to get so bad that a school with a half-decent rugby program feels that un-supported that they partner with an NZ Super rugby side is atrocious!

The only point from your response that I challenge is your second paragraph. I appreciate that the NZR is simply enforcing the same (or similar) policies that RA does; but I don’t believe anyone would suggest that we should have access to NZ players without NZ having access to ours. So long as they remain available for our respective national teams- I don’t think RA should or would make such a request. I’ve seen plenty of calls from Australian fans for ‘free player movement’, not one for ‘one-way player movement’.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Tamou’s not at all who I’m referring too. I’m referring to Staggs, Fifita, Pangai Jnr, Tupou, Hopoate, Jennings, Luai, etc. All born and bred in Australia. All represented (or set to represent) NSW. All played (or playing) for a PI outfits. That’s all ok, but I’d suggest that Australia born and bred talent, or even just Australian bred talent (moving before high school) is just that- Australian talent. Just because they weren’t picked for an origin side or decided to enact the heritage rule and change their allegiance doesn’t change that fact.

Not all hype- the number 1 side in the world didn’t beat Australia last time they played. BS! The number one side has beaten Australia once in their last 7 outings and that 1 win wasn’t their last game. Take a look through the number one side’s list and there’s really only 2 players that would get a run in either SOO side- RTS and NAS.

Australia is a multicultural country Jacko. Almost 30% of us weren’t born here which suggests there’s going to be a contingent of OS-born players. This would also suggest that there should be almost 5 teams worth of OS born players and if you were to take the Warriors out of the equation, I don’t think you’d hit that mark. But it also suggests that even more of us who were born and grew up here will have parents and grandparents that were born OS. While that might mean that there’s a significant contingent who can represent other countries, it doesn’t make them ‘not-Australian’.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

Look, I’ve got no idea whether an official request from RA has ever been made. May be that would be the starting point. But to expect it starts with them taking the plunge first with no indication of whether or not the NZR would follow would be outright absurd.

I do see what NRL scouts do. I see what they do to Australian rugby too. I’m involved in the schoolboy representative pathway in Queensland and I also see what NZ rugby interests do here too. Are you aware that there is a school on the Gold Coast (that has produced Queensland and Australian schoolboys) that has a partnership with a New Zealand Super team? That’s an incredible blight on Queensland and Australian rugby to allow that to happen, but it’s clear that New Zealand rugby interests are by no means confined to their own backyard either.

NZ’s population is small compared to Australia. But it’s not as small compared to our rugby playing states that produce almost all of our rugby talent. Factor in the number of serious players on our landscape that are putting themselves forward as options for our athletically gifted students to pursue, and it’s not a reality to expect Australian rugby to be this machine churning out a plethora of world class rugby talent.

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way

For tribalism, something along those lines would sure be something!

It might be spreading things (finances in particular) a bit too thin. It’s also not in line with the current strategy, but if the NPC was elevated to the tier under the AB’s, may be the season could be plumped up a bit to ensure everyone plays each other at least once.

If NZ dropped to 12 (may be strike Counties and Southland off) and a 2nd Sydney team was included (split Sydney north and south of the harbour), that would leave us with 12 NZ teams and 6 Aus teams for 3 conferences of 6 (NZ North, NZ South and Aus). Play each other once then teams in the same conference a 2nd time for a 22 game season before an 8-team finals series.

Elite rugby accessible to all the significant markets across Australia and NZ, tribalism, history and similar standard across Aus and NZ teams- there could be something in that. I’m not sure about NZ but I’d imagine it would represent a product that would tick a lot of boxes in selling it to the Australian market…. but it still might be a stretch taking our combined professional footprint from 10 to 18 teams… it would be nice to think it’s achievable though!

If we’re going to do a full Trans-Tasman tournament, let’s go all the way