It never used to be hard to be a Rugby fan - Green and Gold Rugby
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It never used to be hard to be a Rugby fan

It never used to be hard to be a Rugby fan

In fact, for a while there, it was downright easy. Being an older I guy I can happily remember the 90’s. The 90’s were a great time for Australian Rugby. World Champions in 91 and 99 and a pretty much a full trophy cabinet. Capped off by 2 matches in 1999, and I remember them both. The first in August 1999 was the Bledisloe Cup match at Stadium Australia (aka Sydney Olympic Stadium). The First Rugby match at the new Stadium and the Wallabies defeated the All Blacks in front of 106,042 people and I was there. I flew down from Katherine in the Northern Territory for the match.

The second match was the Final of the Rugby World Cup. The date was the 22nd of November and the Wallabies defeated France. I didn’t get to go to that one. I was sitting in a Motel Room in Mt Isa silently shedding a tear as John Eales lifted the William Webb Ellis Cup.

Four years later and the Rugby World Cup Tournament came to Australia. It put Rugby Union in the eyes of all Australians. Not just the Ruby fans. The Wallabies made it to the Final only to have our hearts broken by Johnny Wilkinson Drop Goal in Extra time. The Tournament had the ability to make Rugby Union into the upper echelons of Australian Sports, leap frogging Rugby League and coming within spitting distance of Cricket and Aussie Rules. But it didn’t, someone dropped the ball. The opportunity was missed.

Since the 2003 Rugby World Cup, many opportunities have been missed. It would be easy to list them all. Many have. Some journalists take an almost sick pleasure in reporting on something going wrong with or within Rugby in Australia. I am not here to do that. Rugby Union as a sport, worldwide continues to grow and continues to be a popular sport across the globe. Whilst here in Australia it appears to be dying. And for this Rugby fan that is unacceptable.

ForceRally3a

Twiggy

For some – the answer is easy. Rugby has a money problem. There is a mining magnate in Perth with a bucketload of money and a passion for Rugby. Figure out how to apologise to him for how he was treated by the then Chairman of Rugby Australia. Problems solved. Sorry. I don’t think so.

Yes, Australian Rugby has a money problem. But I believe that Rugby Australia has an Institutional problem. Why is it that any Rugby administrator of any Rugby Club around Australia doesn’t give a second thought to putting his (or her) hand in their own pocked to “help out the club” and yet anyone who has the honour of being on the Board of Rugby Australia automatically expects to get paid for the privilege. Club Rugby Administrators happily drive all over their city to watch the Club play. And have every seat full of players. Board Members expect to fly First Class and sit in corporate boxes. Club Rugby Administrators don’t give it a second thought to step behind the BBQ or the bar to help. Board Members are looking for appearance fees.

Why is it that the first thing Board Members of Rugby Australia learns is how to stick their snouts in the trough. Most have gone from a lifetime of “what can I do for the game of Rugby?” To “What can I get Rugby to give me for free today?” This is why Rugby fans are walking away from the game.

Until there is a change of this Institutional expectation, why would anyone want to rescue Rugby in Australia?

  • ForceFan

    Well said X.

  • Perth girl

    RA had a chance to learn from what has happened but they have opted for more of the same with the appointment of the new Chairperson and CEO

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    I feel your pain Simon, mind you during the 90’s I felt enough of my own usually after the ABs lost yet again to the Wallabies.
    I like your point about the self entitlement that appears in the board, however I think it goes deeper and permeates at even the player level at least down to Super level.
    When I was in Canberra coaching and reffing I heard from a number of players and others that Giteau had the nickname Harvey Norman because he had no interest, Deans in his book writes about how players were more interested in who was paying for the taxi than discussing team shortfalls and certainly some of the recent behaviour of some players seems to demonstrate the same.
    I think there are real issues with the culture of the game from the 10 previous captains down and there needs to be a rejig of that before things will improve

  • JJ

    Yes, well said X

  • While I feel your pain, I’m not 100% sure that’s a uniquely Australian problem.

    The WRU might be different, they have fought, tooth and nail, to try and professionalise the game at the board level, the club boards are resisting them. But slowly it’s grinding through. A lot of that was helped by Gatland being there for so long and winning a bunch of grand slams and saying he needed it to get the players ready to do better at the RWC and 6Ns and the WRU backing him up. It will be interesting to see whether there’s backsliding now or the changes keep going.

    But from what I can see, Ireland, France and Scotland, certainly England have a mentality much closer to that in Australia. Maybe not everyone, but many of them. SARU has a different set of problems from what I can tell from this far away.

    I think, to some extent, the issue is kind of the flip-side of what was talked about on the latest podcast. A lot of the people made it in rugby, then made it outside of rugby, and have got used to being treated as to the luxury life. I don’t begrudge them that. But they bring that expectation back into being on the board of RA, the RFU or whatever. The small number that stayed in rugby throughout get used to the way the others expect to be treated and come to see that as the norm.

    The WRU might manage to be different because, while it does have a few people that fit that sort of profile, they’re in a small minority. The bulk of the board are rugby tragics, who worked at the bank, worked on the farm, worked as schoolteachers or similar, and devoted their lives to playing rugby, then being club secretary or similar, or they’re ex-internationals who went on to become advisors and coaches and the like. I’m sure they don’t mind the perks of their position, but they probably don’t expect them as a priority.

  • whatwouldberniedo

    “many opportunities have been missed”. For me the decision to not review Cheika after the England series in 2016 was an opportunity missed that set Aus rugby on a catastrophic trajectory. So many people asleep at the wheel.

    • GeorgiaSatellite

      My thoughts exactly. It was 240 minutes of the same game. Which was played for a further 320 over the next 3+ years.

    • Patrick

      I agre that was just the worst moment of all.

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