Getting more from the NRC - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

Getting more from the NRC

Getting more from the NRC

The NRC is a wonderful product. It is fast, exciting, innovative and is gaining the support of both players and fans year on year. The NRC is gaining traction and momentum, it is time to take it to the next level.

The NRC represents opportunity. Opportunity for club players to step up and mix it with more seasoned professionals in the hope of becoming one themselves. Opportunity for fringe Wallabies to keep playing and showcasing themselves at a high level when the main squad is on international duty. Opportunity for coaches and backroom staff to prove themselves at a higher level. But mostly, the NRC is an opportunity for rugby in Australia to showcase itself to the wider public. To open up new, non-traditional markets and to win over fair-weather or occasional fans and rust them on to our great game. I say, let’s maximise the opportunity of the NRC, here are a few suggestions for how.

Extension:

Playing a single home/away round robin is simply not enough. As soon as the season gets underway, it is finished. This makes it almost impossible to build into a season and engage fans across all teams. Using Melbournes season this year as an example, three loses in a row to start the year and their season was done. Where is the incentive for fans to keep showing up after that? Competitions like the AFL and NBL do this a lot better, keep as many teams chances alive for as long as possible into the season to keep hope’s alive. This is much easier to achieve with a longer season. If there were 21 rounds (3 x round robin, ala the A-League) instead of 7, then a slow start becomes far less consequential. This would give teams and fans time to build into a season, ready to peak when finals come around.

Isaac Lucas

Give us more of these young stars!

Promotion:

The promotion of the NRC up until now has been underwhelming to say the least, it is like a black hole, nothing gets out. The clubs themselves and rugby stalwarts have made an effort to garner interest in the competition, and this has worked well as can be shown by the crowd numbers and level of social media activity during games, but this can only reach so far, generally as far as those fans already interested in the competition. Imagine the impact the NRC could have if it were advertised beyond the already committed stalwarts. A concerted push to get these games in front of the eyeballs of casual sports fans who are not already frequent visitors to rugby news sites. Improved broadcasting of matches would also help this immeasurably, free-to-air would be ideal but at least an increase beyond one game a week broadcast live would be helpful, especially if paired with an increase in production quality.

Expansion:

I am tired of the argument that there are not enough quality rugby players in Australia. Shrinking to success is not working, it is slowly strangling Australian rugby as there are less and less opportunities for kids coming through the system. We can strengthen Australian rugby stocks by increasing the opportunities to those coming through the system. We can also bring more quality players through by providing these opportunities outside of the tradition heartlands. Give some kids from Adelaide or Hobart a chance to mix it with the traditional East Coast heartlands and I almost guarantee there will be a bolter or two with a fair chance of breaking into the Wallabies before very long. This can only be good for Australian rugby. My preference would be to focus initially on teams in South Australia and Tasmania to give a more inclusive national footprint, then look to increase the teams in the existing states. This would need to be done gradually and sensibly and hopefully according to a long-term plan (like the AFL expansions) rather than knee-jerk changes from season to season (like the NSW NRC participation to date).

Launceston prop Jack Briggs leads the Tasmanian Under 18 attack against Victorian Schools

Tasmanian Under 18 attack against Victorian Schools

Professionalism:

This would be a key factor in helping the success of any expansion teams. It is not unrealistic to imagine players being willing to relocate to Adelaide or Hobart in the hope of attracting attention of Super clubs, West Australians were making the trip to Sydney for years prior to the Force for example. This becomes an even more attractive proposition for young players if they know they will have a living wage when they get there. A professional NRC could potentially also play a role in keeping players and coaches in Australia or luring them back. An NRC contract would likely not appeal to the cream of our overseas talent, those still sought by the glamour clubs of Europe, but it might prove attractive to the more journeyman type players looking to stay or return closer to home. Rugby knowledge and experience staying or returning to Australia can only be a good thing.

NRCW:

This perhaps is the biggest opportunity of all. The women’s game in Australia currently is woefully underrepresented. Make no mistake, the rise of women’s sport is real and wont be stopping any time soon (hurray!), with the AFLW expanding year on year, the Matildas recently securing equal pay to the Soceroos and other codes increasing the professionalism and appeal of their women’s games, rugby simply needs to step up or it will be left years behind. To call a 5 team National competition adequate is simply unacceptable and runs the risk of driving promising young rugby players away to the much better set-up rival codes like Rugby League or AFL. Where is the appeal of a 5 game (if you make the final), unpaid season against what is on offer elsewhere? I propose that every NRC team is obliged to have an equivalent women’s side and every regular season NRC game becomes a double-header, women’s and men’s. When this is combined with the other NRC changes I flagged earlier, particularly the elongated season and even potentially professionalism for the women as well as the men, then rugby will have an attractive product to entice young athletes deciding which sport to commit to. I would daresay this model would be far more attractive to potential sponsors as well (Buildcorp anyone?).

Lavinia Gould passes Super W Semi Final Queensland v Brumbies 2019 (Photo Credit Brendan Hertel QRU)

Lavinia Gould passes Super W Semi Final Queensland v Brumbies 2019 (Photo Credit Brendan Hertel QRU)

I am sure that a lot of people will dismiss these suggestions as purely pie-in-the-sky aspirations, but what is wrong about being aspirational? It would be a welcome change from the austerity currently being touted. I repeat, shrinking to success is not working, maybe it is time to be a bit more bold. Some of the above suggestions will benefit from a gradual introduction, but some can be done right now and indeed some (improving the offering for women) need to happen right now. The NRC is an opportunity, it can be a great competition that feeds our elite ranks for years to come, but only if we support it now and allow it to grow and prosper.

  • Happyman

    Thanks Brendan

    Great article I would argue for two rounds as I really like my club footy as well. I am a firm believer that guys only get better by playing and playing club and following it up with NRC.

    Your argument about players wanting to play in Australia and us having enough depth is well made. We have plenty of guys playing at NPC in NZ or in other places.

    Money is an issue and the media is definitely not on our side. Not a word about the 7’s qualifying for Tokyo as an example. Personally I would think that RA needs to go all in and pay the ABC, or Channel 10 to broadcast every game on the previso that they get behind it for a three year period and then sell the product. Once you get to the point where broadcasters pay for it then you can go fully professional.

    I just hope they don’t cut it in favour of some watered down club comp.

  • JJ

    Great thoughtful article Brendan. You hit the nail on the head in “”shrinking to success is not working”” .

    I have lived in Australia for 35 years and in that time seen the AFL growing, slowly, steadily and purposely across Australia. First Sydney Swans, then West Coast Eagles, Adelaide Crows, Fremantle Dockers, Port Adelaide, Brisbane, Gold Coast, and Greater Western Sydney.
    All startup clubs, who the independent AFL Commission invested in for years to make them not just survive, but to become competitive. The AFL ignored the self centered bleating of the old Melbourne clubs, led by Eddie Maguire from Collingwood.
    Five of those eight startup cubs have won at least one Grand Final, to the delight of their now rusted on army of tribal fans.

    The contrast with rugby in Australia is stark, especially in the last 10-15 years.. Firstly the ARU (now RA) are controlled by and listen to the bleating of the self centered bleating of the old Sydney clubs. They got the ARC shut down and then the Western Force, and are now trying to do the same to the the NRC. Just as the these NRC startup clubs are starting to slowly grow a fan base every where in Australia, except in NSW. Why? Because the old amateur clubs in Sydney will not embrace the NRC, and are now apparently secretly whispering the ear of the RA, that we need instead some sort of expensive national club competition, which of course will include all their own old clubs.

    The first change we need in Australia is to get rid of the current RA power brokers and its closed shop board structure. In its place, we need a RA that will look after the interests of all Australian players and fans, and not just the interests of a few Shute clubs in Sydney. The new RA needs to have a vision and plan of slowly, steadily and purposely growing the NRC right across Australia. Then the Wallabies will start winning the Bledisloe and World Cups again.

    • Perth girl

      Great post JJ

    • Alan Guy

      That certainly does it for me JJ. Ever thought of getting yourself on the RA board? As you know, there is still a lot of bitterness in WA at the loss of the Force – and who won the NRC this year? We have the strength through the clubs and the fans to go along with that.

      • JJ

        Alan, RugbyWA formally nominated an extremely well qualified lady as a RA board member to replace Geoff Stooke.. Apparently neither that lady or RugbyWA ever even received an acknowledgement of her nomination. Closed shop!

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      Dianne Smith-Gander…. if an experienced Executive and Female Board Director with that credentials doesn’t get an acknowledgement of their nominations…. it is clear Board positions are given to mates. No wonder they are so useless.

    • LBJ

      I’ve just read this, so i’m late to the conversation – but seriously – What a load of absolute Horse Sh*t!!!

      Name a single Shute Shield Representative (past or present association) on the board of ARU? Now or ever. You cant – know why? Because its written in the ARU constitution (by John O’Neil) that it is forbidden!

      SS is at complete odds with the ARU – and the NSW RU – and have been since the beginning of professionalism.

      Shute Shield clubs are fighting tooth and nail for the survival of rugby in Sydney (and yes, they have been for well over a century), and gets absolutely nothing but pushback fed by BS from comments like this, with everyone else in Australian rugby applauding anything that derides Sydney rugby (Banter is great, but that’s not what this is – its harmful). Look at the appalling treatment of Cheika.

      While every other NRC team in the country gets $$ handouts – Sydney’s amateur SS teams get banned from participating, but have to PAY the ARU for the privilege of allowing the players they’ve nurtured from birth to participate in the NRC.

      Now the NRC competition is going broke (just like the ARC before it) – because the public hates it, News Corp have sensibly pulled out – and the Shute Shield teams are getting BLAMED?!! Give me a break! What utter BS.

      AFL is united – And its the strength of the Victorian teams that allows it to be. And the reason the other teams have won premierships is because they have a Draft that allows Victorian players to be distributed across the other teams. Sydney won a premiership with 0 Sydney players in the team.
      NRL strength is based on the strength of the Sydney teams – look what happened when they realised the stupidity of kicking out Souths. How many Melbourne born and bred players are in the Storm = 0!

      Meanwhile, all the Aussie Rugby community does it spit on each other – this comment absolutely typifies the culture that has developed in Australian rugby….’if its got a pulse – tear it down’ – no wonder we have no common goal, and there isn’t one in sight.

      Well you’ve had your ARC, and now the NRC and they’ve both gone absolutely, completely broke.

      I mean i’m sure you’re still expecting that those Shute Shield clubs and their supporters PAY for your expan$ion, and of course you’d like them to keep nurturing players for your teams to take – you still want the Shute Shield teams to do that of course.

      Sorry, but i’m sick and tired of bashing good rugby community members – it and i’m going to start to call it out.

      Here’s some food for thought – there are three ‘green shoots’ in Australian rugby:
      – Global Rapid Rugby
      – Shute Shiled
      – Aussie Schoolboys
      They all have one thing in common – THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE ARU!

      • JJ

        Your response covers a lot of territory. But in response to your first point
        “”Name a single Shute Shield Representative (past or present association) on the board of ARU? “”

        Hayden Rorke

        https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/clubs-big-end-of-town-feature-in-rugby-australia-board-nominations-20180319-p4z53a.html

        “”Rugby Australia has taken the first tentative step towards repairing relations with the game’s grass roots by nominating a Shute Shield president to fill one of three vacant board seats.

        The nominations committee has put forward Gordon president Hayden Rorke“”

        Can you point us to and quote the exact clauses in the ARU ?constitution that cover your point?

        • Ads

          It doesn’t address the “past association” bit, but Hayden Rorke resigned at Gordon to take up the RA position:
          https://gordonrugby.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/2018-GRFC-Annual-Report-.pdf

        • LBJ

          Sorry, i cant – i don’t believe the constitution is publicly available – but my position was formed from an impeccable (if dated) source, sounds like its been changed.
          Regardless, the complete lack of accountability is the key issue.
          There is no ability for the rugby community to exercise their frustration or direct the body which has a monopoly on the game here.

        • JJ

          LBJ. I did find the ARU constitution via google before I asked you.. So I set you up a bit with that question, because I could not see anything like that in it, I think your impeccable source probably meant was the rule (unwriiten?) was that you should not be a club official or state official at the same time you were a ARU/RA. board member.
          Anyway lets skip all that. We are all rugby fans in the end..

          I did notice that top of your green shoots list was GRR, So we are definitely on the same page here.
          GRR confirmed their 2020 home and away fixture dates today.
          With the surprise of a yet unnamed Asian team appearing to be in place of Singapore. There has been rumors of a Chinese team backed by the Bay of Plenty (NZ). Maylasia are of course backed by the Falcons from South Africa..

      • Charcoal

        As a rusted on Shute Shield club supporter for 60 years LBJ (I still attend home and away matches every week), I can understand your frustration with the way Shute Shield clubs and equally Hospital Cup clubs in Brisbane have been sidelined in recent years by the ARU/RA in denying them financial support. Even NSW Rugby has been guilty of ignoring the development of the Shute Shield competition (witness the demise of Penrith) while putting most of their financial resources into the Waratahs.

        Many of the Shute Shield clubs, even some of the successful ones, have been struggling financially in recent years and it’s only been through the goodwill of their unpaid volunteers and limited sponsorships that they’ve been able to survive. The fact remains that the Sydney, Brisbane and also Canberra local competitions in Rugby’s heartland have and continue to provide up to this point the bulk of Rugby talent which is ultimately spread across the country.

        However, in saying that, I also acknowledge that the Melbourne and Perth Premier competitions are now starting to produce local talent independent of the established heartland, which is a good thing, but they could never be expected to produce enough talented players beyond their respective local representative teams in whatever future format that takes. Most will still originate from the heartland, because by definition, it’s so much bigger, just as Victoria and the Southern States are with AFL and NSW and Qld are with the NRL.

        This is all the more reason why RA should invest more resources into ALL Premier Rugby competitions in each State, as at the end of the day, they are the clubs which through their junior and senior grades develop the talented players of the future. The Shute Shield or Hospitals Cup shouldn’t be singled out as the sole source of future Wallabies, although they should be appropriately resourced having regard to the significantly larger playing pool.

        For this reason, I don’t support a National Club Competition, disproportionately involving clubs from Sydney and Brisbane. For starters, it would involve too many teams and the cost would be unsustainable. I’d prefer to stick with the concept of a limited representative team NRC as I’ve previously noted, where Premier clubs act as feeders into their respective regional NRC teams.

        If Super Rugby is abandoned, then the best way forward for Australian Rugby is to embrace the concept of a fully professional NRC played over a longer season in tandem with the respective State Premier competitions, promoted and resourced by RA.

        I can’t see a place for Global Rapid Rugby in an Australian domestic competition if the Western Force is included.

        • JJ

          Charcoal,
          it is interesting that you, LBJ and myself have very different ideas and perspectives on things. But our common ground is our criticism of the ARU/RA and their financial mismanagement. The ARU, if I recall correctly made a $45 million profit out of the 2003 World Cup and now it is apparently nearly broke.

          We probably also all share a strong dislike for Bill Pulver. and what he did and said in his time. Yet when he resigned, it was reported that he received a $800K gold handshake by the ARU/RA. He resigned on his own freewill so he could go and run a B&B out in the country away from corporate life.! When I have resigned from public companies to go and do something else, I sometimes got a free lunch and maybe a pen, but nobody gave me about a years salary as a going away present!

        • LBJ

          I have certainly been disappointed with the leadership of the ARU – and i disagree with many of their decisions, but i think its really important to keep it clean.

          Pulver did his best, as I’m sure even Clyne is doing – but they are wrong. Castle is an administrator, not a leader.

        • LBJ

          I agree with much of what you are saying, but Sydney has no appetite for being relegated to a fourth tier (whether thats appropriate or not).

          Either a national club comp, or a hybrid where melb/ perth/ act/ NSW Country/ Qld Country play in a tournament pervious year’s semi-finalists from syd/ bris would be most appropriate.

          What is happening now, is the finals of the SS are finishing in early October, and all the players and spectators are moving on to watch NRL/ AFL. NRC is getting worse in Sydney, not better. I can see the hypothetical reasons why that shouldnt be the case, but it is – and we have more than enough evidence to call it.

        • Charcoal

          I can’t see the SS being relegated to a fourth tier. Even if Super Rugby continues, in whatever format, I doubt if an expanded professional NRC competition could run in tandem with both Super Rugby and the respective State Premier competitions. It would be beyond the financial resources of the State Unions and RA.

          In the event that Super Rugby survives, then the best way forward is to start the NRC a little later, say in late September, with a home and away series finishing in early December. Forget about finals and just crown the team finishing on the top of the ladder as the winner, same as the Rugby Championship and 6 Nations does. It’s more appropriate where there are a limited number of teams.

          One of the things that irks me about the current NRC is that it has forced the SS to finish much earlier than it has in the past. The SS Grand Final used to be in mid to late September, when there was a full home and away series, but this year it was on 24th August, which is just too early still in late Winter.

          That was the compromise that had to be made to fit the NRC into the calendar without interfering with the SS finals. I think last year the NRC started on the same weekend as the SS Grand Final, which was clearly absurd. At the very least, there should be a 2 week break between the last of the Premier Club Grand Finals and the start of the NRC. I know it’s not ideal, but that’s the only way I can see the NRC continuing to grow and at the same time keeping the Premier clubs onside, particularly in Sydney.

          The alternative NRC structure, in the absence of Super Rugby, is to have a fully professional home and away competition played over the same time-frame as Super Rugby. It would be played in tandem with the respective Premier competitions, just as Super Rugby does now. The SS and other Premier competitions would remain as the third tier.

          It would allow the local competitions to be extended into late September, without having to worry about being truncated to fit in with the NRC as it currently exists. I’m trying to find a middle ground where the Premier clubs and the NRC can amicably co-exist and upon deep reflection, this would be my preferred strategy. I couldn’t care less about Super Rugby.

          The other major factor to be considered in respect of the NSW NRC teams, whether as it exists or in an expanded competition, is to get the support of the Sydney Rugby community, which is almost non-existent as there is no tribal loyalty to the teams as they currently exist. Without that support, whether the interstate supporters like it or not, the NRC as a whole is doomed to failure.

          I’ll readily admit that the NSWRU has been negligent in supporting the NRC concept and in spite of efforts this year to finally become involved formally in the team participants, Sydney and NSW Country, they still haven’t got it right. The teams are just a mish mash of NSW Super Rugby and SS club players with no relevance to the NRC teams they are supposed to represent. Name me one current Country based player in the NSW Country NRC team. It’s farcical. None of the other football codes have teams representing “Country”, although there are teams based on major regional cities.

          The reality is that all of the most talented Country players are based in Sydney. They might as well call the teams, Sydney A and Sydney B, with no relevance to where the players come from. How is that going to engender any sort of tribal following?

          A further refinement to the NSW NRC teams is to base it on the Sydney Regions, with the SS clubs acting as feeders into their respective regions. I suggest that there should be three regional teams, North Harbour, South Harbour and Western Sydney. This is more likely to create a tribal following for each regional team from the supporters of the SS clubs represented in each region.

          In the amateur days, for those old enough to remember, the annual North Harbour v South Harbour representative matches were played to full houses at North Sydney Oval, as well as being televised in later years on the ABC. There’s no reason why that rivalry couldn’t be revived in a properly constructed NRC, with the addition of a Western Sydney representative team, which would also have a lot of support.

      • Taylor Yermolaev

        So dumb, the AFL’s success doesn’t come from Victoria. It comes from WA and SA. Both states produce more players than the Vics, and significantly more per capita. The first two West Coast premierships came from a squad almost exclusively made of WA players. Financially the AFL succeeds because of West Coast, Freo, Port and Adelaide.

        The NRL is the same, it’s the Broncos, Storm and Cowboys that bring in the money. Most of the Sydney clubs can’t get 13000 people to show up. The Shute Shield clubs are run by self-interested toffs who genuinely believe the sport would be better if Randwick and Manly were the peak of the sport.

        • LBJ

          Thankyou for providing the D**khead comment that illustrates my point – Aus rugby has no community, we just spit at each other and whine that someone else isn’t fixing our problems.

          You’ve just intentionally insulted thousands of volunteers and players who are dedicated to the game – good for you champ! What a contribution. You must know everybody who runs a SS club to make that statement though, so aren’t you amazing!

          As far as Manly and Randwick are concerned, yes they’d make terrific contributions to a bigger competition – as long as they earned it and were self sufficient. Manly vs Melbourne would be (another) sellout game.

  • Perth girl

    Agree with your comments Brendan. The big problem is that RA has no money for expansion, they have put all their eggs in one basket and thats not the Wallabies!

    • JJ

      Hi Perth Girl,
      Yes the mismanagement of the RA of rugby’s money in the past 15 years is appalling. Yet, they knocked back $50 million from Twiggy to keep the Force in Super. So Twiggy has had to go out and spend that money and probably more on starting Global Rapid Rugby, so his beloved Western Force had somewhere to play. So a lot of that Australian billionaires money is instead going to flow into rugby Hong Kong, Singapore, Maylaysia,, Fiji and Samoa instead of Australia.

      • Mica

        Mind blowing isn’t it?

      • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

        How dumb! RA Board is incompetent but they will blame the coach

  • Greg Skelly

    For it to extend over 21 rounds it would require significant cash injections. For it to be an option it would need to develop the ability to directly pay the players. Though I would like to see it run for a while longer. Ideally somewhere between 10-12 rounds plus finals leading into the November Tests involving all the best available local talent.

    Expansion might be a little too early to be considered. For a few reasons but most notably there’s a need for more parity across the board before adding new Aus. based teams. Once that is achieved then expansion could be entertained. But I absolutely agree on the promotion side of the equation.

    The lack of promotion of the NRC is damn near criminal. And it must be addressed.

    Finally, an NRCW. We have SuperW in place. I would like to see that expanded in terms of schedule first and see what could develop from that.

  • Phil Kcraig

    Thanks Brendan – you raise some interesting points. Funding the hard bit in all this. Some sort of tie up with GRR perhaps – financial and non financial – ie sharing resources e.g. marketing ideas.
    Fox Sports unlikely to be funding NRC in next media deal given its muted cuts to its sporting budget so biggest challenge short term is to solve the funding issue which probably comes with revamping the competition and the product to make more commercially attractive.

  • Charcoal

    As I said on the earlier thread, if Super Rugby implodes, then I’d like to see a fully professional NRC in its place. I agree that the current short format tacked on the end of the club season isn’t ideal and doesn’t give club players enough time to come up to speed in terms of fitness compared with their fully professional Super Rugby team mates, nor allow teams which are slow starters to get back in the race. Also agree that promotion of the competition is abysmal and almost non-existent as far as the media is concerned.

    However, in the absence of Super Rugby, financing a fully professional NRC over a longer season would be a major obstacle. For this reason, it would have to start off with only 8 teams at best, which I suggest should be the Western Force, Melbourne Rebels, ACT Brumbies, Sydney North, Sydney South, Sydney West, Brisbane North and Brisbane South. The Premier clubs in Sydney and Brisbane would act as feeders into their respective regional NRC teams and this should be strictly enforced. More teams could be added as the competition matures. Sorry, but it pains me to say that I don’t see a place for the Fijian Drua, as it’s a domestic competition and there would be significant additional travel costs with their inclusion.

    I can only see the need for a home and away series over 14 rounds with a 2 week finals series, starting in late February and finishing in early July prior to the inbound international matches. There would be a natural progression to the Southern Hemisphere Rugby Championship between Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina.

    The Premier club competitions in Sydney and Brisbane could continue in tandem with an expanded NRC just as they do now with Super Rugby. While the additional NRC teams from Sydney and Brisbane will draw on more club players, many of whom are already contracted players with their respective Super Rugby teams, it has the benefit of opening up more opportunities for talented club players coming up through the ranks to play 1st grade and get noticed. It will also allow the Premier club competitions to extend their seasons into late September, as they used to, without having to be truncated to fit in with the NRC as it currently exists. This is more likely to bring the Premier clubs, particularly in Sydney, to support it. I see this as a win win for everyone.

    You may well ask, how can this expanded NRC be financed? For starters, a changed and more enlightened RA board could go cap in hand to Twiggy to forget past differences and unite to solicit his previous financial commitment to Rugby Australia to ensure the survival of the Force by investing in the new expanded competition. It’s one small step to get a fully professional NRC up and running, with the prospect of attracting greater broadcast revenue and sponsorships to maintain its continuing survival and expansion.

    If Super Rugby survives, in whatever format, then I doubt if a fully professional NRC would be viable. Although not ideal, the next best option is to extend the length of the current NRC to a full home and away series into late November.

    • JJ

      Charcoal, One thing you did not mention in your permutations is Global Rapid Rugby.
      In the next few days, we are expecting GRR to officially announce their first 6 teams and playing schedule for the first season in 2020. GRR will run in the same time window as Super Rugby next year. and before the Japanese season starts,
      Japan are still in thinking mode about their own fully professional competition starting in 2021 after the Sunwolves are kicked out of Super. But whatever happens, it is fairly likely that one or two teams from Japan could be in the GRR in 2021.
      So the competition merger speculations will get even more interesting in the future.
      Twiggy and his GRR is going to be a dominant partner in any mergers down the track.

      • Brumby Runner

        Yes, I also thought the omission of GRR was a major issue in the discussion so far. On Charcoal’s wish for the NRC to be a solely domestic competition, the Western Force, if involved as it should be, would probably be then a participant in both competitions, the GRR and the NRC which would have to follow later in the season.

        If it were to survive and develop, why not call the two Queensland sides, the Qld Reds and the Qld Maroons? Names and colours that are already associated with the Qld state team.

        Then two of the NSW teams could be Waratahs North and the Waratahs South, with another team separate from the Tahs to form up the Sydney West side, maybe associated with GRR and part of the GRR comp as well.

        Whatever form it might take, I sincerely hope the NRC continues in a meaningful fashion as it is a good level above club standard, including Shute Shield, and it does already provide another pathway into the Super teams.

        • JJ

          Brumby Runner,
          I heard an interview last week with Mark Evans the new CEO of GRR and the interviewer was asking and speculating on similar lines to us here. Evans basically said “who knows””. I heard Twiggy say more than a year ago, when asked similar questions, that he was committed to make GRR a success first and any possible future mergers would be on GRR terms, not RA or SANZAAR terms.
          Remember Twiggy registered GRR with World Rugby through Hong Kong RU and not through RA.
          Next 2-3 years are going to be interesting.

      • Charcoal

        I deliberately didn’t mention GRR, because I don’t see it as being part of an Australian domestic competition. While Twiggy’s motivation in establishing GRR was to give a lifeline for the Western Force, which I completely understand, I’d rather see them playing as a fully fledged member of an expanded professional NRC. This would have far more benefit for Australian Rugby as a whole than GRR and I suggest would be of a higher standard. GRR would be better off playing as an autonomous Asian League during the Northern Hemisphere season, with or without Twiggy’s involvement, although I can’t see the need for him to continue if the Force becomes part of an expanded NRC.

        The future prospects for an expanded NRC very much depends on the future of Super Rugby. I can’t see an expanded professional NRC running in tandem with Super Rugby if the latter continues, in whatever format, beyond next year. It wouldn’t be financially viable. If it ran in tandem with both Super Rugby and the Premier club competitions, it’s only going attract even greater hostility from the Premier clubs in Sydney and Brisbane in particular. At least the current abbreviated NRC, although still not ideal, doesn’t conflict with the Premier competitions. They complement each other.

        We should wait and see whether Super Rugby survives as a concept beyond the current broadcast deal which expires next year, before speculating on the future format for the NRC. Personally, I wouldn’t be disappointed if Super Rugby was scrapped and an expanded fully professional NRC introduced in its place running in tandem with the respective club competitions.

    • Hannes En Brianda Barnard

      Superugby in its current format is not paying for itself. It is a loss making expensive competition finances by the Rugby Championship. Why wait for it to implode?

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Just a die hard rugby tragic from West of the Nullabor with a penchant for the written word. Happy to talk anyones ear off about anything to do with this great game, as many a poor work colleague has discovered over the years.

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