Bill Watson (15)
Up & Under, you make some very good points but I think you are being too generous in your assessment. Australian rugby administrators have been asleep at the wheel for years - investing next to nothing in junior rugby and expecting the very capable schools to do it all for them. This worked in the past because all they had to do was pick up the players when they left school, and there were plenty of them. Now the numbers are not looking so great, with boys leaving the code at an alarming rate with almost no mitigation from the official bodies.Rugby Australia definitely relies on rugby schools to nurture and produce the next batch of rugby stars, but they have no say in what goes on. For example, if a prominent rugby school changes headmasters and he/she decides to introduce AFL to the school sporting curriculum, Rugby Australia has no control over this decision. By introducing AFL, young students who always played rugby, are given another option and potentially lost to rugby forever. Rugby Australia cannot change that decision. So they are at the mercy of rugby loving school hierarchies.
(I'm sure someone will tell me if this assessment is too harsh.)
True, the rugby administrators do not run the schools, but neither does the AFL and they seem to be doing much better than rugby.
On the positive side, the recently established Gen Blue programs and improved representative programs have created a pathway for talented schoolboy rugby players, but if you don't make the final cut, they really couldn't care less about you. It's too little too late in my opinion.
I coached and refereed junior rugby union for many years and can confirm that a lot of junior club players also play for their school and give up club, either when their school rugby commitments become too great or when they lose interest and start playing something else (or nothing).
And I have to say, I am concerned where this is all heading. If we want to peer into the crystal ball, sadly there are plenty of examples of established sports that have lost ground in competition with new and exciting alternatives. Participation drops significantly; competition decreases; elite performances are affected; crowd interest diminishes and ultimately sponsorship disappears and the sport becomes a shadow of its former self. Let's hope that rugby can avoid that fate.
So yes, focus on improving junior club rugby by all means, but that is only one part of a potential solution.