The Worst Day in Australian Rugby - Green and Gold Rugby

The Worst Day in Australian Rugby

The Worst Day in Australian Rugby

In what has been a very turbulent year so far for Super Rugby, the long-awaited answer to the restructuring of the competition has been released yesterday by SANZAAR. Now everyone will have their own opinion on this decision, and Green and Gold Rugby always get lots of comments, messages and opinions about this. Many of us here often have many differing opinions ourselves on the game, so I don’t expect everyone to agree with me on this.

Let me tell you what I think. I think the decision to cut either the Western Force or the Melbourne Rebels from Super Rugby is an utterly disgraceful one and totally against the spirit of the game. I also feel very heavily for our South African cousins, who will be losing not one, but two teams, and from what I’ve heard, the mood there is also extremely bitter. The implications of this decision are damaging to every person who loves and plays rugby.

A good place for a commercial - Don't Force us out

Couldn’t agree more, Sea of Blue

The Impact on The Clubs

Firstly, we need to recognise who this will impact most directly: the coaches and the players. Suddenly, 20% of our professional rugby players will now be out of the job at years’ end. Officially. You’d be a fool to think that players at all the clubs wouldn’t be hurting right now. Players always talk to each other about everything, from looking after and supporting injured players, to situations like their playing future. This happens even if they are from rival clubs.

These guys are hurting, worried about their clubs and worried about their future. You don’t need to look any further than Matt Hodgson, who after the win against the Kings on Sunday was near to tears during the post-match press conference. Not only are the players going to lose their jobs, but the coaches, support staff, administrative staff, social media teams, everyone! They will all go. And with them, so will their commitments and support of grassroots, and the profile of the game in that state.

Ben Volavola

Ben Volavola of the Melbourne Rebels

The Impact on The Fans

A lot of the media has been signalling that the Western Force are the team favoured to be cut (seriously guys, stop doing that). I’m saying this as a Brumbies supporter, but honestly, the fans of the Force are the best fans out of all the Aussie Super Rugby clubs.

They have always stuck by this club and fought hard for it. They know that their club is an underdog, but a club with heart. That underdog tag made years like 2007, 2008 and 2014 all the sweeter. You can see it by the fact that when they are playing well, they fill up stadiums. Even when they don’t, they still pull a crowd. Judging by the amount of money coming in from the ‘Own the Force’ campaign the fans are even putting their money in to keep this club going.

Not that the Rebels don’t have a loyal following themselves. The Rebel Army have been one of the most vocal and important elements behind the Rebels culture, and have been a real breath of fresh air for rugby in a state where AFL is the undisputed king.

To cut a team would not only made those fans livid, feel betrayed and angry, but it would anger pretty much everyone else. It has angered Tahs fans, Reds fans, and Brumbies fans like myself too.  I am personally furious that these clubs are being seen as disposable, especially considering the following they have, and the good they do for the game. The Rebels and Force were introduced to grow the game in this country. That’s what they represent.

The Impact on State Rugby

This is the one thing about all this that angers me the most. Cutting a team will do fatal damage to growing grassroots rugby.

Starting with RugbyWA, when they started they were determined to start producing Wallabies. That they have done. Even when they weren’t winning, the Force have been producing great players for the Wallabies, as judged by the five current Wallabies in the squad.

Ten players that played against the Kings this week gone had learnt their rugby in the WA system. It’s taken a decade to bear fruit, but it is happening now, both in a player and coaching capacity (as seen by David Wessels, who has been at the club since 2013). The Force represent the only place in the entire country where the game is growing. Need I mention that the Perth Spirit (with nearly twenty players from the Pindan Premier Grade) won the NRC last year? They represent what is a vibrant and fiercely loyal rugby community. The Force know people care, judging by how upfront they have been during this whole debacle.

And then there’s the Rebels. Will all due respect, the Rebels have hardly been as transparent as the Force with keeping fans up to date about the state of affairs in Super Rugby. But, they too have been a strong representative for Victorian rugby. The Rising have been consistent performers in the NRC (being present in every single semi-final) and have a solid following in the Dewar Shield too. They haven’t had as many years to foster as much homegrown talent, but judging by the likes of players like Sione Tuipulotu and Rob Leota that is starting to happen. What if that all goes?

Where now for the ARU?

In the past, I have been a supporter of the ARU.  I understand they are under pressure. They are an organisation in the busiest sporting market in the world. The financial pressure has been impacting on them for years, we all know this. I find it somewhat ironic that, just a fortnight ago when they said they will be posting a $3 million profit, that it was them, not SANZAAR, who decided to cut an Australian team.

Their justification, as mentioned by Bill Pulver on Monday morning, is that they could no longer sustain it from either a financial or high performance perspective.

A graph distributed at the ARU Presser on April 10, 2017

A graph distributed at the ARU Presser on April 10, 2017

Maybe the ARU, like many of us as fans, have become incredibly focused on the current state of things that we may have forgotten our past. Looking at that graph, it looks like things are going downhill, but the truth is there is a lot more going on behind these numbers.  Sport is exciting for us when it is is happening right in front of us, or as a forthcoming event. Very rarely to we step back to look at the history behind it all.

We're probably never going to see this again, hey.

God, this seems like an eon ago…

Except for 2000, Aussie rugby has always struggled after a World Cup. Therefore, I find it interesting in that since we’ve had five teams in 2011, the Wallabies finished 3rd at the 2011 World Cup, were Runners-Up at the 2015 World Cup, have won the Rugby Championship twice, were runners up in the Rugby Championship twice, and won the Mandela Challenge Plate four times and The Cook Cup once, as well as plenty more trophies. But no, we didn’t win the Bledisloe Cup, so we must be playing badly.

And then there’s the Super Rugby clubs. Since we’ve had five teams, the Reds and Waratahs have won it, and the Brumbies were runners up. The only bad performances have been since 2016, straight after the World Cup. Those wins and victories are not exaggeration. Those happened. That is fact.

Cutting teams is often done in sport, such as what has happened in the AFL, NRL and the A-League. It happens. But with Super Rugby being such a large international competition, the effect of cutting teams in Australia and South Africa is going to be much more impactful than cutting a team that is in the same city as other teams. An entire region will no longer be able to access the game, full stop.

Ben McCalman goes for the line

If the Force or Rebels are cut, will they ever see Super Rugby again?

I have always argued that coaching has been the problem for our poor performances over the last few years. Look at Richard Graham departing from the Reds in 2016, or Gibson taking the reins from Cheika at the Waratahs after 2015. The most consistent team has been the Brumbies, because they have a good coach in Stephen Larkham. Bob Dwyer has argued this for quite some time that Australia has the talent for five teams, but that all these new coaches “have not been part of the coaching development program in Australia.” You want to see the influence that a good coach has on a team? Look at what Wessels is doing over in the West.

Where to now?

Well, if anything, this decision has thrown up more questions.

Will having four teams mean that we will perform better in 2018? Obviously, we won’t know until that happens, so I can’t answer that. But, if (for example) the Force are cut and Tony McGahan is still in charge of the Rebels, and like this year he is struggling to implement his game plan to the Rebels players on the paddock, how much of a difference will three or four players from the Force make when the game plan is not working?

Will Aussie rugby be in a better place financially? Obviously, I also can’t answer that now either. What I do know is that there will be one less market that the ARU will be exporting the game to, and even if all the teams start performing, will that offset the loss of not being able to access that market?

Will it lead to the Wallabies performing better? In my honest opinion, no, because with less professional players in general playing the game that gives you less places to pick your best players from. I know a lot of these answers are unclear, but that is because the whole circumstance is unclear. The only thing that is guaranteed is that less professional players will be playing Super Rugby.

If it is the case that the Rebels are given preference over the Force, who are currently producing more local talent than their Victorian counterparts, then it will be clear as mud as to why this cut has happened: money. The Force are clearly easier to cut due to the ARU running them, at the expense of the talent they clearly are fostering. That is simply not good enough.

Not that I want the Rebels to be cut either. But, when money is prioritised over growing talent, that is when the game starts to die. If this is the case, then the ARU has a lot to answer for. Whether they did or not behind closed doors, the rugby public feel like the ARU’s actions were not done with their interests at heart. Quite frankly, you won’t last long if you disconnect the fans in the way the ARU may have just done. The decision they make on which team will be cut will be crucial, and either way, it will cost them dearly.

Will I eat my own words on all this? If we are better off, I will. We may indeed perform better, we may be financially healthier, we may grow the game more with this decision. Do I think it’s going to happen? Not at all.

I think that as a code, we’ve just shot ourselves in the foot. No, blown our foot off altogether. I think that the financial agenda has superseded the desires of the fans and the game. I’m truly heartbroken for the treatment the Force and the Rebels have received with this. For my generation, this truly is one of the worst moments I have ever seen in Australian rugby history.

  • Rick Lush

    Admitting teams from Japan and Argentina was a purely financial decision that will now rob the competition of much of its following from at least 2 of the countries that have been original members of what was originally a competition of teams from just 3 nations.
    Without free-to-air access it is hard enough to follow rugby now and with fewer local teams it will be even worse. I am now watching far more AFL now and just tuning for the occasional Test match.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Spot on Rick. All the other major sports have a free to air component where people can get behind their team. This is a big failing of the ARU

    • Huw Tindall

      This is what galls me most. They admitted the 18 team comp was a dud decision but then decided to fix it by cutting out older teams…not the newest expansion clubs. Yes the Jags are playing OK but logistics wise it’s a killer for the comp. Moondogs are just always going to battle with their pre-season essentially only 3 weeks long. Kings have the least regional depth in SA. The fact the ARU went into the SANZAAR meeting with a plan to cut an Aussie team sucks. Until someone shows me exactly why we can’t finanically support 5 teams I’m not buying the over extension of playing stocks argument. I’m more inline with Nic on this one – it’s sub par coaching and support setups compared with the centralised professionalism we see in NZ and now UK too.

      • paul

        Huw, just a quick point, the jags are playing OK, but they are essentially the Argentinian national team, who we then play again in the RC a couple of months after super rugby. I just find that a bit weird.

    • Chinese Dave

      Exactly right, and the same money grubbing logic will soon be applied when the force are dropped in favour of the rebels. What a fucking disgrace, the game is being run by a bunch of fucking marketing c-*ts instead of rugby people.

  • StewedP

    Imperative that any non-Australian player contracted to whatever franchise is dropped should not be offered a contract with another Australian Super Rugby franchise in 2018

    • Alister Smith

      Agreed – there is no justification for foreign imports if we are losing a team – maybe there never was – it didn’t help the Rebels perform any better anyway – Pottgeiter was one of the few that worked IMO

  • Julie

    Great read. As a force fan I’m devastated ! I can’t see any positives to this at all.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Mate you are absolutely spot on with your arguments. This is a severely short sighted but is typical of the ARU where they seem to think importing league players will solve everything, despite the fact that this has never been a successful plan. I agree 100% that the reduced market will cause much greater loss than any funding they carshare with the remainders. The anger this will generate will take years to get over. I have had a chat with Hoss on Monday’s News and he makes some good points about the depth of Australian rugby being too small for 5 teams. While I tend to agree the fact that the ARU were too stupid to realise this and got another team in, and are now cutting a team will cause irreparable damage to rugby’s reputation in Australia. losing 20% of the players will not make the other teams or the Wallabies 20% better. I think it will cause such a deep rooted anger that both the other teams and the Wallabies will lose out.

    I hear some people talking absolute shit about the supporters transferring their loyalty to another state. Honestly what drugs are these idiots on. They will certainly transfer their loyalty, but it will be to a team of another code that they can support, not some other state team they will never see. Honestly where the fuck do these idiots have their brains? Not only that but there are a lot of people who have moved from either Perth or Melbourne and still support their team who will not transfer their loyalty to another state but will also look to another code from that area to support.

    • Keith Butler

      Totally agree with your sentiments and those expressed elsewhere. SANZAR really screwed it up when they changed the format and the ARU were complicit in agreeing to this format without thinking about the consequences. They just saw $$$$$ signs. On the principle of last in first out then the Jaguares and Sunwolves should be the one for the axe along with an SA side but that will never happen. Having said that even though both the Force and the Rebels are growing the game in their respective states and bringing through a crop of home grown talent and U20s, I personally doubt that either team will ever make it to the final stages, semis that is, of the comp. The quality players will inevitably end up in the east or abroad looking for the big bucks in Europe and who can blame them.

      If the Rebels do get the chop it’s the Canes for me. Beauden Barrett is just pure class.

      • joy

        How can you totally agree with KRL and then announce you will switch to the Canes??

        • Keith Butler

          Quite easy. I will follow the Rebels through thick and thin. The other Aussie teams hold no interest for me. I would rather follow a team that plays exciting rugby.

  • AN

    Did you watch the press conference? $28 million in unbudgeted expenses have been poured into the money pit that is Australian Super Rugby since 2013. That’s astounding. Blame the ARU all you like but it’s the teams, independently run that are responsible for this mess. When the ARU chairman is having to talk about conducting solvency checks on a regular basis, I’m sorry something has to be done. I do sympathise with the Force fans and the Club but they’ve had many many years to find their feet financially and achieve some level of success on the field and it just hasn’t happened.

    • Huw Tindall

      Good point AN. The ARU isn’t the only one to blame. Yes they haven’t covered themselves in glory but the super clubs have been burning through money and at many point seemingly been run by a bunch of amateurs e.g. the Brumbies off field financing debalce and court case last year; the post 2014 Graham years at the Reds where the talent took flight and the team was a shambles; Rebels simply going bust and being prepared to hand back their franchise to the ARU; Force starting out life being hoodwinked by Firepower (remember that!) and ultimately being bought rescued by the ARU; Tahs getting a bailout by the ARU…and so on. If anything the ARU may have done well to keep them all afloat! Heading back to a more centralised approach maybe if the ARU did contract all the players and helped direct the Super Franchises we wouldn’t have got here. Easier to share revenues and player contracts etc and solve the ‘wallaby top up’ not being in the Super Club salary cap.

      • Andrew Luscombe

        The ARU has always had a contractual duty to SANZAAR and broadcasters to provide the agreed number of teams and games. They have ‘sub contracted’ that duty to SR teams. They have known that this is the case right from the start, and therefore have always had a supervisory responsibility. They have not always carried out their duty very well. Yes, individual teams have not performed well at times also, but don’t think of the ARU as a white knight rushing to save poorly managed teams. The whole lot have been to blame at various times.

      • Andrew Luscombe

        Agree central contracting of players would be better.

    • McWarren

      Do the ARU or the clubs receive the money from Fox Sports?

    • Perth girl

      The Rebels have had $20 mill poured into them since they started 6 years ago. The Force have had about $7 but for that we had to sell the ARU our intellectual property. It isn’t the Force that are costing the ARU but the Rebels. Privately owned? what a load of shit!!

  • nmpcart

    Good article but not sure about the Brumbies are good because Larkham is a good coach bit. In terms of potential grassroots growth by having a team locally I don’t quite see how the Brumbies have escaped – on field success aside it is difficult to see how much growth can come from the ACT compared to WA or Victoria. I really don’t want to see any team cut but as it is going to happen hopefully the management of one or more of the remaining teams can be smart enough to take competition games to Perth or Melbourne, much like the AFL take games to Tasmania – that way they can at least provide matches for the fans in the areas that loses their team and can build a support base there. If they don’t one of the NZ teams might take the initiative and do it.

  • Andrew Luscombe

    The chart they presented is deceptive.

    They have not adjusted for the number of teams in the league. Finishing 6th of 12 is as good as finishing 9th of 18, so merely increasing the teams causes a drop of 3 places on that chart if average competitiveness is maintained.

    Adding teams is expected to cause a drop in average performance towards the right of the chart because new teams take time to improve. Even if new Aussie teams became average in say 4 years, the right side of the chart would in general be lower than the left due to this.

    SR has done nothing whatsoever to assist new teams, and in fact has retained player strength in old teams. This means that the drop towards the right of the Aussie average could be entirely due to new Aussie teams not improving rather than dilution of talent from old teams. This chart is just as consistent with a problem of too much concentration of talent as it is of dilution. An increase of national player pay relative to SR and consequent concentration of talent in traditional teams may have caused this.

    You need a chart of all Aussie teams over time showing something like the international rugby ranking points to see what effect if any there has been of 3, 4, and 5 teams.

    2016 and 2017 so far have been particularly bad years, and there is a general feel of Aussie rugby demise. The chart appears to give hard evidence of the demise and a link to expansion, however it isn’t evidence of any particular thing related to expansion.

    With an hypothesis in mind on which significant decisions hinge, it is particularly important to apply a robust analysis that takes the various possible explanations into account. Presentation of shoddy work like this does not fill me with any degree of confidence at all.

    • Huw Tindall

      Agree the chart alone is misleading. How we can be in this spot 1.5 years after a great 2015 RWC and with such a general malaise hanging around Australian rugby is baffling. Yes 2016 was a dud year but compared the the Saffas we had a great season!

  • Adrian

    Some sort of amalgamation on Rebels and Force might work.

    Their speciality and marketing focus could be something like:

    “The real alternative in the football world”

    It’s about differentiating themselves and the game from AFL, which has a nauseating grip on the lives of Victorians, South Australians and most Western Australians

    • Graeme

      If there are going to be 8 home games. Can the SA teams play the ‘western rebels’ in Perth and play nz teams in Melbourne??

      Also if sunwolves are part of the Aussie conference, Aussies play for them
      And get picked for wallabies?

    • idiot savant

      This is an idea worth pursuing. Get some of the WA boagnaires to fund purchasing half the franchise. Split the games between locations and keep both feeder systems. Might build a powerhouse club.

  • Tim

    I think its very disappointing that one team will be cut. I thought last year the force sign a deal with the ARU to stay in the competition until 2020. With the extra funding they are getting from the government wouldn’t it mean its more profitable to keep the force aswell. Therefore i don’t see why we are cutting a team. If the force get cut we will only have 2 Australian 10’s Foley and Cooper doesn’t that worry people?

  • Westo

    I think the bottom line is that people want to see there teams win. We are struggling so a knee-gerk reaction that has now taken place. Here’s a quick snap shot on whats happening in England…

    Premiership attendances: Monster weekend for England’s top flight with games at Twickenham (Bath v Leicester) and Wembley (Saracens v Harlequins) and a bumper crowd at the Ricoh Arena for Wasps’ clash with Northampton seeing a total of 180,207 supporters pass through the turnstiles. Highly impressive, and a sign of how much appetite there is for top flight rugby in England.

    • Schindler’s Fist

      Slightly misleading Westo.

      The English Premiership hosts big derby games like this at the large venues only once or twice a year outside of the finals.

      For normal club games the average attendance this season is just under 15,000. I’d classify that as a poor crowd for both the Reds and the Tahs.

      • adastra32

        …that is true – but there are TWELVE clubs hosting games from September through to May.

  • Jamie Hevia

    Truly a sad day. I’ve been very bitter about the whole thing however I have decided to get on with and support Aus rugby moving forward, I love this game too much to walk away.

    Great article. I agree with most of it although I will say that I don’t buy the whole “most competitive market in the world”. Competitive yes “in the world”. ARU keeps using that excuse.

    Also. had all of our teams performed as expected or at least put up a decent fight on the field we would not be where we are now. Our performances against OS teams have been very poor and we have down ourselves no favours. Yes the force have been much better this year and they show a lot of passion, but what about last year or the year before that? Too little to late I’m afraid

  • Muzz

    Fantastic article Nick you’re spot on. I can’t believe the ARU volunteered to get rid of one of their own teams.

  • Simon Powell

    Excellent write up Nick. Thank you.

  • Andrew Luscombe

    Good article. Thanks for writing it.

    I think there was a worse day in 1906, only 111 years ago.

  • Rebels3

    Nice article but can someone please highlight to me how the force are producing or are on target to produce more players than the rebels. I’d like to dispel this myth! Simply putting it the rebels after 6 years have more local players in their squad for super rugby than Perth did after 6 years. Obviously the force have more players currently on their books but isn’t that simply a result of having 11 years opportunity? We can then go on about how the youth teams, particularly the u20s have shown they are as good if not better than the other established traditional rugby entities, finishing both 2nd and 3rd the past 2 years. Only beaten by the reds 2016 and reds/tahs in 2017. The Australian u20s team representation is more than any team other than once again nsw and qld. Then there is the report out today that Victorian participation numbers are up 38%. The future is bright and we have shown going forward the players we are producing quality players similar to the level of the established big 2

    • Forcefield

      I think you are wrong on this. Back in 2012 the Force had quite a few: Kyle Godwin, Kieran Longbottom, Justin Turner, James Stannard and DHP. Plus Cruze Ah-Nau signed on with you guys. And that is not including development players.
      How many do you have now? About the same perhaps a few more if you count the development players.

      You have benefited from the advantage of 4 years of the U20s comps- something we never had- and you have benefited in the sense that a lot of your local players are 19-21. You produce some good juniors- can’t argue with that- but remember that you were beaten by us twice in the first two years (i.e. before you started importing QLDers and NSWers).

      Personally, I think it is the Brumbies who should go because they offer the least long-term value to Australian Rugby. But WA has always and will always be the better option than Melbourne and the ARU will come to regret any decision where WA is cast away.

      • Who?

        Don’t forget that Zac Holmes was with the Brumbies around 2012..? Another Aquinas boy (like Godwin).

      • Rebels3

        Not having a go at you, but these are some of the myths that have been created in the past 4/5 weeks. Stannard is a qld’er that went to school in Ipswich and DHP was trotting around in Europe, unwanted from all super franchises. That leaves 3 players + Cruz, but that’s like us claiming CLL and valentini. The vast majority of guys in the current u20s were all schooled in Vic or born here. This is the frustrating thing we are fighting a wave on unfactual information, that people have picked up as gospel. It’s like a rumor that a celebrity is dead, where infact they are sitting at home watching tv

        • Nipper68

          DHP played for the Force, then went to Europe, then back to the Force.

        • McWarren

          I suspect Rebels3 the Rebels case isn’t being trumpeted as loud as the Force case because everyone suspects a forgone conclusion, that the Force will go.

      • HK Red

        “but remember that you were beaten by us twice in the first two years (i.e. before you started importing QLDers and NSWers).”

        Glass houses?? Don’t forget that the Force happily raided the Reds/Reds Academy/QLD u20 stocks to get started.

        • Forcefield

          Different argument HK Red. I feel like you are steering it in a different direction to vent about something else. I am not saying that importing players is the wrong thing to do. I am saying that when the U20 competition started ACT, WA and VIC had very few imported players and it was a very even competition. That has changed a lot in 2016 and now the U20 program is seen more as an academy. You can’t evaluate the quality of your development pathway if you are judging it on U20 performances because there are a large number of imports from interstate. You should be judged on how many Super quality players you create. For example, when Rob Valentini (signed with the Brumbies) is getting Super game time, that is a tally in the VIC column. When Harley Fox (signed with the Rebels) is getting Super game time, that is a tally in the QLD column. And so on.

        • HK Red

          Not really trying to steer it anywhere, just stating that if you’re going to point out “importing players” as a reason for a team winning, then you have to acknowledge that the Force, imported more or less their entire inaugural team, some states hit harder than others. I totally agree that imported players should be credited as per where they spent their formative rugby years. I’m that sense, the first few years of the Western Force, would be a tally in the QLD column. ;-)

  • Tommy Brady

    Appreciate the article Nick. I recognize these are sensitive times for Australian rugby, but it strikes me that many here are expressing opinions based too heavily on emotion and not enough on logical thought. Cool heads, not emotional minds are most effective in resolving a crisis, and right now Australian rugby is in a crisis.

    These are desperate times for rugby in Australia. The current situation is completely untenable and substantial change must be forthcoming. The first change must be to shrink a cost line to a level the sport can afford. From this revised base, the sport can consolidate it’s player, coaching and administrative resources. Funds can then be directed away from supporting unprofitable, unsuccessful professional franchises and towards programs aimed at grassroots and age-group levels. Players can get better developed, coaches get coached.

    I also find it intriguing that widespread condemnation continues to be directed at the decision to expand Super Rugby from 15 to 18 teams – yet somehow too few are in favour of reducing it again. If teams are to be cut, then none should be from Australia which is poorly reasoned. Neither the Force nor Rebels add meaningful value to the Super Rugby competition — neither really have. Neither draw large crowds at home and neither are a featured draw card on the road. TV ratings for both are low. Both have been poorly led at Board level with many poor decisions made around player recruitment and coaching appointments. Both are unprofitable, neither ever will be profitable. Neither franchise is especially important to Wallaby needs or performances.

    Current results show Australian Super Rugby teams to be uncompetitive to the better NZ and South African teams. This needs to change. Consolidating player & coaching resources will help. Fewer players not up to Super Rugby standard will get selected. Competition for places in the 4 remaining Australian franchises would lift. This elevated base would benefit the ARU Flagship Wallaby team whose results deteriorated badly in 2016 and are shaping to be poor again in 2017.

    Finally fans must lose this emotive parochial bias and support the greater national good of rugby in Australia. Those threatening to cease all support for the ARU should either the Force or Rebels be cut, are not Australian rugby fans. If you seriously want change then go make change and enjoy the potential spoils. The current model is unworkable. Believing it is viable is flawed. The metrics and results prove it.

    • LBJ

      Who the bloody hell do you think you are?! Telling me if I don’t agree with you then I’m not for Australian rugby?!
      That attitude epitomises the issue at hand – ‘I have a PPT with some numbers in it that I paid some faceless consultant to create and this is the ONLY possible answer…’
      This is a group of utterly incompetent self interested administrators with NO alignment to the community they have a duty to support. They have condemned us to a slow death – and I am FURIOUS about it and I have every bloody right to be.
      They talk in plenty of corporate jargon and pretend to be ‘all business’ – but I assure you if this was a listed entity they (the entire board and CEO) would have been sacked and had their salaries erased if it was – most likely followed by a directors lawsuit.
      The Rugby community in my neck of the woods is already boycotting the super rugby – the dads no longer put the game on on Friday arvo after the boys training – once a highlight. We’ve cancelled the usual long lunch at the wallabies this year and no one is going to the Bledisloe – until this group of muppets steps down and give us our game back. Took my boys to the Manly marlins on Sat – brilliant game against the students, passionate crowd of a few thousand – had a beer at the club afterward – turned the S rugby off.
      Why? Because it’s about values, not about $. I want my sons to play and learn the great rugby values, including that if your mate is in trouble, you make a sacrifice to help him out – even if it means you cop a few on the way down. These Blokes are the equivalent of a prop who lets his halfback get belted because he’s too scared to step in – pathetic. I won’t support it. It’s not what the game I love stands for and it won’t lead to any good.


      • Tommy Brady

        You are entitled to feel aggrieved with the ARU LBJ and I respect your viewpoints. The current state of rugby in Australia would suggest to me that your support for the game has never been more needed. Protests and boycotts don’t feel to me like positive solutions.

        • Andrew Luscombe

          Cutting a team is not a positive solution.

        • Tommy Brady

          The sobering reality is nothing emerging from this mess can be viewed as positive.

          Not certain retaining uncompetitive, loss-making teams in unsupportive locations can be viewed as positive either.

    • Who?

      A few quick, tired points…
      1. The ARU always should have been able to predict that expanding the game would cost money. That’s an acceptable thing, as it should be considered an INVESTMENT. What isn’t mentioned in all the talks is the money that was needed to prop up provinces that shouldn’t be failing. In the last decade, that has included both the QRU and more recently the NSWRU. This is unacceptable.
      2. As mentioned in the article, with money being a major concern, the ARU are on track to make a profit this year. No bad thing, given they’ve got had a long history of losses and still retain a cost structure including five Super teams.
      3. Losing a Super team doesn’t increase the revenue base – it shrinks it.
      4. Money has rarely been directed to the grassroots. In fact, in the past five years, it’s increasingly only headed the other way.
      5. Coaching education is, from my experience, driven by the head coaches in the system. Currently, Cheika drives what goes down to the Super teams, and the Super teams drive the levels below them. When Link coached the Reds, the QRU’s coaching education curriculum was innovative and fresh. It’s stagnated since. The same can also be described of Rod Macqueen’s time with the Wallabies – back then, it was about developing everyone to a higher level. I’m not sure it’s been that way since…
      6. TV Ratings might be low for the Force and Rebels, but their crowds aren’t unreasonable – compared to any Australian or Kiwi team. When was the last time the Reds averaged more than 20k/game for a season? How many times have the Tahs done that over the last decade?
      7. Current results don’t really give us a clear indication of where we are against South African teams, as we’ve only had one come out here, and they got beaten by a team that is currently in the bottom half of our ladder (the Reds). We’ve played a lot of Kiwi teams, toured to SA a bit (where things always get interesting), but have hardly hosted anyone.
      8. Consolidating players and coaches won’t help. It’s not like the Reds or Tahs need extra Wallabies. It’s not like throwing another couple of poorer coaches in with an existing bunch of poor coaches will improve the quality of the coaching. And there’s no guarantee that the good coaches will be the ones who retain their jobs. Richard Graham got the Reds’ job, off the back of an atrocious record at the Force. Most (certainly not I!) said that, “It was only the Force, they just aren’t a good team.” He went to the Reds and led them to exactly the same record. Showing that the location of the team isn’t the key to their performance.
      9. If fewer players not currently up to Super Rugby standard get selected, how do those players who aren’t currently Super Rugby Standard develop to Super Rugby Standard..? Part of the point of having teams is to expose a greater number of players to high level competition.
      10. Wallaby performances in 2016 aren’t related solely to the Super season. They’re related to the coaching at all levels across our game. For mine, 2015 was a fantastic performance – the team over-performed, they reached above expectations. 2016 showed issues throughout the year where there were clear failures of coaching. Effort wasn’t an issue, Rugby IQ was (not EQ, IQ).
      11. Issues with discontent have occurred in the Super 18 period. They weren’t nearly so strong during the Super 15 period, and we’ve had no new Australian Teams in that period (Super 18). The issues largely relate to the horrific conference system foisted upon us all, with uneven numbers in conferences, a poor explanation of the point of the conferences, and a constant whining from all Kiwis about how it’s unfair that even though they’re the best teams, they don’t all make it into the finals (when that’s not the way conference-based competitions work). So, if the issue is that we had a badly designed competition, why then are we dropping teams and retaining the badly designed conference system..? Why not just fix the conference system (which I’ll admit the S15 proposal largely does, though the number of finalists is excessive and truly insane. But don’t tell me that the fixed conference system isn’t a major reason for any success it has), rather than dumping otherwise (mostly) viable teams..?

      • Tommy Brady

        A lot of very valid points.

        Why were both the Force and Reds faced with Richard Graham and Michael Foley as their most viable options at the time of their respective appointments? Why are 2 of the 5 current coaches foreigners? Is it because funding that should have been directed to coaching development programs was instead channeled to keep the Force financially afloat? Is it these same insufficient financial resources that is preventing proven Australian coaches offshore from returning to Super Rugby head coaching positions? Doesn’t a lot of that need to change?

        The NRC is the competition to best prepare guys for Super Rugby. That focus must continue. Right now Australia does not have 180+ players (5×30 + 30 injury call-up’s) skilled enough to play Super Rugby. It’s why 2 sides have Kiwi’s playing flyhalf for them with other Kiwi’s and Africans getting jobs when unwanted in their homelands. Doesn’t that need to change?

        Increased revenue for the ARU was only coming from elevated TV broadcasting fees with the additional content being provided. The Rebels and Force were never going to be profitable stand alone entities based on their market positioning and on-field success. Doesn’t that need to change?

        The Wallabies in 2015 did outperform, helped by a nucleus of Waratah players from the 2014 title winning side. Those same players and their head coach failed to undertake the necessary preparation and evolution in 2016. The tone was set in Super Rugby and continued through the year. An identical pattern has re-emerged in the first 2 months of 2017!. Doesn’t that need to change?

        Conference systems are what they are. Every year in the NFL the winner of a weak division makes the play-off’s whilst much stronger teams from better divisions do not. Currently the leading AUS team have equal competition points as the lowest NZ team. Right now Australia is guaranteed play-off rugby. It should feel grateful.

        • Andrew Luscombe

          Every league on earth directs funds to the poorer clubs because the richer clubs need the competition to make them be the richer clubs.

          Teams are not viable business units on their own. Leagues and tournaments are the business units of sports. The product is competition, and a bunch of reasonably well matched competitors is required. Some are always below average, and some always have more support than others.

          Bailing out is just another way of directing subsidies to the lesser funded clubs. While it might sound bad, it really makes no difference if a team is bailed out after losing more money than planned or given a high distribution of central revenue before needing a bail out. It’s just a question of how much the central body wants to incentivise cost savings or avoid negative publicity.

          You’ve got to look at the league as a whole.

          There are definite and clear negatives to cutting a team. There are only speculative upsides.

          There are clearly alternative and better methods of making teams competitive – every other sport in the world uses them and they are proven to work. Cutting teams is not proven to work. It is a plan based on pure speculation and is reckless. No well run business would do this.

        • Nipper68

          Agree 100%. But… if you don’t cut a team, then you have to have a plan to fix the system, and that’s clearly not forthcoming from this crew!

        • Tommy Brady

          I do not believe the concept of returning Super Rugby to 15 teams from 18 teams is at the heart of people’s dissatisfaction here. It is the fact that one of the team’s earmarked for removal is an Australian team. Sense people would be feeling the same way if the 3 teams cut were the Sunwolves, Jaguars and Kings?

        • McWarren

          1. There are and were better coaches available than Graham and Foley. But as these decisions are taken behind closed doors I can’t answer your first question, but I have my suspicions and they revolve around the Old School tie issue. So what if 2 of 5 coaches are foreigners? If they do the job and filter down their knowledge then all the better. Certainly we need to fund better coaching for coaches and officials, but I know the frame work is in place to do this it just seems to lose impetus every few years. Maybe we could stop buying League duds and channel those funds towards coaching?
          2. The NRC is an absolute god send for Aussie Rugby and should have been persisted with when it first arrived. Alas it was canned as financially unsustainable. Imagine the depth we’d have now if it was 3 years older? I think we do have the depth for 5 super teams, we have the talent all we need is the support for those players. You talk of the Kiwi’s playing flyhalf, and I couldn’t agree more, they shouldn’t be there, why do the Tahs have Mac Mason twiddling his thumbs all season? Why isn’t he or Sam Green plying their trades at the Rebs and Brumbies. I think we need a central contracting system and possible a draft system to deal with all our untapped talent.
          3. See Andrews comment below.
          4. The Wallabies over acheivement in 2015 hid a lot of deficiencies. If we’re honest we should have lost to Scotland in the RWC. The fact we made the final justified quite a few bad decisions by Cheika, Pulver and the board. For me most notably is the Giteaux rule. That decision is now coming home to roost. I think the 2016 Wallabies stumbled because Cheika was still playing 2014 Tah ball, don’t get me started on his player selections. Internationals are a completely different ball game, and our national coach still hasn’t figured that out. It has nothing to do with the inclusion or not of the Force or Rebels in SR.
          5. I’m not one for blaming the conference system. It is as you say what it is. It doesn’t seem to be bothering the Kiwi’s. Though if changing it means keeping 5 aussie teams then by all means change it. But I’m not sure why Australian rugby should be grateful to NZ for our one place at play-offs, if it wasn’t for Oz and SA financial clout do you think the Kiwi’s would be looking so healthy?

        • Tommy Brady

          Well thought out commentary McWarren. I would be curious to know the coaches who were available to coach the Force and Reds who were overlooked in favour of Foley and Graham. I would have better certainty listing guys who were approached for the roles – but declined.

          I guess my underlying point here is like it or not, Australian rugby currently has it’s back firmly to the wall and some very important, very sound strategic decisions need to be made. This belief that a/ the current status quo should be preserved with b/ make cosmetic change only in the hope things right themselves or c/ let’s undertake expensive redevelopment plans with money the ARU does not have are all flawed. Dramatic times call for dramatic action and pretending things are not dramatic is in my opinion naive. As Warren Buffet so aptly put it “it’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked”. For too long it would appear the ARU have been swimming naked.

        • McWarren

          No I don’t pretend times aren’t dramatic, but getting rid of one revenue source to save on expenses just as that revenue source looks to be delivering is counter productive. We may as well have flushed the cash sent to the Force or Rebels down the drain. If you make an investment in the future then bloody well see it out. If depth of talent is one of Bills concerns then canning a source of talent development hardly seems wise.
          Alan Gaffney springs to mind. Matt Williams, Brian Smith, Matt O’Connor. I don’t know if all were available, if they turned it down or what. But you have young fella’s like Michael Heenan coaching at Uni who had actually done the hard yards and learnt there trade. Not journey men with poor records. And let me clear, I hold nothing against Richard Graham, he applied for the job and got it, he spent a year with Link and still held the job. Look at the example of Dave Wessels at the Force or Dan Mckellar at the Brumbies, there are young coaches chomping at the bit so why hand a cherished job like Reds coach to a bloke who hasn’t got the runs on the board even after years of trying?

        • Perth girl

          Remember who won the NRC last season? It was Perth Spirit

        • Who?

          Wow, I thought I was up late…
          Graham and Foley were selections made by the boards. I don’t believe that extra cash would’ve found them a better option – I’m not sure that either recruitment panel wanted alternative options. Regardless, I don’t believe the ARU would’ve handed over cash to fund a better option.
          In terms of developing coaching programs, these tend to be administered by the states, and they have their own local flavours. So again, not the ARU’s cash responsibility… That said, I’d like to see the structure of how coaching programs are produced, to make them nationally-driven, but I don’t see any focus on that area (which is a mistake).
          I should also note, coach education is self-funded. If you want Level 1, get ready to spend about $100. Level 2 is more like $500 (plus three days, possibly accommodation, etc). Level 3 is more like $2k. So it’s not like coach education is entirely a cost on the ARU or state union’s shoulders.
          I completely agree we should have a strong focus on the NRC. That said, again, that’s not really costing the ARU any cash. The clubs are liable for their own expenses and risk (hence the QRU banned any level below them from being involved, to protect the clubs/sub-unions from financial risk).
          But I don’t see that we can’t develop the existing Super players to a higher standard… Player depth isn’t the issue, for mine, it’s coaching quality.
          I put the 2014 Tahs and 2015 Wallabies’ efforts down to Cheika’s sheer presence. The Wallabies, in spite of a losing 2014 TRC, were actually on a strong upswing, with a lot of new players. And Cheika is a dominant figure. He’s not a technical coach. But he’s a scary, passionate guy (scary is borrowed from Jonny Sexton – directly, “Everyone’s a little bit afraid of Michael Cheika” – Jonny should know, given Cheik coached him at Leinster), and players want to play for him. The problems faced since then are technical issues (be they skill issues, game plan issues, etc), and no one is successfully addressing them.
          I have no problem with a conference system, I just think that the one introduced was about as badly drafted as it could possibly have ever been, and I know lots of people are whinging about it. Especially Kiwis with the finals… We should be grateful for the guaranteed finals spot, knowing that these things happen. There were years in S14 where the Saffas missed finals completely. It’s not great for any nation/conference to miss finals.

    • Stoff

      Are you looking at losing your team? If not go stick your ‘must lose this emotive parochial bias’ up your clacker. In fact stick it there anyway. It is what sport is about.

  • Gottsy

    Problem? Fans aren’t watching.
    Solution? Cut a team, that will bring the fans back.

    Ffs. This whole thing is going the shitter fast.

  • RahRah

    The ARU make an Interesting claim of having $6 million at it’s disposal after flaming a franchise. I have serious reservations around this claim.
    The following is a direct quote from Steve Tew interviewed earlier; “We’ve largely left the revenue split as it was,” he said. “We’re
    comfortable that’s the right thing to do given the circumstances. There
    will be costs in unwinding these teams in any case so we’re not unhappy
    about that.”
    He admitted the new broadcasting agreement in 2020
    could factor in the differing representations from each country, among
    other things. “It’s a complicated negotiation at the best of times,” he
    So initially the money saved will be spent on dismantling
    one of the franchises, then come 2020 you can bet London to a brick that
    the ARU’s share of the revenue will be cut to a proportion reflective
    of its contribution i.e. less money coming in for grass roots
    development. The claimed $6 million is an illusion.The end result
    will be a complete and utter loss of support for the game in the region
    that the ARU burns. All that hard work and years of support form lovers
    of the game arrogantly burnt with no real financial gain – brilliant.

    • LBJ

      Unfortunately you are completely correct.

      Only a complete clean sweep of the ARU could provide the opportunity to reset and start start again from scratch.

    • McWarren

      May I suggest to Steve that if the negotiations are little complicated for him, bless, then he get someone qualified and with a pair of balls to do it.

  • Enrique Topo Rodriguez

    Visit this link in LinkedIn I’ve posted it before knowing of the decision about culling the Force and the Rebels Teams!

    ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT SHORTSIGHTEDNESS: “A COMMON THREAD TO AUSTRALIAN RUGBY 1996-2017″ – Therefore start remembering the Chairmen had, CEO’s had and Directors had riding the top heavy gravy train… Wakey wakey……

    • Kev Brown

      Round of applause topo

  • Nickwaiheke

    This is such tough stuff and unites us all regardless of who we support and which country, felt for those Force and Kings guys Sunday UK time who all played their hearts out. Strange times and even as a one eyed Kiwi I felt myself willing the Waratahs on in the second half.

  • Nutta

    A day of reckoning…

    Plenty of good points from plenty of contradicting angles have been raised. For me, this is the way I see it…

    Rugby is on the march world-wide. It has never been stronger. And in terms of a team based, body contact, grass-roots sport that can be enjoyed by the everyday man of any shape & size it actually has no rival. Seriously who can rival it on those terms? Don’t give me soccer and basketball and American football and all that shite because they are very different games, body-shapes, equipment levels etc. Rugby is creeping slowly but inexorably East in Europe (Romanian front rowers anyone?) and for all its failings, the affirmative-action policies of the jarpies is growing the game exponentially in the South of Africa and expanding. I’m +40yrs and when I travel I still take my boots because I know I’ll find a game somewhere. In terms of the great life contradictions, I as an Irish catholic white-guy played alongside Muslims, Jews and Ortho Christians on a wet day in Instanbul once. Then we all got pissed. And no got shanked, shagged, bashed or blown-up either on the pitch or in the crowd (hey, it was rugby, there was no fkn crowd besides someones mum and stray dogs). Who da fk else playing what fkn game can say that?

    So rugby is expanding it’s market internationally. From a very secure base the push is on to break into Asia (Japan world cup, the indian game growing fast and our Chinese friends declaring it the official sport of the Red Army) and into the America’s & US (the US league and college programmes are exploding in-particular). To facilitate the expansion in Asia and the US they need to lift the level. Thus Japan and Argies into Super rugby as part of that “amping up”. That’s our cross to bear (Hey – it’s Easter yeh?). No one on the global level is coming to help us. Their prizes are elsewhere. We are not fledglings. We have won 2 World Cups. We need to stand on our own feet.

    For now, the model in Oz is not working. We can’t deny that I reckon. No one can tell me they are not so apathetic to Super rugby in general as they are this year. And it isn’t getting easier. Player numbers are down (where has 5th grade gone?), sponsor dollars are down, we have more players already OS than ever before… It’s a hard slog. Especially when you consider the level of competition we have that no-one else in the rugby world has. Tell me one other country where good rugby goes up against other body-contact rivals as well established as the likes of league and AFL as grass-roots, participant based competitors?

    So what do we do? We contract a little bit, we get our shop back in order and then we go forward again. Getting our shop back in order is not a return to the ‘good ol’ days’. Shite changes. We need to be relevant to today. And I’m sorry my friends but here is that old chestnut again: we must let go of the blue-blood, elitist, private-school snobbery of our past and seriously go after and embrace the larger population bases. We must become the game of the many and not of the privileged few which we have got away with up until now. Not until we can truly select players from the masses and not the 0.5% will we stand a chance against the common-man rugby-playing nations (ie our mates over the dutch) or the AFL and/or Mungo. I’ve said plenty about this before so i won’t rehash it (unless someone asks…) but we must attack western Sydney and SE Qld at a start to access population and market and make this a proper every-man game. To that point we are 5yrs too late. We let league resuscitate from their own self-imposed death-bed, we let the Western Wankers-with-Flares get up and charging whilst the Greater Western Embarrassment damn near made GF last year. So we given ourselves a challenge yeh?

    Otherwise we stay fringe and we go into a sporadic coma-like state until the rest of the known universe is conquered and the international game decides to give a wee shite about lil ‘ol us (not for a long, long time).

    A good Boss of mine once said “Jimmy, fix it or someone else will.” And our path to fixing it isn’t to stay over-stretched and under-performing. we need to pull back a little, get our coaching development, referee development and administrative accountability sorted and then go national again – only this time from a strong base. For me this all screams mass-popularity and centralised control but that’s another article…

    • McWarren

      Nutta, a very compelling arguement. However, you state rightly that Rugby is a game for all body shapes, thankfully or I’d have never got a game, then you suggest, again correctly, that we need to concentrate on the masses (not Easter Mass). Well I’d suggest both Perth and Melbourne have a critical mass of population and lots of guys and gals who don’t fit the physical requirements of Ping Pong. Not too mention their rather large expat populations that have a natural affinity towards Rugby. By all means mine Western Sydney and SEQ for talent and direct a few of them to Perth and Melbourne.

      For me our biggest concerns are as stated by others our coaching and admin. I believe you can add to this the talent identification and grooming. Shedding the Force, and I believe it will be the Force, isn’t going solve talent idenfication issues in the West of Sydney and SEQ where most decent players get cherry picked by the NRL at age 15 or 16.

      • Nutta

        For me the great tragedy of cutting the Force (because that is who will go) is the fact they field 10 or so home-growns in their squad. That speaks volumes of the quality of their local footy and their programme in general. However as machiavellian as this sounds, those expat populations in Perth are exactly why the ARU will be thinking it can cut & run & return in the future – because the expats will still be there. Whereas cutting Melbourne just means a big legal and $$ fall-out. That creatively-created $6m surplus will disappear faster than Auburn property developer then.

        • Perth girl

          We will not be here waiting to be shafted again Nutta what the ARU are trying to do to us in WA is criminal and we are fighting back but if we go then we are gone for good

        • chibimatty

          There’s a small problem with the ARU thinking that those expats will still be here when and if the ARU decides to come back to Perth. They may well have all gone over to rugby league. Remember, Chance Peni and Curtis Rona come from Aranmore College, a school that plays and develops both rugby codes. Schools in WA don’t necessarily have the league vs union, fibro vs leather-patch divide. If anything, both rugby and rugby league share the same demographic, the divide is more about a cross-code rugby niche against the AFL behemoth. If the ARU goes, the Polynesians, Kiwis and the English (there’s lots of northerners here) developing here will play league, the rest of the Poms will stay in soccer and the only core group left will be the white Africans. They need to look at the mistake that rugby league made by leaving town, the damage could be irreparable.

          Ironically after 20 years of said damage, the NRL will jump on this opportunity to grab this player base along with the RL one they already have in WA.

        • Nutta

          I actually agree with your logic. The problem is I don’t think your quite valid points register with the aru. I think they see the court case with the Rebs ownership that they will surely lose as the bigger issue.

    • harro

      You are right, rugby is doing well the world over. But not here in Australia. We need to do what’s right for us not for world rugby. If that means getting out SR, then so be it. Cut the Force and rugby will die in WA

  • Brisneyland Local

    Nick, great article.
    I have just read elsewhere that the Force have initiated legal action against the ARU.

    I think it behoves all of us rugby fans to help crowd fund this case.
    I really hope that the Force survive, and that the current ARU board and Billy Pulver do not!

  • LED

    How about this idea?…

    First – I agree with your coaching point most of all. The decline of Australian rugby shown in that chart is more likely due to a decline in the skill development of players driven by a general level of coaching that hasn’t kept up with the development of the game – and this is at both junior and senior levels. I see it particularly at junior clubs with a volunteer run system. Even in top teams the coach is many times the poor Dad who didnt say no fast enough and has limited experience in preparing players, let alone progressing them. And that feeds into ill-prepared players as they reach their key 20’s age group. It also means there is zero consistency around junior and senior rugby in how players are being trained. So how on earth do you pull an elite team together when you have to firstly undo the bad practices of many players that have been allowed to fester in the current system before you can rebuild them into a cohesive professional team?

    So that one Super team is to be cut is now moot. If its going to happen – how do you ensure that a crap decision ultimately leads to the greatest benefit for Australian rugby?

    Well how about if the ARU uses the cash that paid for that Super team to instead pay for 1 professionally trained, part-time coach to be appointed at every one of the 848 clubs in Australia – junior and senior, during the rugby season as a Director of Skills Development. Each of these coaches would be centrally trained by the ARU/Wallabies performance unit and there for a nationally directed, long term skills development program at grassroots focusing on individual and key positional skills for every player. They would assist with coaching the top teams in each age group and at the same time upskill all those hard pressed Dads who are responsible for each junior team in the way to run drills and training most effectively.

    It would also act as an important coaching talent identification program – allowing the game’s central governing body to monitor and identify the best coaches coming through and offer them more opportunities to develop even further. So you achieve 2 aims – better players and better coaches right through the system.

    It has been 10 years of rot in coaching and player skills as shown in that diagram and this program if implemented may take another 10 years to deliver highly skilled elite professional players – but thats the investment required in grassroots in order to turn around the amount of damage done so far.

    It also would be a neat way of trying to get the best of the central NZ system down into Australian rugby without taking away the fiercely independent identity of the clubs.

    Anyone think this would work?

    • Nutta

      Coaching – you want to know what’s embarrassing? That there is about 6 clubs in Sydney Subbies rugby where I do a little work at basic forwards skills development and they need someone (like me) to come along and go right back to scratch – body shape, tackle shape etc – to re-learn basic basic stuff. I find it quite gratifying to see the ultra-quick improvement to their scrum, lineout and ruck&maul. I love being involved. However at the same time I find it bewildering that I have to do it at all because it is elemental stuff I was taught as a boy. My point is our skill-levels suck. We see that at local and provincial levels. This tells me we need serious investment in coaches.

      • McWarren

        Nutta I’m not sure if you put yourself through the Brumbies v Reds game on the weekend, I did and I’ve only just stopped sobbing. Anyway my point is, I was astounded to hear the commentators say that Lachlan Moranta (the ex leagie) was picked up by the Reds on the basis he went to the same school as Stiles. I don’t want to get you started on a rant as I don’t know what school that was. Now speaking of skills and all we hear of these leagies being brilliant at everything I noticed that Moranta couldn’t pass right to left. He can’t pass right to fucking left. Why the fuck have we purchased a player, an outside back no less, who can’t pass right to left, thats backline play 101. Unfortunately he isn’t alone. How can someone, not just Moranta, who spends their entire life training and playing with a rugby ball in hand not be able to perform basic footballing skills.

        • Nutta

          ‘Too much weights. Not enough speed work.’ Jake Da Mus.

        • idiot savant

          And there you have the difference between Australian rugby and NZ rugby.

        • Nutta

          Yep. I feel a rant coming on…

  • Nipper68

    Cutting one team will do little more than paper over the cracks. There is a structural problem, particularly in the Super setup in Australia. Operating a professional competition still with an amateur parochial mindset and approach. All the resources are consolidated into two teams/regions, and yet they still seem to often under-perform.

    Everyone mouths the words “national game”, “for the good of the game”, “grow the game”. But when it comes down to the tough decisions, they always revert to type and protect their patch. And if the decision-makers are all from Sydney/Brisbane, what patch do you think they protect? This isn’t an anti-East Coast rant, but you’re either for a national game or you’re for your “color” – pick which one is the priority.

    Until steps are taken to create parity through true salary caps (not the current farce), player drafts, etc., nothing will change. It will continue to exist as a professional game run like the old amateur game. Using the NFL as an example, the talent is distributed equitably across the league through the draft, with the bottom-dwelling teams from the previous year getting the first picks. Since the salary cap, there has been more parity across the league, with the smaller-market teams now able to compete with the larger market teams, and any team is liable to win on any given Sunday. That’s how professional sport is run when the interest is in creating a sustainable, competitive set up.

  • Brunt

    If you look at that graph the performance of the Aussie teams is actually fairly consistent, they have gone form slightly above middle of the road to slightly below when you take into account the growth in the size of the comp. It has only fallen off a cliff face since they added the inequitable conference system where the South African teams barely play the Kiwi teams which has unfortunately coincided with the simply astonishing improvement in the standard of the game in New Zealand.

  • McWarren

    Well said and I agree with everything you’ve alluded to.

    Why am I not surprised though by this ARU betrayal and lack of foresight. Our teams could be chock full of talent if the ARU hadn’t pursued its fucking love affair with league stars, imagine the amount of money they could have saved, or spent half of it on the next DHP. Imagine if they hadn’t caved into Cheika’s demand for the Giteau rule. Maybe, just maybe some of those guys who obviously still want to play for the Wallabies would be beefing up the SR teams.

    Fucking short sighted, incompetent morons. I for one would not hold it against any of the SR players and coaches this weekend if they refused to play. Strike like they do in France. Supporters should just refuse to go to games. Seriously, what about #dontturnup (I don’t use twitter so some else can get that trending).

    Too all the Rebels and Force fans, players and coaches my heart goes out to you. Its not fair, its not right and if we all have anything to do with it, its not going to happen.

    • Perth girl

      The ARU would not pay a top up to Nick Cummins, a Wallaby, because it poured $3 mill into buying Karmichael Hunt for the Reds afew years ago. Nick Cummins was lost to overseas and is no longer playing How many Wallaby caps has Hunt got?

      • McWarren

        I agree Perth girl. I don’t mind if a bloke comes over from League or AFL in the case of Hunt, I really don’t, I just hate these ‘Marquee’ signings where all the cash seems to be paid up front, where rugby takes all the risk. By all means Karmichael, Marika, Wendell, Matt, Lote come and play Union but earn your right to big money first. The loss of Nick Cummins was huge for Australian Rugby and the Force in particular, his rugby prowess aside he was exactly the type of bloke I want my kids to be emulating, tough, honest and straight talking.

  • lee enfield

    I think the ARU are playing clever games to justify the extinction of 1 Australian team. The elephant that the ARU don’t mention in regards to dropping a team due to player depth is the salary cap.
    We easily have the depth to field 5 competitive teams if we make changes to the salary cap to help retain the talent we lose to Europe.

    • McWarren

      and stop picking o/s players for the Wallabies.

  • Chinese Dave

    “when money is prioritised over growing talent, that is when the game starts to die”

    I could try for hours, but never beat this sentence. Well put!

  • harro

    The whole thing is entirely about money. How can you cut an Aussie team but keep the Sunwolves in? SR is now solely a business and no longer a sporting competition. I really feel sorry for the fans of whichever team gets cut – it’s the end of rugby in that state. Does anyone remember the Western Reds? How’s rugby league faring in WA right now? When does the NRC kick off?

  • John Anderson

    well done in writing this, I feel that you have addressed what most of us feel.
    What I would like to see is the true numbers if this is for financial reasons.
    Logic would say that not having to underpin either the Rebels or Force (as they both receive additional support beyond any other teams as per ARU financials just released) will create a saving, but by how much? less teams and less games overall must also mean reduced revenue from the television rights, surely? if this is the case what is the nett difference between what they save as opposed to the additional costs. Costs are in television rights, player contracts being paid out, relocation costs, staff redundancies etc. And just as importantly I imagine that whichever franchise is “saved” the ARU will still have to underwrite that team for some time.
    Show us the true numbers so we can understand the reasoning!

  • Kev Brown


    This is a bad dream surely
    If the financial spreadsheet is the guide and the corporate body exec can’t produce
    Bye bye bill times up
    Those big boys and there deduction theory doesn’t grow future it stuns development for years to come
    But hey what do I know I’m just a fan and should thank my lucky stars I can pay 160 for a jumper 50-75 bucks a game and the rest and enjoy getting beaten by the smart ones

  • Enrique Topo Rodriguez

    Visit this link in LinkedIn I’ve posted it before knowing of the decision about culling the Force and the Rebels Teams!

    ADMINISTRATION AND MANAGEMENT SHORTSIGHTEDNESS: “A COMMON THREAD TO AUSTRALIAN RUGBY 1996-2017″ – Therefore start remembering the Chairmen had, CEO’s had and Directors had riding the top heavy gravy train… Wakey wakey……

  • Nipper68

    First, I want to state that I dont think cutting a team (either of them) is the right move. Youre not going to fix structural problems by cutting a team. This is just an easy fix, rather than the ARU dealing with the very difficult structural issues.

    But if its a done deal that one has to go, the main argument for the Rebels to stay is that they’re privately owned. But isn’t that more of a risk?

    What happens if they keep the Rebels, and they continue to lose money over the next three years. At some point the owners will say, “stuff it, we’re tired of throwing away cash.” What happens then? I would guess the ARU becomes owner of another loss-leader team, and we’re back to square one.

    At least with the Force, the ARU has control over the direction of the club, and the decisions that are made (not that I think they’d be strong stewards of the club).

  • Mustafa Kemal

    ACT – Rebels merger only way to go. Keep the bulk of the ACT squad in tact, add the cream of the Rebels, allocate half the games to Melbourne and, hey presto, one South-East Brumbies Super Rugby team . . .


Die-hard Brumbies/Country Eagles fan now based in Sydney. Author, anthropologist, musician, second rower. Still trying to make sense of the 21st century. Dropped a debut novel last year...

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