Well here we are, at the end. The World Cup is done and won, there is no more rugby on the tele and we have to find something more to do with our lives for the next 87 Days until Super Rugby kicks off again. This week we will look at how (not) to fix Australian Rugby, some of our personal highlights from the World Cup and take a last look at some of the great twitter work from the past couple of months.
What to do with Australian Rugby?
Yesterday there was an opinion piece on Fox Sports about how to fix Australian rugby. It was something that I have seen a lot of people agree with, but leaves me feeling a bit … well meh. This, according to Christy Doran, was the solution.
Scrap the NRC. Focus on club rugby. As the club rugby comps around the country run, include a Heineken Cup style of comp, where teams from the different competitions play each other in a knockout style. So as the Shute Shield, Brisbane competition, John I Dent etc are running, some of the rounds will be Cup rounds where there is a cross over. And just to make sure it is all fair, with no appearance of bias towards certain states, he suggests Canberra and Perth have 2 teams each and one from Melbourne. Plus all of the Shute Shield and Brisbane Premiership teams. 25 teams, with 80% from Sydney and Brisbane. No mention of the country areas either.
The theory is that clubs already have fan bases, crowds would be big and players would feel more connected to the clubs.
Aussie rugby has been struggling to shake off the shales of the amateur era since the game turned pro. The last thing this game needs is to go backward to a by gone era that will reduce its footprint and reduce the standard of the game overall. The players themselves are all on public record saying that the NRC is that NPC equivalent: the third-tier step in the player development pathway that’s missing compared to most other nations. Let’s not get sucked in to the romance of history and populist ideas.
The rusted-on supporters of grass roots are simply too insufficient in numbers to take the game forward. Beyond the hyperbole of alleged numbers of supporters at club level, which primarily emanates from NSW, the reality once examined might be very different. Consider this tweet:
Agree. I’m a SS President (Manly) I like the concept of a national club comp but I see many challenges associated with it. It’s not lost on me that the other states are more engaged with the NRC. Whilst we enjoy strong crowds the media have overstated its stature somewhat.
— Anthony Bergelin (@TonyBergo) November 4, 2019
These easy options will not help our game, rather will have the likes of the NRL, AFL and FFA breathing a sigh of relief as Rugby again prefers to dwell in some suburban park rather than on the larger stage where the sponsors, advertising and money to fund the sport will be found.
Let’s keep the conversation relevant. How do we fund this game? More professional competitions or with lots of club rugby?
Personally, I like the NRC. I don’t have any connection to club rugby here in Canberra, I grew up in a family that played other sports, my own kids are only just coming to the age where they are interested in playing rugby and the only connection I have to rugby is through going to the Brumbies matches for the past 20 years. Club rugby doesn’t hold the same interest for me. I know that there are others who would support their clubs over, for example, the Tahs. They would probably love this idea for a National Club Championship. In fact, I know a lot of people who would definitely agree that club rugby is the way forward.
I know that there isn’t a solution that will keep everyone happy, I just hope that whatever RA do next is in the best interests of rugby and rugby fans in Australia.
Our Cup Highlights
So what were our standout moments from the World Cup?
- The Japanese people. I loved the way they embraced the game, the teams and the competition. Seeing Japanese jerseys at every game, fans with both teams painted on their faces because they supported everyone and watching the way they greeted the players was really awesome.
- The way that the Japanese culture was part of it all. The gongs used to signify half and full time, the drums as the players waled out on to the field and the respect shown by the players, bowing to the crowds after the game.
- The little touches – the children who ran out with each team not only learning, but singing the anthem of the team they were with. Watching a small Japanese child belting out the South African anthem was great to see,
- The Brave Blossoms. It was definitely a highlight watching them beat Ireland, but then the way they ran over Scotland to make the finals was pretty special.
- Seeing the improvement in some of the tier 2 nations, like Uruguay and Fiji.
- The final. Come on now, who didn’t have a bit of an emotional moment when Siya Kolisi lifted up that trophy. The more I read about him, the more incredible he becomes.
- The Springboks coming from losing their opening match, not letting it get to them that they basically had to play knockout rugby every round showed how far they have come in the past 18 months.
Speaking of South Africa …
Remember the last World Cup, where South Africa suffered a shock loss to Japan? Well the following year Allister Coetzee took over as head coach and South Africa hit a bit of a rough patch. They lost to Ireland at home for the first time, lost to the Pumas for the first time and finished 3rd in the Rugby Championship. Then they went win-less on their end of year tour for the first time since 2002.
Things looked better in 2017, with Coetzee basically put on notice. The Springboks beat France 3-0 in the mid-year test series and started the Rugby Championship well with back to back wins over the Pumas and a draw against the Wallabies. However they then suffered their biggest loss in over 100 years, going down 57-0 to the All Blacks. After another draw with the Wallabies and a tight loss to New Zealand, the Springboks suffered another record loss, this time to Ireland. They also lost to Wales on their end of year tour. The poor results led to Coetzee getting the sack early in 2018.
At the time, Rassie Erasmus was Director of Rugby for South Africa. When Coetzee got the boot he was made head coach. Things looked to have turned around pretty quickly, with the Boks beating England 2-1 in the June test series. They finished 2nd in the Rugby Championship that year, with a 3-3 record and went 2 from 2 on the end of year tour, ending the year with a 50% win rate for Erasmus.
Fast forward to today and the Springboks are World Champions. Before the game, many (especially in the other hemisphere) didn’t really give them much of a shot at beating England. But before the tournament even started, a South Africa v New Zealand final was expected, so we all know they had the potential. 611 days, or 20 months sounds like a long time, but when that is how long a coach has to prepare for a World Cup I’m sure it goes by pretty fast. Erasmus, in that short period of time, took a team that was ok and made them a Champion team.
Social Media at the World Cup
There have been some outstanding efforts on social media during the World Cup. Some of my favourites have come from the Rugby World Cup twitter account.
It’s more than just sport for players at #RWC2019.
Family is everything. pic.twitter.com/m8bKI0QCls
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 23, 2019
Hello everyone and welcome to the first ever episode of #RWC2019 ’s Got Talent ✨
First on today’s show, we have a @RugbyUruguay dancing duo
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 1, 2019
It’s Round 2 of #RWC2019 Has Got Talent
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 9, 2019
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 26, 2019
Owen Farrell is through to the #RWC2019 Semi-Finals
But is he through to the next round of RWC Has Got Talent? ✨
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 20, 2019
It’s Part 4 of #RWC2019‘s Got Talent…✨⚡️
This entry is beautifully unorthodox and gloriously unique
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 21, 2019
So that’s it from us. Just a quick final note to say thank you to those who have trudged through our opinionated ramblings this year – you’ve done well to hang in this long! We always appreciate the feedback and like seeing the discussions that pop up. As we do every year, we will wait until next year to see if we will continue with the Top 5 in 2020, and as we also do every year will almost certainly be back. It’s only a short break this time, so we will catch you in around 11 weeks with all the excitement of a new Super Rugby season, a new Wallabies era and a new, overly positive attitude and belief that the Wallabies will win the next World Cup!