Why I can't support Brett Papworth and Alan Jones - Green and Gold Rugby

Why I can’t support Brett Papworth and Alan Jones

Why I can’t support Brett Papworth and Alan Jones

Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men?

So goes the famous tune from Les Miserables, as the rebelling French people begin to take arms against their tyrannical rulers.

You could hear the tune ringing in the background of the letter penned by Brett Papworth, Alan Jones and Bob Dwyer which has received some media coverage in the last 24 hours.

Will you join in our crusade, who will be strong and stand with me?

You don’t need to read the letter, as it’s pretty much the same arguments these guys have been making for the past few years – the current system doesn’t work, and the grassroots ‘rusted ons’ are being ignored.

Their answer is to storm the Bastille, and form a breakaway organisation – the Australian Rugby Clubs Association. The governance of this organisation will be similar to what the ARU used to be: one representative from each of Queensland, NSW, NSW Country, ACT and WA (plus Brett Papworth, obvs).

It’s back to the 80s and 90s, when we were scoring tries and eating pies. All good, right?

I can’t support them. Not even close.

Happy days

Happy days

Rugby in Australia has plenty of problems. Rugby Australia and Raelene Castle are not doing a great job articulating their vision for the game. A change in direction is required, and the ‘power to the people’ solution is one we should be certainly looking at.

But Papworth doesn’t really want ‘power to the people’. He wants power to his people, and that’s the problem.

Remember that all of these issues started when the ARU withdrew funding for Shute Shield clubs in Sydney. It lit a fire that is still burning, and it’s one that fuels this particular breakaway movement.

Where did the ARU then spend that money? On expanding the game, mainly in women’s rugby and in sevens rugby.

Shute Shield clubs have lost their power in our game. But even that statement is too broad, because I’d argue a few Shute clubs never had any power anyway – Parramatta, Easts, Souths, Penrith (RIP), West Harbour. It’s really all about Eastwood and Randwick.

These guys don’t really care about Western Sydney – their clubs weren’t even on the mass email!

They don’t care about Victoria – they don’t even get a representative on the new board!

They don’t care about women or public schools, two major areas of opportunity to expand our game, broaden the revenue base and provide pathways for people to pick up a footy.

What they care about is blokes in their 40s, 50s and 60s who remember the old days, and how good it once was. They yearn for the days where we could sink tins on the hill at TG Milner in the arvo, and then watch our boys beat the Kiwis that night.

Eastwood flanker Chris Alcock breaks breaks away in the 2012 semi final against Norths copy

They think the game is united behind them, but it’s not. Their game is behind them, but rugby is so much bigger than that in 2018. Coogee Oval at 3:15pm on a Saturday is an echo chamber in which Dwyer and Papworth have spent too much time. Their backs are pink from being slapped by the old boys on the hill, telling them to ‘fight the good fight’. To storm the Bastille.

But at its core, they have no real solutions to our problems. They simply point to the declining importance of club rugby, and the declining results of the Wallabies, and think that the two facts are directly related. We give the cash back to the clubs, and then presto, Bledisloe returns.

It’s woefully flawed logic. I wrote a while ago about the need for tangible solutions, not empty rhetoric. I even proposed a solution of my own (have a read if you missed it). Since I wrote that article we’ve had plenty more rhetoric, but still no real solutions. This ‘clarion call’ was more of the same – yes, we get a new Board this time, but no actual policies.

We need a rethink on how we run our game. We need some new blood on the Board. We need to have another look at our schools and club system.

I hear the people sing, I really do. A change is needed.

But this isn’t our song, and Brett Papworth isn’t our frontman.

  • disqus_NMX

    “These guys don’t really care about Western Sydney – their clubs weren’t even on the mass email!” OMFG, that’s hilarious!

    Top article Hugh, spot on.

    • LBJ

      Erm. Do you actually know where Eastwood is? and the Region the club represents? Epping, Hills District, Dural etc…

      • Slim 293

        If you think Eastwood represents western Sydney you might need a geography lesson…

        But it wouldn’t surprise me that Papsmear and his elitist cabal would consider somewhere like Ryde to be “western Sydney.” Hell, their idea of Australia doesn’t even include Victoria or any of the southern states.

        • LBJ

          Pretty clear on where Eastwood is thanks champ.

          Pretty familiar with the region the Woods represent as well as the incredible work that’s been done by Papworth over decades to grow and support rugby in the hills region, Parramatta and Western Sydney. With no support from the ARU and less and less from NSWRU.

          Not suggesting Eastwood is WS, although some might try, rather that it’s no part of some elitist section of Sydney.

          But I am pretty pissed off at uninformed dickheads like you who reward the efforts of great rugby people with nothing but insults.

          Papsmear? Elitist Cabal at Eastwood? That indeed qualifies you to be labeled an absolute dickhead mate. Take your nasty attitude to league pal.

        • Slim 293

          Yeah yeah, we get it… you’re a rusted on Eastwood man and loyal to Pappy. Look, there needs to be change in Australian rugby, but the answer is not to cure that cancer with a heavy dose of full blown AIDS. For every time Paps disingenuously throws out the term “grassroots” when what he really means is “a few privileged Sydny clubs” – have a drink. And I don’t know many “great” men who would associate themselves with that grubby little rock spider Alan Jones – he’s somebody the game needs to have no further association with if it wants to grow.

        • LBJ

          Tell me what they did to you?
          I really want to understand how Eastwood and the Shute Shield offends you so much?
          To me, describing them anything other than grassroots simply makes no sense…

          I’ll describe what it is to me:
          Eastwood and each Shute Shield club every season runs out:
          – Five grade teams
          – Four Colts teams.
          – Womens rugby
          They operate Juniors and Minis – From under 6’s – under 16’s

          For each club this might equate to 20-30 teams each weekend, every season – and they’ve been doing it for decades…(in the northern beaches where I live these days, this equates to more like 50 – 60 teams each weekend).

          Not only do these volunteer-run organisations not get funding from ARU/ NSWRU – They are required to PAY the ARU for the privilege of volunteering. Add to this that they are now being told they are detrimental to the game, have no right to a voice on the direction of the game, and are now being regularly insulted by sections of the rugby community – sections like this G&GR forum – and you might understand the reason people in Sydney are turning away in droves, and why people like me get defensive on their behalf.

          Papy is most certainly not going to be 100% correct – and Alan Jones is most certainly not my political representative – but he has devoted a significant portion of his life to the betterment of the grassroots game – and he is brave enough to speak up on a topic that no-one else is and has earned the right to be heard – the current governance structure is designed to promote professional footy at the expense of all else. And if it doesn’t change, either the game will simply die, or Sydney will be forced to break away entirely – much like WA has done.

        • Who?

          LBJ, the reason why people get grumpy with the Shute Shield is:
          1. They regularly act as if they’re the only ones doing the good things you describe (witness the issues with the EARC back in the early 00’s which others have referenced), and
          2. They mightn’t have as much say now as previously, but almost everyone who’s run the game for most of the past 50+ years has been tied to them. Which means everything we have now – the good and the bad – comes back to them. Where the rest of us haven’t ever had a real voice.
          And you say “Sydney will be forced to break away entirely – much like WA has done.” This is inaccurate. WA didn’t break away. They were pushed out, and then looked for alternatives. And for anyone not living in Sydney, it feels like they were pushed out by the elbow patch and school tie elites, who are strongly affiliated with the schools and SS Clubs. That being the case, this feels like a squabble between two groups of people who don’t have any connection to the rugby community outside the eastern Sydney bubble.
          And yes, I know your complaints about not being aware of Eastwood being further west than anyone realizes, but tell me, if I were still living in Bankstown, would I have a local club? How about Liverpool? Campbelltown? Fairfield? Blacktown? It’s still relatively eastern, and importantly, it’s still only a singular city (Sydney), not even a state, let alone having representatives from the full country. So we’re talking about a bunch of guys who simply won’t be supported by a large section of the community.

        • LBJ

          Frankly, I can accept 1. and 2. – and being disliked has never bothered me (quite used to that), and perhaps you know my thoughts on the NRC/ ARC – we we can only afford to have one national comp – either Super Rugby or NRC – the pursuit of both is simply self destructive.

          What I don’t get, is what seems to be a desperate need to kill rugby in Sydney and to defame anyone who supports the Shute Shield (Papsmear, elites, elbow patch, etc. etc.) – and that the death of the SS would somehow be of benefit tot he game. Keep in mind that hundreds of teams would go down with that ship. Eventually the volunteers stop turning up and there are no replacements. As for the Bankstown example – a comp that represents every single suburb in Sydney, would be clearly unworkable, and while i would love to see promotion/ relegation re-introduced – it would likely see even less western sydney representation – certainly Penrith and Parra would have been relegated long ago.

          Regarding WA, lets be absolutely clear – the NRC is the mechanism by which the force were kicked out of Super Rugby, but that action has (totally accidentally) garnered support in the region and led to WSR – The ARU deserves NO credit for that outcome, but a similar phenomenon is can be observed in SS – and its what has led to this point from Pappy. The next steps need to be cautiously taken, but breaking away is clearly an option and one that should be examined carefully. And there are more twiggy’s in sydney than you can count – one or two might support a breakaway…

          The positive though, is the potential for a form of competition with genuine tribalism – deep, but sporting, dislike of a team that has deep heritage and community eg. Randwick (by far the most powerful potential commercial brand Aussie Rugby has). Imagine melbourne vs. Randwick in a national comp. (both the AFL and NRL GF’s featured games that reflect this setup – and both were well supported) That is something that would bring interest at all levels.

        • Who?

          I don’t see any need to kill rugby in Sydney, and I don’t see any desire for that.
          I do agree that some of the personal names are completely unwarranted. I disagree that using the term elite or elbow patch is unnecessary – they’re a means of explaining a perceived cultural divide, and no specific person was referenced with those terms.
          Bankstown? A comp that represents every suburb? I get that’s not going to happen. But when you’re talking about a city comp that leaves close to half the city unrepresented – as in, no clubs within 20km of them –
          You’re completely wrong with regards to WA and the NRC. The decision to go to 18 teams with horribly imbalanced and unnecessarily complicated conferences (why did we go four conferences, rather than three?) killed Super Rugby. RA was leaking cash like a sieve, due to their incompetence, so their ‘easy out’ was to axe the Force. The NRC wasn’t a replacement for the Force, as the Spirit already existed there, and the only reason the Force exist there now is to maintain momentum with the branding.
          I agree that RA deserve no credit whatsoever for anything positive to do with WSR.
          But if you think we can go back 40 years into the past to replicate what the NRL and AFL built – an intra-city competition with teams added from external regions – then you’re dreaming. If you think that 100+ years of history is required to create tribalism, you’re wrong. Look at the support the Storm has, the support the Cowboys have. The only reason the NRC can’t be that is mismanagement by the NSWRU and RA (who none of us respect) and embedded bitterness created by club allegiance to the exclusion of everything else. This is poor form by those who push it – if a club can support their own club and the Tahs, and support their players being picked into rep teams, why can’t they support Eastwood, Sydney, and the Tahs? It’s the same structure.
          I should ask, what did you think of Johnny Rugby’s articles on The Roar? Definitely had some information not available to those of us not in those areas, which indicate why Shute Shield’s standard has reduced (i.e. it’s not the NRC, it’s contracting practices and the destruction by RA of the academy system, which fed into Shute Shield!), why the NRC isn’t embraced by NSW players (remember, all the other regions are thriving), and the general malaise in NSW Rugby above Shute level.

        • LBJ

          Of course, no-one would articulate that they want to kill rugby in Sydney – it’s an important box on the whiteboard, and essential $ in the financial model.

          My point is that the actions (and words) are killing the game in Sydney – and with due respect to you, I’m not asking for your opinion unless you’re on the ground in Sydney. Instead, I’m offering a well substantiated observation from on the ground (u6, u8, 1st Grate), and providing some insights that might lead to a better long-term outcome. And this isn’t some wild rant from a loner outsider – this is a reflection from interactions with an enormous number of rugby people to in Sydney – people who used to go to the Tahs, Wobblies etc – we’ve just had enough and are going to support SS instead. And are now going to AFL for the first time.

          One of the things that is inconsistent in your argument, is that you say we shouldn’t replicate the NRL or AFL models, and then you use two new NRL teams as examples as to why…but of course they wouldn’t work without playing off the big city teams and rivalries, not to mention the extraordinary investment (in patience and $ amount) – the Sydney Swans turned a loss for 25 years – in the 90’s they gave away free tickets to all games and still could only get 300 people to attend. But Dr Eddleston persisted with his investment and the AFL persisted with player support and grassroots development. And now they are reaping the rewards. This is an important case study for Aussie Rugby (but not in isolation). We should of course look at EPL (worlds most successful comp) and other structures for guidance. But our own heritage and environment is absolutely key.

          Please don’t be confused about there being an ability to simply transfer loyalty to a manufactured team drawn up on a whiteboard – that’s just not the way the world works. For every Storm, there are a dozen money-pitts like the titans and what was the NQ team (crushers?). Certainly Penrith emu’s were created in that manner, and it just never got any traction. And no, you don’t need 100 years of history – but why on EARTH would you NOT want to leverage our Heritage?!!! Thats absolutely insane!!! The NRL, AFL, Wallabies, Cricket and every major team that can – does. Ditto corporates!!. And for what its worth, the Shute Shield has over 1,000 years heritage behind it – yes over a thousand years combined. A millennium. This is a useful asset.

          Regarding the Johnny Rugby articles, I accept them on face value – the NRC doesn’t work as a marketplace for the Waratahs, and is also detracting from the quality of player in the SS. One solution might be to say that NSW contracts will only be awarded players who have played a full season (exceptions in the fine print) in SS. Distribute contracted players through the comp via a draft system. With an NFL style Combine at season end to aid selection in SR.
          What the JR the articles don’t do, is speak at all to the validity of the NRC as a product. The Sydney NRC team could be coming first – and no-one in Sydney would care. At all. Don’t blame the customers – change the product. Pivot. Adjust. Re-launch. (sorry, I’m a product developer).
          Sydney Rugby will either a) get the oxygen it needs (from wherever it needs it) to thrive in the system, b) die, or c) go it alone.
          My deep hope is that we can find a way forward that works to everyones mutual advantage (i.e a)) – but we are currently heading for b) and if c) is the only option – then so be it.

          NOTE: What I’ve said here is about helping rugby to thrive in Sydney. There are no aspersions on any other part of the country

        • Alister Smith

          The crushers were in South East Queensland – not NQ – they played out of Lang Park and a large part of why they ended was because News Ltd, as owner of the Broncos, and 50% owner of the NRL after the schism ended in 1997 didn’t want any competition to their team in the town. Where the Rugby League may have propped them up for another season or two until they developed a base of support they were forced to drop them immediately.

          The Titans are another poor example I’m sorry. If you were pointing to a failure or struggle of the Titans alone you may have a point but the Titans are the thrid or fourth iteration of a RL team there, the had a soccer team in the national league that failed, two national league basketball franchises that failed and the GC Suns are the second attempt (and also struggling) to establish an AFL team on the coast. The problem seems to be establishing any team on the GC and tearing people away from the beach or whatever else is going on their to support it.

          your final note confirms a lot of your approach to me. You are concerned about keeping rugby alive in the traditional areas that its played in Sydney – nothing beyond that – “no aspirations on any other part of the country”. And that’s fine but its a rather insular outlook and in the end, if we just retreat further and further to the north shore and the beaches then there will be nothing left. Do all your players come from local junior clubs. I imagine that even still there are plenty of players from country NSW coming to Sydney to go to uni and looking to play rugby. Players like Sam Carter, Kane Douglas, Ged Holloway first started playing their rugby outside of Sydney and the Sydney comp has benefitted from those outsiders coming in. Also how many of those polynesian kids that seems to fill a quarter of the spots in most of your SS teams are from the “traditional” area.

          If rugby is to survive and thrive in this country we have to take the sport to those outside the traditional areas. to kids like me who grew up in country NSW, played rugby league till I was 18, never went to a private GPS school and didn’t know Eastwood from East Berlin when I started playing. But rugby has looked after me, I have played on four continents, met most of my long term mates through the game (and got at least three jobs because of people that I have met). So I am all for taking this great game to anyone and everyone that wants to play it rather than keeping it as a plaything for a dozen better off suburbs in Sydney.

        • LBJ

          Yes I am concerned about keeping rugby alive in Sydney. Deeply concerned. That doesn’t exclude anyone else, everyone else from prospering, quite the opposite – if we are strong in Sydney, we can grow from there.

          But sorry, I said no aspersions – meaning i have nothing but good things to say about other rugby people across this great land.
          – see previous note on aspirations – I think we have enormous potential, but it has to be done very thoughtfully.

          Country lads playing in SS have been amazing – its my country family connections that got me playing at Eastwood in the first place. And the pattern of relationship across countries and professions you’ve outlined is an outstanding model for how the game has and can continue to attract, retain and grow talent from across the country – long may it be fostered as a core part of our MO. Any and All – i couldnt agree more – and to bring it home, I see that as the fundamental part of what Pappy is trying to achieve…

        • Alister Smith

          Good points well made

        • Who?

          I think that, if you look back, you’ll note that there’s not a single place where I’ve said that I want Sydney to die, or anything of the sort, and all the complaints from those on the ground in Sydney seem to assume that they’re the only ones suffering this issues, and that they need special attention. Reality is that for most of us, what you’re experiencing is just our average year. That doesn’t mean that I think it’s good for you, but when there’s not been camaraderie with the other regions in the past, when that competition has been leveraging its close ties to the national body to its own advantage in a way no other competition can, it’s perhaps a bit much to expect much sympathy from them for experiencing what they’re used to experiencing. It’s never going to be, “Oh you poor sods,” it’s much more likely to be, “Yeah, join the club.” And often probably, “Here’s some cement…”
          In pointing to two new NRL teams, I’m happy to acknowledge the NRL spent a bucketload on the Storm. In an expansion team. However, they did build off an existing base – mostly a base of existing Rugby tragics who were desperate for anything. In terms of the Cowboys, they built off an incredible local passion.
          They did transfer passion to a team created on a white board. Especially up north. How? By having buy in from local clubs. The issue isn’t the ‘manufactured’ team, the issue is the complete and total lack of buy in by the local clubs, which is all on RA and the NSWRU!!!
          In terms of failed teams, the ones that cost the most money and fail are the ones that don’t manage to connect to the local base. Which is why there’s consortia in Ipswich, Toowoomba and other areas around SEQ looking to form new NRL Franchises. They’re tied to the local clubs, so they’re more confident of having support (weren’t the Crushers part of the Super League fiasco?).
          In terms of Johnny Rugby’s articles, I don’t see for a second where you can say that he’s claimed that the NRC detracts from player quality in the Shute Shield. His issue with that was about players who’d formerly be on EPS or academy contracts – and therefore playing each week in the SS – being on full Tahs contracts, meaning that there’s fewer full Tahs who fill the space between top flight Super player and talented junior player. There’s no second tier players in Shute Shield, they’re gone, because we’ve reduced the number of paid player positions available in this country (in each province, as well as attempting to destroy the Force).
          So, as a product developer, saying you want to leverage off an existing heritage which over 50% of the country finds to have no tribal relevance, and which financially is far from capable of rapidly developing itself to a position where it can finance the costs of a national competition with the air travel and other costs that entails, why would you write off something that’s existing? Why not rather acknowledge the issue is the constant and continued fiefdoms and infighting that plagues the administration of Rugby in this country?
          That doesn’t mean Shute Shield dies, the solution isn’t to kill the NRC, it’s do what administrators failed to do originally and connect NRC to Shute Shield. Establish relationships and demonstrate genuine pathways from club to NRC and then on to Super Rugby, with squad players being sent to clubs to find their way to NRC and Super Rugby. In the same way that the QRU HEAVILY promoted NRC through all its clubs and regions, in an attempt to break even in costs (given the QRU took on the financial risks, and then looked to connect with the fans). Of course, that’s way harder to do now than in 2013, because now there’s 5 years of passionate misguided hatred for the product. Misguided, because this is a product that should be the next step, to further develop club players into Super players, and which should see club players seeing more game time at a higher level than they would do if they were just at club level. It should be something that aligns with clubs and becomes part of a pathway, rather than something opposed to Shute Shield, which is clearly how you see it, and how clubs choose to see it.

        • LBJ

          Sorry, I said ‘no aspersions’ as in – I have nothing but good things to say about rugby in other parts of the country.

          In fact I have enormous ASPIRATIONS for the game in this country and beyond – I fully believe that Rugby can be the no. 1 sport in Australia (seriously). In an increasingly disconnected world, rugby is a game that brings people together like no other – its a game that builds community, and sport is the new community connection. Which is why the ARU should be applauded for its work on womens rugby (even though they were forced), sevens rugby and some of the other initiatives.

          It’s why we need to commercial team brands that work, that build community, build depth and meaning….and very importantly, that build resilience – because the fall in relative performance of the wallabies is not a blip, its a glimpse of the future. The Argies are now good. The USA is going to be good. Other Europeans will be good – I recon Germany might be meaningful in 20 years. We need teams that are deeply connected to the local community and have support regardless. Think Fullham FC, Chelsea, Newcastle FC.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          LBJ, what I really don’t understand is your reluctance to have a rugby competition that takes players from Club rugby to Super rugby. Thats what the Mitre 10 cup does for NZ and the Currie Cup does for South Africa and what the NRC could do for Australia if it was run properly. I don’t have a beef with the Shute Shield it is a good club competition albeit a bit insular and lacking any real development, but it is no where near good enough to prepare players to play either for the Wallabies or the Super rugby teams as the jump is too much.

          I agree that if the NRC was to be the equivalent of the Mitre 10 or Currie Cup competitions it would need a revamp and should be managed from RA but I think it is needed as the last few years have proven how spectatcularly bad the transition from Club to Super has been and how the players coming through direct from the clubs are just not as good as the players in SA and NZ coming from their competitions.

        • LBJ

          The real question is what are we trying to achieve.

          For me – its a “Deep Roots, Broad Wings” approach:
          I’m looking for strong, deep, resilient rugby communities – ideally clubs targeting 5 – 10k at first grade games – swelling to 25k – 40k for finals. With each club having a specific local identity (geeographical base) and supporting ~40 local teams from minis to seniors, boys and girls. And feeding into a single regional team. which in turn feeds into the Wobblies. (in a perfect world, the regional teams would only play an important but small role – eg a national state of origin)

          On that basis, I don’t look at Mitre 10 with much envy. Great footy, Great players, but i don’t see a model for us to follow – NZ population is roughly the size of Sydney, and Briz (?), but a footprint about half NSW? so far more accessible. And totally professional. Not the deep roots into the community.

          SA culture is not something I’m at all familiar with, but appears to me to be so complex. So no comment on the Currie cup from me other than observation of high quality of player and team.

          For mine – and this is hard to say – the Poms seem to be closest. competition is not run by RFU, but by clubs, which are strong and locally based – eg bath. – and in regular conflict with RFU – which is healthy! Competition for resources for commercial rational is a sign of strength – and with multiple pieces of silverware to play for UK/ EU etc.

          (The best model in my opinion though is the soccer- EPL/ EFL/ Div1 etc with promotion/ relegation.)

          This is why strong clubs – across the country are absolutely essential:
          I thoroughly believe that strong rugby communities will define the future prosperity of the game in Australia. Places where we connect with our community in an increasingly disconnected world. The NRL has abandoned its communities and is suffering
          – there is a genuine opportunity for Rugby to appeal to that section, if we were anywhere near prepared for it.

          What the NRC does in Sydney is weaken the local clubs and therefore the local communities – its the ultimate sin for what I think we should be striving for – collectively.

        • Who?

          How can you say that the richest competition in the world with the greatest playing depth yet a track record of failure at the top level is healthy?!? How can you think the whole club vs country thing is something we want replicated in Rugby and in the SH in particular?!?
          The RFU has 1 million players on the books. A million. Yet the clubs import a lot of players, blocking pathways for local players. The national team then imports a lot of players (current captain is a Kiwi, they’ve got Tongans, Saffas, a perenially injured bloke named ‘Manusamoa’), currently import their coach… That will change somewhat in years ahead (new 5 year residency requirement), but that doesn’t mean the clubs will change for the benefit of the national team, given they don’t benefit from the national team’s success. England has won a singular RWC, and whilst they’re strong in the 6N’s, they don’t dominate it. A competition where four of the countries have player numbers that are well below a tenth the level of their own.
          Further, each club, with the exception of Exeter, is in major debt and making losses year on year. Saracens, for example, lives in a £50M black hole.
          Promotion/Relegation isn’t anything close to sustainable in a professional environment. The step between levels is always too big. Hence why clubs that are promoted always struggle to avoid relegation, and why clubs that are relegated are generally back the next year. And hence why the English club comp is looking to hedge around their current comp and end promotion/relegation.
          The comp to follow is the one that produces the best players, not necessarily the one that makes the most money. The NPC is that comp.
          The NRC doesn’t weaken any local clubs, you’ve not managed to prove that in any way, shape or form. It’s just the hate you’ve been fed by your club, which is all about protecting its patch, its sphere of influence, which is disappointing but understandable give the complete failure of RA and the NSWRU to create a competition that was aligned with clubs.
          It’d be nice to see 40k turn up to finals, but when did that last happen..? When did anything below the Wallabies last sell more than 40k tickets in Australia? I’m not optimistic that anything that isn’t a national competition will ever reach those figures. We’ve all got other things to do, other things that require our money, and beyond that, it’s better on tv, where refreshments are way cheaper…

        • LBJ

          Terrific. I think we’ve finally reached agreement on what we disagree on – how we prioritise what’s important.

          I think “a million players on the books.” is a terrific sign of success – and something we should be aspiring to (not sure that is the actual number) as our primary goal. its a great indicator of strong, deep roots – which is precisely what UK rugby has.
          – financial and national team success can result from that core, but are of lower priority (relatively speaking – still incredibly important) than the strong community. As long as we have our values on display, I’ll be proud of our Wallabies team.

          If we put the national team’s success as the primary goal, then we become willing to tear down the most important part – our community, our values – that’s when we would really lose. Perhaps that’s what we saw after the Argies loss – I don’t think anyone was proud of that.

          Let me ask you a question, In a world where you have to choose (and we do) how do you prioritise? No cop-outs – 1, 2, 3 – what’s most important?

          NRC hurts the local rugby community. It tells the community, the volunteers that run the game that they are not good enough to run a club that can produce players of high standard – removing one of the core motivators – that they are contributing to something important. It creates an unnecessary buffer between the wallabies and the super players and the grassroots. Clubs are closing down, cant field players to run teams. Volunteers are not turning up for next season, there’s just no reward real or perceived – its articulated in Papys letter and its the cause of the angst. We’re not asking to drain anything from other parts of the community. Just allow us the oxygen to be successful. Stop trying to run us down.

        • Who?

          But do you genuinely think that having 14 clubs predominantly owned by billionaires – not by communities, not by the game, but by billionaires – is success? When you don’t own your clubs, you don’t own your future, and I don’t consider the game to be secure when a few rich blokes can choose to destroy the game.

          In terms of priorities, I don’t see community in the sense you’re describing as fundamental. It’s positive, but not fundamental. Because I don’t see it as something that’s guaranteed or sustainable. We’re more disconnected than ever, but that doesn’t mean that the local sporting club is positioned to be our new source of connection. In my area, I’ve got a lot of old heads who think that we should expect people to be at the club all weekend, that it’s their community, their family. And they get grumpy when people don’t volunteer. Meanwhile, the numbers from those who specialise in sports management – across all codes – say that people want easy engagement, low commitment. And club members look and think, “I can drive 3 hours west for a game of Rugby, or 1.5 hours east to the beach…” They think, “I can get on the team bus with my mates at low cost,” then drive their own cars. Community’s a great opportunity to use, but it’s not a catch all.

          The sports that dominate my town are touch footy and hockey. Hockey consolidated all their assets into one facility, they are the most financially secure sport in my town. The venue is run by the association at arms’ length to the clubs (there’s multiple clubs who make up the association), and that funds everything. People aren’t expected to volunteer, they pay and play. It’s very similar with touch. Touch’s success is based off the fact that you can choose your level of involvement. For some, they choose a team where you turn up for a game a week, no training, that’s it, 1 hour, done. For others, they choose more. Both sports, it’s one venue, it’s consistent, it’s easy.
          But again, there’s no requirement to volunteer, no requirement to lose your entire life to a game that may or may not be of any interest whatsoever to the rest of your family, that’s played by people who may or may not share other common interests with you. Jeremy Clarkson once said of car clubs that owning the same car doesn’t mean I share anything else with another person. That’s equally true of sport. We’ve got people on here who are from the looney left and the raving right. We’ve got people from ‘happy clappers’ to ‘antagonistic atheists’. I’m sure that we’ve got Red Lion and Blue Oval fans on here. Having one thing in common doesn’t mean I’m going to give large portions of my weekend to a club.

          I’m glad you find community in your club. I just don’t see that it’s a guaranteed thing, and therefore we can’t rely on it as the key to our code’s success. Others on here have said they’ve made heaps of friends and gotten jobs through Rugby. I ran a club until I’d spent so much time on it that my business almost closed down. The two presidents and the VP before me all ended up divorced. For various reasons, we’re no longer involved (timing of the competition doesn’t work for us, then we moved away), and I regularly speak with two – yes, two – people in that club. I’m not saying that to complain, I’m just pointing out that even when you almost singlehandedly run a club, you’re not guaranteed to have community. Just commitments. Oh, and it’s not because I’m prickly – if you think I’m prickly, you ought to meet the current committee, whose failure to understand the relational nature of clubs has destroyed the teenage section of the club. I’m the one currently receiving emails from people asking me to return as president (but they otherwise don’t call). Community’s not a guaranteed thing.

          So whilst community’s nice, I don’t believe community should be the highest priority. Enjoyment has to be a bigger deal. This is an optional activity. It’s a luxury activity, really – we don’t die if we don’t participate. It competes for time against family (who may not share your interest), against other sports, against the arts (from visiting galleries like those linked on here recently through dance and theatre and music), always being behind major commitments in work and education. It competes for finances against cable tv, but is after internet/phone/home/food. It’s a discretionary spend. Community may increase chances of enjoying the activity, but it’s hardly guaranteed. I was a club president, yet my son felt isolated in his team by his team mates (in spite of the coaches being consistently inclusive). What kept him coming back wasn’t me (he had options), it was that he enjoyed the game.

          The game needs to be enjoyable and easily accessible. It needs to be independent – I have faith in Twiggy’s intentions, but I don’t want the game owned by anyone – not financially, but also not in terms of access. In Under 10’s, my son had a team mate sledged by some other team mates who said, “You’re only here because you’re friends with this person.” As in, you don’t really have a right to be here, compared to me, given I’ve been here since U6’s. That attitude rubbed off from their parents (who were good people, but a bit snobbish), when the reality was that every kid was only there because their parents paid their fees. No one should have a greater right to access than any other person. It shouldn’t be held hostage by schools, by associations, even by clubs.

          Now, in terms of the priorities of the game, everything has to come down to participation rates. Participation rates are driven by visibility. If you don’t have visibility, people don’t know you exist. I came to Rugby (yep, grew up unaware of it, discovered it as a teenager) because it started to gain some visibility. We won games, we won tournaments. So, in the current situation, we need the Wallabies making positive headlines. Then we need positive headlines at Super level (while it exists. I don’t believe its future is assured). We need rugby on Free To Air TV, or at least easily watchable via free streaming. 2/3 of Aussies don’t have Foxtel. We shouldn’t lose prospective participants because they don’t know we exist. It’s easier to watch the NFL in Australia than Rugby. An NFL Pass is cheaper than Fox, and it’s 3 games per week on 7Mate for free.

          We then need to completely restructure the game – completely. Leave the clubs – they’re fine. Remove all intermediate levels of administration (or should we say interference?). One national body, with clear democratic election of office bearers, elected by club members (not club executives). Cut the costs of duplication, everything locally administered by people employed directly by RA, with input – but not direction – from local clubs. Bodies like the NSWRU and QRU? Most of their work could be done by employees under direction. You’ve rightly pointed to good work in promoting women’s rugby (though I’m not sure that’s all externally driven – I think Pulver was actually smart enough to recognize the opportunities in women’s 7’s himself, given AOC funding for Rio), that didn’t require a new sub-union to run it, only employees acting on the instructions of the existing leadership.

          We should also strengthen the NRC. It’s loved everywhere bar Sydney, so, in Sydney, fix it. Connect the clubs and the NRC franchises, as they should be the rep pathway. Randwick, Uni and Eastwood aren’t going to cut it as part of the NRC – why should we run a comp where the other 8 Shute Shield clubs are completely disengaged? There’s no guarantee that Super Rugby will survive past 2020, so we need to ensure the next tier is strong.

          Let me tell you, and Papworth understands this (given he’s not asking for funding to turn Shute Shield semi-pro again), Shute Shield clubs aren’t big enough to turn out professional teams with players who can compete against Saracens or Auckland. That’s not their role, either. Their role is to provide a place where people can play the game from Under 6’s through Masters. It spreads club resources too thin to ask them to do that, and fund and run a professional team.

          That’s not disrespectful to those clubs. Honestly, who thinks that volunteers are going to be able to exert the effort required to produce players of the standard required to compete internationally?! That’s not the role of a club – their role is to get kids playing, develop them as far as they can, and see them reach for higher honours. In my region, that means see their parents badgered into spending $$,$$$ pa on private school fees. It should mean see their parents pay $$$ for state titles. And down the track, it means they’ll be picked into Grade, then NRC, then Super teams.

          Players are only international standard if they’re working on their game full time. So if players are working full time, their support staff have to work full time. The amateur era died 22 years ago, it’s just that our governance structures and the mentalities of many involved in the motion that is the subject of this article don’t seem to have realized that.

        • LBJ

          Thank you.

          I applaud and am humbled by your passion and dedication – it’s far greater than mine. I’m sure everyone in Aussie rugby appreciates your efforts.
          The best I can offer is to try and find the most correct answer to the Aussie rugby problem – which is quite different to finding a way for me to be correct…
          We need a way for us all to be engaged – deeply. I believe that is the answer. I’m happy to say I’m unchanged in my opinion that we can all prosper. But we need to figure out a way to make it work for all. Not equally, but on the basis of a meritocracy.

        • Who?

          I might be keen, but you’re the one playing and with two kids out there every weekend. I appreciate your passion, how much you love your club. I wish everyone had the same experience inside their clubs. But in terms of our disagreements, I’m just trying to broaden your perspective. :-) Because the truth of the situation isn’t exactly what I see – the truth is something none of us can see individually. None of us can see every perspective. It’s somewhat easier to see your perspective for me (somewhat), because there’s more about the positives of the SRU out there than there is about the difficulties of the game in the bush.
          I’m stoked that you’ve found a community. That’s great. I hope it grows. But I want people who aren’t engaged with community still to find fun. Because fun will keep people coming back long enough that they might find community.
          I completely agree that our game’s administration should be a meritocracy. It’s why I’m concerned about any existing leadership or former leadership stepping in. Because we’ve run out of ideas, and we need a new way forward. No good leadership would ever have ‘foisted’ the NRC onto a supporter base without engaging them, but that’s how incompetent our leadership has been. That they can take a great idea, an expansion and opportunity for greater engagement and development, and make it seem like an attack on their existing base.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Totally disagree. The club based ownership is going to kill English rugby in the same way it has killed English soccer. Happy for you to go down that road but you’ll have to accept Australian rugby sitting at 7 or lower in world rankings and becoming less of a presence. Maybe a country the size of Australia can cope with an isolationist approach but you can kiss the Bledisloe, RWC and Super rugby cups goodbye forever.
          I’m sure there’ll be a national competition that no one except Australia will give a shit about bu nothing else. I think you’d also lose even more players off shore as staying for the Wallaby jersey wouldn’t be anything that would mean anything anymore.

        • LBJ

          Wow! I’d love to be ‘broken’ like English football!

          It’s the national obsession, with the deepest engagement right through society. And just a bit of interest from offshore I might add.

          It seems you’d prefer for us to be a satellite sport who are totally focused on the national team – is that right?

          The restrictions on players movement is a problem for the Super teams and the national teams. How good would it be to have SBW and Barrett playing alongside Folau and Quade and o’Connor at the Tahs! I’d actually go and see that… but these are restrictions we are making for ourselves to feed the national team. And we’re failing anyway.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Yeah I get you in English soccer and absolutely it is big at the club level. I actually do focus on the national team because that’s where the real competition is. As I said if you want a domestic club competition at the expense of the Wallabies then fair enough. I can’t see how that would ever make enough money to keep any decent player, mind you without the growth and international competition you won’t grow any so a moot point anyway.

          I don’t think there’s any way SBW or Barrett would want to play for the Tahs. Why would they lower their standards that much? Also Barrett and Quade both play 10 so the chances of them playing alongside each other is pretty limited.

          It’s obvious we won’t ever agree as we see things so differently. Be interesting where things go

  • disqus_NMX

    “These guys don’t really care about Western Sydney – their clubs weren’t even on the mass email!” OMFG, that’s hilarious!

    Top article Hugh, spot on.

  • Missing Link

    great article. sums up how most Aussie rugby fans feel.

  • Keith Butler

    They play rugby in Tasmania (where I live) and South Australia as well. Not to a great standard agreed but played nonetheless.

  • theduke

    I’m with you Hugh. Vive la rugby. To the barricades!

  • Twoilms

    If AJ is involved you can count me out.

    • Bakkies

      If he can get rid of parasites like de Clyne, Gray and North then I am all for it.

  • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

    As others have said, this is an extremely accurate and important article.

    The Australian rugby media are failing the sport as much as the Rugby Australia they are constantly lambasting. Every time they use ‘grassroots’ to refer to Shute Shield they further devalue the term, isolate Australian rugby fans who aren’t a part of this very small, elitist and closed club of established Sydney rugby clubs and weaken genuine attempts to spread and grow the game.

    Well said, Hugh.

  • laurence king

    Good article Hugh, I read your previous article from 2016 and your right. Liked the bit about coaches.

  • paul

    The problems of Australian rugby are never going to change until greater focus goes on improving domestic content and popularity.

    This is all just fighting after an ever shrinking handout.

    The game will never change in Australia until the emphasis or 99% of funds are diverted from the Wallabies.

    We dream of taking over the world, but couldn’t even make it to the next suburb.

    Everyone is fighting over the one thing in rugby here. Those in the club are feasting on prawns and outside the peasants are starving.

    But the reality is until private money and a competition that creates interest and enables the game to spread within Australia, which in turn will facilitate the changes required.

    Until then I agree this is just about a bunch of people wanting in the old boys club for more prawns.

    No one wants to hear this but it is the fixation with everything Wallabies that is ultimately destroying the game in Australia.

    Without a greater spread of interest within rugby here nothing will ever change.

  • Bakkies

    Hugh there is a clear message sent out to the VRU and its constituent clubs here. The VRU and the Rebels stop using the RA to over fund your Super Rugby side. The RA’s money is to fund the whole of Australian Rugby not throw tens of millions at the Rebels.

    The message to the clubs is clear if you want a say stop re-electing people to the board who are about themselves, signed a sponsorship deal with a company that is about to be struck off, drained the RA swamp and sold the team to a man who couldn’t afford it.

    • Andrew Luscombe

      Shortly after these guys wrote their last letter, the killing of the Force began. They are no friends of anyone outside NSW.

      You’ve got to stop falsely interpreting past movements of money between divisions of the ARU as money given to the Rebels.

      • Bakkies

        Andrew the Rebels have an agreement till 2020 to receive extra incremental funding from the RA as condition of the sale to the VRU last year for a dollar. They will receive that while the rest of the game particularly Community Rugby remains underfunded in Australia. Sorry there is nothing false and in past tense. In the recent annual report the Rebels received over $10 million dollars in Super Rugby allocation funding while the Brumbies, Reds and Tahs picked up between 5 and 6 million each. The rest of the country have woken up to the ridiculous amounts of extra money that this organisation has received and will continue to do so.

        The people responsible for getting the Rebels in this mess and led a failed attempt of overthrowing the RA board at an EGM were re-elected to the VRU board and the VRU still own the side. The VRU wouldn’t exist without the local clubs so about time they got moving and push for fresh people to be elected to the VRU board so they can move forward.

        By the way the last letter? What are your referring to?

        • Andrew Luscombe

          Hugh linked to an article of his from 2016. That was written in response to the last letter these guys wrote. Hugh’s 2016 article probably has a link.

          After that letter, the ARU called them into a meeting, and publically there were vague assurances of increased community funding. The letter writers were then silent, and moves to kill off a SR team then started.

          The VRU had no control of the Rebels until the middle of 2017. The EGM was called by the VRU in an attempt to stop a team being cut.

          Do you have a reference to the agreement for additional funding to the Rebels?

        • Bakkies

          Papworth has changed his tune since 2016 particularly about the NRC and a lot of things have changed since then. There is no reference to axing the NRC in this letter which is important. They have come to realise that clubs can’t go back to spending beyond their means to move up a tier. Penrith are gone, Parra re-branding, West Harbour at the brink and Gordon can’t be too far off.

          More information about the financials and player development came to light during the Senate Inquiry. Dwyer and Jones went in to bat for the Force on numerous occasions and Papworth is going to bat for all clubs including the ones in WA that came close to losing their state body.

          Community Rugby funding has been slashed not increased and from what I read the NSWRU levy was brought in this year.

          They have also referenced under age results and skill development in the recent letter which has not got better. They have set up a steering committee to address that and got people like Dick Marks on board. Dwyer knows more than a thing or two about player identification and development.


          The original agreement for extra incremental funding was with Cox but it appears that they changed last year with the sale as according to the information obtained by Nick Taylor that the debt clearance for the sale to proceed was under a million so the other funding they received needs to be explained. Particularly considering that the RA slashed Community Rugby funding and made a 3.7 million dollar loss.


        • Andrew Luscombe

          So there’s no longer a special agreement. Would you like to give me a page reference to the $10 million in the latest annual report. I can’t find any mention of any payments to particular teams.

        • Bakkies

          There is a special agreement under confidence which also includes funding from the Vic Government and incremental funding from the RA. Neither party will tell us how the funding is broken down.

          You will need the full report from ASIC. The funding is broken down team by team.

          On page 62-63 in the notes it mentions that there is a special funding agreement in relation to the Imperium sale.

        • Andrew Luscombe

          I presume you are talking about p16 of the “Notes to the concise financial report” which shows up as p63 of the combined pdf file. The Cox agreement was still in place for the first half of 2017. The report covers the calendar year of 2017, and nothing in 2018, so this is not evidence of any ongoing “incremental agreement “. It also refers to a $0.5m grant for the Rebels from the Vic gov that flowed through the ARU books. This amount is noted on p15. The amount is not under confidence.

          Are ASIC documents covering post July 2017 available yet?

        • Bakkies

          The annual financial report covers January to December 2017 and has been available through ASIC since April.

          Even with the 500k grant from the Vic Gov’t and the RA paying Rebels’ directors which was less than a million there is still a significant between what the Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies received in allocations. The Brumbies allocation was less than the Reds and Waratahs.

          Having seen the VRU’s annual reports they aren’t exactly flush with cash to support this side with assistance from the RA.

  • Gun

    The Wallas most recent woeful cycle is actually driving my interest in lower levels of the rugby hierarchy. I’d watch more NRC if the Rebel detachment actually played a game in town this year. I have watched them many times in previous seasons.
    I will renew my membership with the Rebs again but it is doubtful if I’ll put a dollar into the Wallas.
    I agree with Hugh, Papworth is yesterday’s man with s shrinking to greatness agenda.

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Well written Hugh and I agree with you 100%. What a bunch of lemons. This email/letter is actually a very good indication of what is wrong with rugby in Australia. A bunch of senile old boys who are more interested in holding onto their own power and ruling in their small pond than they are in doing something that will actually grow rugby and make it better. It’s actually a pretty sad indictement of the state of play here and indicates that things are definitely going to get worse before they get better.

  • Andrew Luscombe

    I did read the Papworth letter. You’re right, I didn’t need to. I agree with the rest of what you wrote too.

  • Dan Petrie

    Hugh, I respectfully disagree.

    I have come on to GAGR as a supporter of Brett Papworth and Dick Marks especially. These are decent men and I personally support their proposal.

    The game in this country needs drastic reform. What is the point of super rugby for example when the costs associated with these teams (not including what the franchises themselves spend) and high performance are in excess of $70 million annually? Rugby Australia’s revenue in large part relies on a broadcasting deal funded primarily by the Brits and South Africans. Whether Rugby Australia likes it or not we may have to fend for ourselves at some point.

    Brett Papworth is right to call out the problems in the game and as a director of the Sydney Rugby Union who has dedicated a large part of his life to rugby in Australia might know a thing or two.

    Dick Marks was the architect behind Australia’s national coaching approach and has been tireless in championing the game. Bob Dwyer, yes Bob Dwyer is another who feels very strongly about the club game in this country and is always very gracious in giving his time to anyone who wants to talk rugby.

    Why is objecting to the farce that is Australian rugby such a sin? Maybe we do need to leave Super rugby and refocus on building strong club competitions across Australia that can evolve into a national comp on free to air TV is a better way to go. Maybe having the NRC as the premier national competition underpinned by clubs might also work.

    Like many on this forum it upsets me greatly to see the Wallabies playing a brand of rugby that is quite frankly unAustralian. Our teams historically play running rugby and are innovative.

    I stand with Pappy……might make a good hash tag.

    • Bakkies

      Agree 100% Dan, Hugh lost it when he said he admitted he hadn’t read the letter written by Papworth to the clubs.

      The clubs below the Shute Shield can’t keep on paying the exorbitant NSWRU and the RA levies as they will send them broke and/or opt to not field teams to save money which is not what club Rugby is about. They are going to bat for these clubs which are vital for the health and well being of Australian Rugby.

      The clubs in WA almost lost their state union. The work done by Twiggy and John Edwards to keep it going is crucial for the game in WA as it would be very difficult to administrator club comps without a state body.

      • Hugh Cavill

        I have read the letter – I just said the readers didn’t need to.

        • dru

          Yes clearly some selective reading. Hugh, something has to give the RA is not the answer.

          Where do you see it coming from?

        • Hugh Cavill

          I’ve honestly got no idea dru. I think it might have to be within RA, maybe a new Chair and flavour on the Board? The idea of a ‘breakaway’ organisation sounds nice enough, but it’s not realistic.

          The joker in the pack here is Twiggy. If he wants to make a big play then this all might change.

        • disqus_NMX

          The RA doesn’t necessarily need dumping, it just needs a new constitution, and genuine democracy brought in. The way the executives are selected now is a joke.

          Papsworth’s idea, and particularly, his version of democracy, is just as big a joke, unfortunately.

          Twiggy certainly could be the joker in the pack.

        • dru

          Can only agree regarding change at the Board starting with the divisive Clyne. In the current set up it means a desire to turn over the apple cart is required from NSWRU and QRU. QRU at least has its own issues and I suspect is relying on patronage from RA, not the other way round.

          Which means that perhaps Pappy is correct on the constitution.

          Twiggy may be a wild card but is limited without sense from RA. I see the Papworth equation being at best negligible in changing this.

          In the mean time we need high placed rebels but these guys are a distraction I think.

      • Dan Petrie

        Thank you Bakkies. The Pulver levy made little sense at a time when anger was so (still is) palpable.

        • Bakkies

          Yeah it is. Correct me if I am wrong. It is per team. If correct how the hell do bush clubs and even city clubs without licensed clubs manage to pay it?

        • Dan Petrie

          with difficulty. $300 rego in a low wage environment is a considerable disincentive.

        • Bakkies

          Parents are relying on the NSW Government’s handout to each household to cover some of the registration fees.

    • Hugh Cavill

      Hi Dan,

      We all agree the game needs a change. Brett’s sin isn’t objecting to the farce, it’s the way he’s decided to do it and the changes he proposes.

      Our game faces plenty of problems, and I’d love to hear a bit more about the solutions that Brett, Dick and co have to offer. So far it’s a lot of empty rhetoric and comments about the Board.

      I think as long as this approach continues to be taken, the architects of this plan expose themselves to criticism.

      • Dan Petrie

        Hi Hugh,
        Thank you kindly for the reply. For what its worth you are a hell of a writer and a must read for this warrior of the office.

        I think the solutions part is the key point and needs a dollar circuit breaker. I read with interest your take on the challenge of going it alone in Australian competition. This is the frustration and a Twiggy branch might go some way to answering this.

        We need an elite competition that will engage rugby folk and the casual observer before an international series.

        The alternatives have not been modeled properly and in the absence of a practical alternatives that addresses both legitimate concerns raised by clubs and a national/international competition that people will embrace we will be stuck at this point.

        I have been doing a lot of promising on this front and owe Reg an article in this regard.

        • Hugh Cavill

          Thanks for the kind words!

          I do wonder what could happen if Papworth/Marks and co join up with Twiggy. That could make things very interesting indeed.

          The issues are so complex, as you state. Maybe we need some sort of public forum where Papworth, RA, whoever can table solutions to the current situation. We can look past name-calling and get to tangible answers.

        • Dan Petrie

          Spot on. Host it on GAGR. There is enough good will in the community and it is worth a shot.

        • Andy

          I believe we need both. The clubs and the elite teams, both in-sync working from the same song sheet. Because one thing Papworth said was right – almost all the players start in the club system from juniors up to seniors. So we need these clubs well run, well funded and producing better talent.

          I also think we should be Encouraging/incentivising juniors to play for their clubs at senior level and even out the playing field. If we want to encourage support in western Sydney that will surely do it. Wouldn’t it be great if west harbour or the 2 blues were genuine title contenders? Look at the juniors, the talent is there, it’s just not staying there.

      • Bakkies

        I believe Alan Jones is back from his break this Friday so his article may have more information about this.

        Anyone who puts themselves are exposed to criticism.

    • Fatflanker

      Dan, what is this ‘Australian brand’ of rugby you think we’ve lost? Yeah, we’ve had some hugely talented backs in yesteryear but suggesting they were an intrinsic product of former, ‘properly-Australian’ systems, (esp. Shute Shield) just doesn’t hold water. Our League cousins gave us a jump-start over other teams in the professional age in areas like defence, but hardly an Australian characteristic.

      If anything, the defining trait of Australian rugby this century has been capable back-lines left impotent by a laughing-stock scrum – that’s a trait, I for one, am bloody happy to (hopefully) see behind us.

      • Bakkies

        Defence was pretty key in the 1991 RWC win.

        • Who?

          And 99. :-)

      • Dan Petrie

        Hi Fatflanker, I will take out the short irons on this one.
        The Randwick backline play that started with Ellas from Matraville High School is one such case. Backs playing flat with high skill levels around catch and pass was considered rather ground breaking at the time.
        The backline set piece with Jason Little scoring in 98′ was a classic.
        The Brumbies’ style of play packed out Sydney out pubs in the 90s and early 2000s.
        Innovation was key.
        Full disclosure – I had none of those skills!

        • Fatflanker

          All fair points Dan – I do remember the old joke suggesting Brumby players were in demand in Europe as much for their play-book as their talent.

          All for clever play and innovation based on superior skills, (have the kiwis gazumped us here?), whether or not this is the defining ‘Australian ‘way’.

        • Dan Petrie

          Fatflanker….I was thinking ‘Make Australia Great Again’ but I am running with ‘Australian Way’.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate while there are a lot of issues with Australian rugby I’m not sure abandoning the game in SA, Vic or elsewhere is the solution. I agree there are problems with Super rugby but anyone who thinks a low level club rugby competition will bring in enough money to keep the pampered under performing Wallabies in Australia is dreaming. Wait………

      • Dan Petrie

        To be completely honest with you KRL I would have to look at the financial statements and do modelling of how much an Australian focused competition would cost. I have done some modelling of a previous Accenture report but would need to go back to it. Personally I think making the NRC the premier comp with free to air and a pathway to perhaps joining up with New Zealand if they chose down the track as a way forward. Again in the absence of hard data it is a musing more than anything else.

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          The cost is always going to be an issue here both with the number of teams and the travel to have a country wide NRC. I’m sure there are ways that this could be managed and I think this competition has got a lot more going for it than boosting Club rugby up and having nothing between that and Super Rugy.

          I think the Wallabies will eventually have to face that they are over paid and if that means more players go to Europe then that’s just a cost of the business. Paying excessive amounts of money to keep them in Australia is never going to be a winning proposition. The NRC needs to change if it is going to be a good competition, it needs to have a club base that is tied to the team and a clear growth plan. However, the gap between Club and Super is just too big, it’s too big in NZ let alone Australia so there needs to be something or Australia will be left further behind.

          I do agree that RA needs to review the way club rugby is managed and the costs they are imposing on the clubs to keep playing. This is killing the clubs, I referee in the Sydney Suburban competition and all of the teams are complaining of the costs and losing people because they can’t afford the levies. This needs to be addressed. I’m sorry but I just don’t see Papworth and his team of elitist anti-RA whingers being the people to do it. I’m sure they all really care but over the years they have portrayed themselves as caring about SS clubs to the detriment of all other rugby and come across as a bunch of power hungry people who would rather retain their own power in a diminishing pool than relinquish any of this so that RA can make the changes they need. It may not be true but perception is actually reality and this is how they are seen by the wider rugby community. That plus the sheer arrogance where they completely ignored Victoria, WA and any club in Western Sydney just enhances the perception that they have too much self interest.

        • Dan Petrie

          Subbies is a great comp but the costs are becoming insurmountable.

  • mattyjinred

    All I want to know is where is Doc, Marty and the Delorean in this story??? Feels as though they are proposing the same structure that the NSWRL had in place 40 years ago as a way forward. We build our comp and bring a Broncos and Newcastle team in… you get the point. The difference being the player drain won’t be QLD to NSW it will be overseas as $$$$ will be king and they won’t be able to match

    • Alister Smith

      It is actually the same structure they tried and failed to do in the 1990’s. They brought in Canberra, the Newcastle (Flames) and perhaps Penrith at that time to almost match the NRL set up but they were pretty quick to drop it. Canberra then came into the Brisbane comp for one or two years (and won it one year I think) but Newcastle ended up homeless. Then those teams tried to create the East Coast Championship (Newcastle, a few from Brisbane and Canberra) and that lasted a couple of years perhaps but Sydney didnt want anything to do with it because it would see the clubs drop down another tier.
      And you’re right about the eventual outcome too. NRL still say they have too many Sydney teams. The AFL have relocated a couple of teams (South Melbourne to Sydney and Fitzroy to Brisbane via the Gold Coast. Sydney club rugby isn’t enough to sustain and grow the game.

  • phil peake

    I’d like to hear more specific detail from the Papworth group. It’s a shame their message wasn’t more succinct and less political. Having said that they are a group of people still worth listening to. Their love of the game and their success at the highest level means that I’ll still listen to them, at least until we hear more and get to the survey questionnaire. It’s easy to say that they only care about Eastwood and Randwick – 850 clubs sounds like they care a lot more than you’re giving them credit for.
    The focus on clubs might just be a better way. A focus on clubs might also mean focus on all the club’s associated junior village clubs – on the primary schools in each area, on boys and girls non-contact rugby and 7s rugby in primary schools, on junior coaching, on public schools, on representative pathways, on schoolboys pathways, on tribalism. All this can be done through the clubs if it was done properly and customised to each club. Why wouldn’t we want to hear more when we’re seeing current failings?

    • Hugh Cavill

      I’ve heard a lot already Phil, and it’s all empty. I’d love a 10 point plan or something similar, with tangible ways to achieve what you state.

      I agree we need a change, but I’m frustrated that the voices that are the loudest aren’t giving us what we all want here.

      • phil peake

        Time will tell, but I’m still willing to listen.

        Part of my thinking is from seeing developments that have happened in rugby in the last 10 or more years have been at the expense of or instead of investment in grassroots and clubs and I’d like to see that change. I’d like to see more money put into primary schools, junior clubs and premier clubs across Australia. For a change I’d like to see a visit from a professional rugby player in our primary schools.

        I’ve seen money wasted on league converts, I’ve seen selections based on physical attributes over rugby skills and smarts, I’ve seen players like Scott Fardy playing club rugby be ignored because selectors are looking to the next junior rep player that hasn’t proven himself yet. I’ve seen the club rugby clubs being blamed when Super Rugby fails (why hasn’t the NRC improved our professional rugby results like so many including GAGRs said it would?). So yes I’d like to see clubs be the focus for a change. They are the best connection to their communities and they have a lot of answers and if this gives them more of a voice I think that’s a good thing.

        • Hugh Cavill

          That’s fair enough. I think a bit of it is just communication – the State Unions have development officers and players in schools/clubs regularly. Why don’t we hear about any of it? I reckon if RA were better at selling their wins then the discussion may shift a bit.

          I think money is just one part of the problem. I’d like to see targeted investment in developing more coaches, and building player numbers in new areas. That’s about marketing as much as it is about writing cheques to clubs.

          It’s a complex problem, no doubt.

        • Bakkies

          Clubs are having to fund and run development themselves as the state unions receive very little from the RA to finance dev officers.

        • Bakkies

          Phil see my point just below about Twiggy’s Rugby Roos program which was adopted from the Perth Wildcats. Their CEO Nick Marvin was recruited by Twiggy to run the Force this year. It was discussed on Perth radio months ago and ex AFL players hosting the show liked the idea. Pretty good considering AFL underage development is the benchmark in the country.

      • Bakkies

        Hugh what do we all want?

        The way I see it:
        – De Clyne just go and take Robinson with you. I like how Twiggy and Castle excluded those two from the recent meeting with Steve Tew. Robinson and de Clyne ignored Twiggy in Adelaide last year
        – Underage Rugby and coaching needs to be fixed which is mentioned in the letter. As Jones has mentioned the Aus Schoolboys to replaced by the Aus under 18s run by head office not the ASRU
        – A reduced head office which is addressed in the letter. Jones said on his radio show that the RA have 150 full time staff members and they doesn’t included players, coaches, match officials and doctors
        – Community Rugby funding and the RA levy has to be addressed
        – Performance clauses in coach’s contracts
        – No more contract pay outs on players based overseas. What does it say to the players at home?
        – Centralisation will only work when there is trust and no team will be axed
        – Twiggy’s Rugby Roos program to be looked at as it involves the players getting out to the kids at schools and clubs
        – Lack of promotion of the game is a big issue. Fans even the rusted on ones don’t even know when a test is on
        – NRC again promotion. Get a sponsor and a new trophy
        – Clubs to audited in regards to player payments. This was addressed in Ireland under a review a few years back. Club hoppers were also scrutinised

        • Who?

          I want Nutta’s proposal, 4 year boards, voted in by EVERY RA club member. Accountable the year after every RWC.
          I want the structures flattened – with a truly accountable board, with every board member’s direct contacts in the hands of EVERY club president, with responsibilities and authorities removed from fiefdoms and put in the hands of the central body, but that central body truly accountable.
          It’s time to automate the structures of the game wherever possible, to remove the possibility of politics being involved. Rugby can’t afford to remain the feudal debacle it currently is, but neither can it turn into an American style democracy, where every position is a political appointment or worse, election, to the extent that nothing can be done. We need a governance structure whereby leaders have genuine capacity to make things happen (which does mean a strong bureaucracy, but a singular bureaucracy, rather than the current series of ineffective bureaucracies), but where those leaders are easily tied to the grassroots – not a section of the grassroots, but a genuine connection to all those who would like to engage with them.

        • Bakkies

          In regards to the board I think they already have terms but we don’t know how long they last. The CEO has a fixed term contract.

          The Sydney Uni/Boardcorp dominated Nominations Committee must go, this was mentioned in Papworth’s letter.

          I don’t think Rugby can remove politics altogether. Unfortunately it is a reality when involved in sport and one of the main reasons why people don’t want to go on committees. They don’t want to burn bridges and relationships that they have built over the years.

        • Who?

          The problem with the board isn’t their terms’ duration, it’s the fact that they’re totally unaccountable to the grassroots, completely disconnected, and no one anywhere in the grassroots would have a clue how to get nominated to the board. Whilst Papworth has runs on the board in his club, he’s almost as unreachable for the average fan.

          I don’t expect Rugby can fully remove politics, but where there’s no need for politics, it should be removed. Why should there be any political aspect to competition management? Make that part of bureaucracy rather than a decision from an elected body. And that’s just one area.

          Another example is that, in 2013, I attended the QRU’s AGM, and the final AGM of the QJRU. The QJRU was dissolved, and became an advisory subcommittee inside the QRU. Prior to that, the QJRU’s primary function was to organize the state championships. Which meant a lot of coordination with the QRU, but a lot of work being done by people outside the control of the QRU and without any capacity for assistance inside the QJRU (because it wasn’t able to fund them). The dissolution was entirely logical – it made decision making simpler and streamlined.

          In terms of going on committees, I’ve done a good number of years on them, and I’d do them again. Better a regional committee for my current situation than my club committee (especially given I now drive past five clubs to get to my club). But the committees are often closed shops – even for people with a history of serving on them. For example, in my region, most of our competition (2/3 of all junior clubs, 50% of senior clubs) is based in one massive amalgamated council area. The head of the council’s Sport and Rec department had been on a committee (I’d chaired his committee). He advised he would like to nominate himself for a position on the board of the union. He asked the GM and the chair of the board. I nominated him for the position to the GM (he’d have been a great appointment). After he made those moves, he didn’t hear anything from the GM until after the AGM, and he never again heard from the chairman of the board. If it’s that hard to get onto a board at a regional level, how hard is it to get onto the QRU’s board, let alone RA’s board?!

          Oh, and a side note, given his efforts to deal with the chair were met with silence, the head of sport and rec has drifted from management with the game, and has taken his talents to another sport. He’s still part of his club, but do you think he’s going to trust the management of our game when he’s dealing with them in a business aspect, after how they treated him personally? Fine to choose not to have him on the board, but the fact that there wasn’t even the decency to speak with him… Just appalling.

        • Bakkies

          They replaced Stooke who should know grassroots after 700 grade games in various states and being a Rugby WA with the former Gordon president Rorke. Gordon cover a big junior catchment I don’t know how much involvement the club has with underage.

        • Who?

          I agree they shouldn’t have lost Stooke. But even with over 700 grade games, there’s no guarantee you know what’s going on in other areas now. Or that you’ve got the solutions.
          Whilst running what was an expanding competition a few years ago, I had a late complaint about a draw. The complainant was fine, but he cc’d in his club president, who then took the opportunity to vent his 44 years of complaints at me, not caring that you don’t completely upend the draw for a major carnival the day before. He eventually pointed out he had 44 years involved and he’s still got issues. I’m not saying Stooke was one of those guys, but the reality is, if you’re involved in leading something for years, whilst there’s a very good chance you’ve got knowledge of what doesn’t work, then the odds are that you’ve also made a lot of mistakes and don’t have all the solutions, given we still have major problems – some of which are the same problems we’ve always had. Apparently.
          This is why there needs to be contact with people having very different perspectives to your own. I’m not criticising Stooke here – he was clearly one of the good ones – but if he’s gone, and I’m saying even his background doesn’t guarantee current understanding of all the issues, then how can the insular directors currently in place have a clue?

        • Huw Tindall

          You can’t replace the Toast Rack mate. It’s iconic. Everything else thumbs up!

    • Bakkies

      ‘It’s a shame their message wasn’t more succinct and less political.’

      Unfortunately with Rugby it has to be politic. Off the field it is more so about politics than the actual sport.

  • Nutta

    Good article. They are not the future. It’s more factionalism and fk the rest of us. Nail. Hammer. Head.

    Yesterday a bit of a tragically embarrassing anecdote was relayed to me concerning some fairly major sponsorship dollars from a couple of corporate heavy-weights were whipped up by the women’s rugby players in ACT for the specific use of the women’s game (by 2 young females in-particular but I don’t want to get into that blu here so let’s just say ‘they’) and to-which a couple of ACT Rugby hob-nobs, when so-informed, gawffled that ‘perhaps’ a spot may be found on the Brumbies mens jerseys for such an investment (‘Hey, catch that girl with the curry pies before she’s gone yeh? Gee thanks for that. Hmmmff, you were saying?’).

    It then had to be spelled out – again – the cash was for the women. Not the men. Not the school-boys. Not the development programme for 2nd tiers. For the women.

    And wasn’t there that majorly embarrassing and public departure of a major sponsor from the Sydney scene a year or two back over inaction involving the women’s game?

    Wake the fk up and realise the world has changed. I loved the Grand Slam. I actually have it on VCR (somewhere). But it was a long time ago.

  • Brendan Hill

    Well said Hugh, great article. I am all for storming the Bastille, but not if all we end up with is the lunatics running the asylum!

    For mine, we should be focussing on bring other states club competitions up to the level of shute shield, rather than simply further strengthening the shute shield itself. Image that, 5 (Or 6, or 7) club competitions providing the same calibre players as the “nursery of Australian rugby”. These players should then be fed into a (at least) semi professional NRC, which should be expanded and lengthened to allow the long asked-for tribalism to develop. All this would naturally and organically improve the Super c clubs and the Wallabies, by improving the pool they get to choose from.

    Invest heavily in youth throughout the country and this might even be able to be achieved.

  • John R

    Great read thanks Hugh.

  • Alister Smith

    Dear Hugh – thanks for your thoughts on this. I read a lot of the Clarion Call letter and there is much that I agree with in it but I harbour some doubts about the capacity or willingness of the group to do something meaningful. I posted those thoughts on today’s news forum but when i was involved in brisbane club rugby there was a lot of resistance to the East Coast Championship (an early version of the ARC/NRC) and in the end they didn’t participate. There seems to be some thought that the traditional tribalism of Sydney club rugby is required in a national comp and I think there vision (though not detailed) is that a national comp is formed that, like the NRL, has the core of the national comp in Sydney with the clubs from Brisbane, Canberra and WA (if they think they can pick up on the dissatisfaction of the Force fans). The membership of the group appears to be Sydney centric (Jones, Dwyer, Papworth etc) and they would be happy if the Eastwoods, Sydney Uni’s, Warringahs, Ranwick, Manly’s etc made it through to national comp and then we had a couple from elsewhere.

    For me, they overstate the tribalism and noteworthiness of the Sydney club brands. I don’t think Eastwood will ever become the Roosters or Randwick like Souths – in any case look at the tribalism that has developed around North Qld, the Melbourne Storm and the Broncos – all less than 40 years old. Look at the booing of Slater and Smith – you can’t get much more tribal than that – people can learn to hate a lot more quickly than Mr Papworth gives us credit for :)
    I am a NSWelshman but I grew up in the country and I follow NSW Country in the NRC (even though it is really a farce to a large extent). I also follow Queensland Country because I played in regional comps there and Brisbane City. I have no affiliation with any Sydney Clubs – I watch the games on TV but I don’t care who wins as long as its a good game (though I do seem to dislike Uni for some reason – not sure where that comes from). I do have an affiliation with a particular club in Brisbane and I am enough of a hyprocrit to believe that it alone should be elevated to a national comp level but realistic enough to understand that its not going to happen.

    The Sydney comp and clubs have worked against every attempt to establish a national comp that hasn’t involved their traditional clubs and they even abandoned their own early attempts to establish a national comp themselves, dumping Canberra and Newcastle and eventually Penrith. West Harbour look like they will be next. They actively undermined (as I understand it) the ARC, the NRC and a draft plan suggested by RUPA for a national comp based on universities (which appears to have been the model for the establishment of the national 7s comp which seems to be going pretty well).

    All the successful sports in Australia have a largely national comp and I think we could potentially grow the NRC into a truly national comp that people will watch and in the end that would involving moving out of Super Rugby or evolving with it. If we combined our current NRC with the WSR (perhaps without the NZ team) and this became our tier one comp with the teams from within this comp also competing in a Super Rugby Championship which is a knock-out or FA style comp across the three (or four) continents then this would give plenty of content – (Currie Cup and ITM would be the highest level in NZ). It would also allow us to play a genuine state of origin series that I think would attract a lot of interest, keep the Qld and NSW representative history alive and provide part of an improved selection process (though hopefully the game becomes truly national).

    I agree with Papworth et al that we lack rugby acumen on the board but we need to get that knowledge back on the board without also inheriting their own bias – whether that be for or against a particular club competition, a particular school or school system etc. And I personally don’t know how we do that, other than picking an experienced rugby CEO or Chairman from outside – NZ, UK. I am not suggesting that though.

    • disqus_NMX

      I’d love to see a state of origin where you have to actually be born in the state. That would be an epic game.

    • Kiwi rugby lover

      Mate you are right in that there are a lot of things that need to change but these idiots aren’t the people to do it. I agree 100% that the NRC is the way forward. Yes it again needs a lot of changes and probably should be managed centrally through RA and be provided on FTA TV until the support base is developed, but it is the only way that provides a clear path from Club to Super rugby.

      • Brumby Runner

        I have my doubts that many of the SS clubs (perhaps not any) would truly commit to a national rugby competition. The number of Sydney based teams in the NRC has dwindled from 4 to 2, and the moves by Papworth and his mates also probably confirm their reluctance to join the NRC in a meaningful way.

        It just might have to be that the NRC should progress without the involvement of reluctant SS clubs and the SRU or NSWRU. If that could be orchestrated to be the primary, or only, pathway to test selections, then I’m sure any sensible SS clubs would quickly come to their senses and participate fully. If they didn’t, the players who had ambitions to represent the country would almost certainly move on.

        I really don’t know what the solutions are for developing a superior functioning national competition, but sure as eggs, if any of the SS clubs are reluctant to give the NRC their full support, then exclude them and get on with the job.

        • Alister Smith

          I think they would be involved in a national comp but only if there clubs came through. A 10 team comp where Randwick, Syd Uni, Eastwood, Warringah and Manly (or some of the others) were five of the teams and the rest came from Brisbane and WA etc. They would be happy to cannabalise a couple of the existing Shute Shield clubs as long as they weren’t there own. They want the rugby league/AFL style evolution to a national comp where they stay as major power brokers and not the FFA/Netball style where a new comp is established and the players moved to

          I see a place for the Sydney and Brisbane clubs as feeder clubs for the NRC (and Super if it still exists) clubs. Much the same way as it is in RL. In rugby league, particularly Qld, the NRL clubs basically support those feeder clubs to ensure they have players coming through and they have actually seen expansion (particularly in Qld where Mackay, Cairns, Townsville PNG etc all have relatively new state league teams).
          But as I stated above, i really think the SS clubs are overstating the value of their own brands – some kid growing up on the North Coast of NSW or in Fremantle who hasn’t played rugby before isn’t going to know Eastwood from Warringah and he/she isn’t going to care. Randwick, with all their magnificent tradition, aren’t the Rabbitohs. People aren’t going to buy West Harbour jumpers styled like super hero costumes.

        • Charcoal

          As an Eastwood club member and while I sympathise with some of the grievances of Papworth and his fellow complainants, I don’t agree with the restructuring that they have proposed, particularly in limiting the representation on a new RA board. They are looking more to the past than the future, having regard to how Rugby has grown in the non-traditional States. In spite of the dominance of NSW and QLD, the board has to have a representative with one vote for each State and Territory. I think that they are misguided if they want to go back to the bad old days, when NSW and QLD ran the show.

          I’m a rusted on club supporter and attend home and away games every week, but I agree it would be going down the wrong path to establish a new National competition based on the stronger existing Shute Shield and Hospitals’ Cup teams, with others from the less traditional States to make up the numbers. I still believe that this is a flaw in the AFL and NRL competitions, with the majority of teams in each competition made up of established clubs in Melbourne and Sydney respectively. Rugby should follow Soccer’s A-League in its competition structure.

          My preference for a hierarchy of Rugby’s competition structure in Australia is to ditch Super Rugby altogether and introduce a fully professional NRC, played over a full season in tandem with the respective State and Territory local competitions. Teams in Sydney and Brisbane should be regionally based, with Shute Shield and Hospitals Cup teams as feeders into their respective regions. All of the others would be single city teams.

          The Sydney teams should be based on groupings of club teams, representing the Northern, Southern and Western regions and the Brisbane teams based similarly on say the Northern and Southern regions, including the Sunshine Coast and Gold coast respectively. That is more likely to create a stronger degree of tribalism than is currently the case. I regret that I don’t see a need for “Country” teams in NSW and QLD, as they’re basically artificial teams made up of city based players anyway. There would be more interest in the respective cities with local club players in their regions. You only have to see the poor crowds in Sydney to emphasis the lack of interest there because of the poor competition structure.

          Now some of the Sydney and Brisbane clubs may complain that it will further dilute their playing talent if a fully professional NRC is played in tandem over a full season, but that’s one side of the coin. The other side is that it will open up more opportunities for aspiring talent to step up from grade and colts into First Grade, where they’re more likely to be noticed. I have my doubts if it would lessen any interest in the local club competitions, as they will still be third tier, and supporters can follow their local club players through the higher levels of competition. It would be essential though that NRC and club games don’t clash, with the former preferably being played at night, unlike the current format. This format may not please everyone, but I suggest it would be a reasonable compromise to bring opposing factions onto the same page.

          Where will the money come from you may well ask and that’s a legitimate question? This is where Twiggy could come into the equation with a joint venture proposal with RA to kick-start it. This would satisfy his ambition to get the Western Force back into the mainstream of Australian Rugby.

        • Who?

          Charcoal, just for reference, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast are both traditional Qld Country Rugby Union strongholds, so if a team were to be based at Bond Uni (i.e. on the Gold Coast), there’s no reason why it can’t be branded Qld Country. It was the reps from Mt Isa who argued that more passionately than anyone when the NRC clubs were first discussed at the QRU. :-)
          I can’t advocate as strongly for NSW Country, as I don’t have the full history, but remembering that the Eagles played in Camden, maybe a south western team could similarly be tied to country, to keep country kids engaged?

        • Alister Smith

          Newcastle could also possibly work as a base for NSW Country team – and the stadium holds 25k so I don’t think they will run out of seats

        • Alister Smith

          A lot of great points – agree Coubtry is country in name only but selfishly I want them retained because they are my NRC team

        • Kiwi rugby lover

          Mate I wouldn’t worry about the SS clubs not supporting the NRC. If the NRC is built up to be the equivalent of the Currie Cup and Mitre 10 Cup with those clubs refusing to take part all it will mean is that the Sydney NRC will have to look elsewhere in Sydney for the players. This will actually work to grow the game and has a lot of positive benefits, not the least of which is keeping those self serving killers of the game out of it.
          I would suggest that a good NRC will very quickly become a better pathway to both the Super rugby teams and the Wallabies, especially if there is a national development framework that is set up along side it for the players, coaches, administrators and referees. The players in the SS Clubs would soon start to see they need to be part of the NRC and would either leave the SS Club to do that or force the SS Club to become part of it. Either way works for me.

          I do agree that the NRC needs to be set up so that the SS Clubs don’t have their competition devalued by losing players to the NRC at critical times but I think this is just a timing issue. It may mean both competitions moving slightly to meet this but I don’t see that as a war winner unless one or the other is too pig headed to move.

  • LBJ

    Bravo Pappy! Full Support.

    I’ve read the letter – Hugh, I don’t see how you could have – because there is very little that can be disagreed with in my view (other than his writing skills perhaps).

    And indeed he seems to be seeking to address the issues that are raised repeatedly on this site – in fact if it was written by someone other than a Shute Shield club, I recon it would be roundly supported here.

    Papworth is addressing the single most important issue, GOVERNANCE!

    What’s more, he is doing it collaboratively by seeking to engage every Australian club – 850 of them. And in doing so, he clearly outlines a National focus – albeit beginning with his existing connections, which is entirely logical (if he doesn’t gain support there, it would be illogical to proceed further).

    There is currently no representation from grassroots at all in the ARU – they are completely and solely focussed on the professional game – and in turn there is no representation of the ARU at the grassroots. And this relationship is being reflected by the outcomes we are seeing – in terms of players, and in terms of bums on seats. This issue is the core of the problem and its not going away…it has to be dealt with.

    And for the record, there is literally ZERO mention of dollars for Shute Shield clubs – that suggestion is pure projection and speaks to the very strong pre-existing bias against Shute Shield clubs on this site – for whatever reason that exists.

    I look forward to the results.

  • Bakkies

    Here is the IRFU 2013 report in to club sustainability.


  • Patrick

    I agree. The whole point really is that any viable solution cannot come out of NSW. The ARU board, reinvented or replaced or whatever it is, needs to have a minority of NSWelshmen for the foreseeable future and probably a minority of ex-professional rugby players as well.

    If I had to pick a board out of my nether regions right now I would pick for example Jo Sukkar, Andrew Demetrious, Twiggy, Steve Tew once he retires, John Howard, an ex player chosen by vote by registered players, and for example but completely left-field, someone like Dr Catriona Wallace or Kelly Bayer Rosmarin.

  • mattyjinred

    If anything discounts the argument of Papworth Queensland Country’s demolition of the Sydney Rays is it. NSW rugby needs to get it’s house in order and club power is not the answer


Can't write, can't play. Tahs and Wallabies.

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