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Wednesday Apr 5, 2017

Australian rugby in 'big trouble' after a number of poor performances

Australian rugby in 'big trouble' after a number of poor performances
16
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It may only be the start of the new Super Rugby season, but already the Australian teams are beginning to feel the heat. It’s been a largely poor start for all their franchises and it has been hard to avoid it in the media.

A simple look at the points standings in the Australiasian group is enough to notice something is not quite right in Australian rugby. A below-par Super Rugby season in 2016, a series whitewash at home to England in the summer and patchy form in the Rugby Championship has led to calls for a seismic revamp.

Former Wallabies coach Alan Jones says the problem lies with the ever-expanding Super Rugby competition, which currently accommodates 18 teams including the Jaguares from Argentina and the Sunwolves of Japan.

“The club side has been basically abandonned by Australian rugby. The provincial stuff is awful, the standard is terrible,” Jones said.

“They’ve presided over this stupid Super Rugby thing which apparently wants to incorporate every country in the world, it’s too big, it’s too unmanageable and people can’t identify with any of this.”

No better is Australian franchise’s strife in recent years exemplified than by their record against their Kiwi counterparts. 15 defeats in the last 22 games across all Super Rugby sides does not bode well.

Copping the most of the misery in 2017 has been the Rebels who have looked abject during heavy defeats to the Blues (18-56), Hurricanes (71-6) and the Highlanders (51-12).

This has left Jones demanding a fundamental re-building of Australian rugby from the bottom up.

“It’s like building your own home. If you don’t spend on the floor, there’s no point in building the roof. On the other hand, if you spend all the money on building the roof and there’s no decent floor, then the roof will collapse.”

If it hasn’t already collapsed, then the roof is becoming even more unsteady by the month as Australians’ patience is wearing thin.

Plans to shake up the tournament structure in 2018 will likely see the demise of at least one Australian franchise from Super Rugby, but it might take more than that to bring them back to consistent winning ways.

16 Comments

  • 10stonenumber10
    9:30 PM 10/04/2017

    Brilliant LOTR reference Mr Carter.

    Reply
  • 9:33 PM 09/04/2017

    I expect a big problem is getting their top players back as they are all playing around the world on contracts at the moment. Longer term it would be great to have them playing locally on contracts so they can also play for their country without club bosses docking them wages. But wages will be a lot lower without a massive sponsor. On travelling, not many fans travel to away games outside of their own country anyway. But I wouldn't mind a long weekend in Fiji.

    Reply
  • andinov
    12:30 AM 09/04/2017

    I can only speak for Queensland but no one watches rugby union here. Rugby union is struggling to compete with Aussie rules and League which are both far better organised at the junior levels. The ARU needs to forget about the super 15 for the moment and start refocusing on the club game particularly at the junior levels. It needs to look at what the other sport are doing (particularly Aussie rules which is only going from strength to strength) and replicating/ competing with them. If it doesn't, I would have legitimate fears for the future of Australian Rugby. The players are here but they're all playing different sports

    Reply
  • drg
    11:07 AM 08/04/2017

    I've seen other aspects of teams heading into the pro rugby section, they start off with the local guys, guys that are training hard but also running farms, working in offices etc, the team progresses, to amateur pro and all of a sudden there aren't any locals playing any more, they're playing bought in players, unpronounceable names and it all gets a bit ahead of itself... Local rivalry and just general banter is the backbone of the game in sorts... How can you really remove that, we have a world cup for internationalesque games...

    Reply
  • drg
    11:02 AM 08/04/2017

    Perhaps their normal infrastructure could handle it, but their rugby infrastructure? Is that capable to house the fans? Are their pitches up to code (in this picky modern game)?.... No idea about the answers to those.. I'm just asking.. Super rugby is not something I'm massively aware of when it comes to joining, I'm sure a Google search would yield the answers, so I may do that later, but it strikes me that it requires a large investment into forming a franchise...If that is the case then the issue I see with it, is that it either requires a group of people to get together and crowdfund for the cash, or a wealthy investor to say they want to form a team... The main contention is that if it is a wealthy investor, he needs something in return, advertising for himself/his brand (or hers), or it needs to become a business in its own right, merchandise etc, because there are no other Pacific island super rugby teams, no one has an idea of how safe an investment it would be. Someone fancying a risk could attempt it I guess. I think it would be incredibly benefitial to Pacific island rugby, would have to be big incentives to keep players at home though so they don't travel off to play in Europe or in any other super team/country.... I'd love to see it happen ..

    Reply
  • jimmy23
    12:50 AM 08/04/2017

    The Pacific Island nations attract a lot of tourism no? So I imagine they could probably deal with the occasional influx of away fans. Can you imagine how powerful they would all be if they had the resources of the top unions with a team or two in Super Rugby? With their players playing amongst each other on a regular basis? They'd carve up I reckon.

    Reply
  • drg
    11:54 PM 07/04/2017

    Oh totally agree with you that it's a shame, but the game has turned professional and it is now not a sport or a game, it's now a business... I'm also not aware of the financial status of pacific islanders and of course I don't want to sound derogatory, but are they doing well enough as fans to flock in masses to see the away games?? It doesn't strike me that money is bountiful, but I may be MASSIVELY wrong....?? As for fans travelling to the pacific islands, yes that would be a good thing to benefit the economies of those places, but then perhaps they don't have the infrastructures to accommodate masses of away fans travelling for shits and giggles.... again, I may be way off here.... To be totally honest, looking at the whole thing with a deserving rugby eye, I don't really understand why Pacific Island teams weren't included in The Rugby Championship over Arg, and as for Super Rugby, same again really.... but from a business view point, it makes more sense... sadly..

    Reply
  • dancarter
    12:16 AM 07/04/2017

    Surely the fan issue is balanced out by the fact that having a Pacific Island team means more of their fans travel to away games, and more fans of the other clubs travel to their team's away games in the Pacific Island's then they would do to Japan? It's sad that commercial interest has won over doing what is best for rugby as a sport. Plus Japan has the benefit of already having a league. It's a shame that the Sunwolves are such a poor side, when Japanese sides like Sungoliath, Black Rams etc are bringing in established international players for huge amounts of money like George Smith, Kahui, Messam, Pocock etc.

    Reply
  • larry
    10:12 PM 05/04/2017

    It is ironic too that there were plans afoot in 1995 to sign some 500 of the best rugby union players to make up a rugby circus that would have comprised of clubs in South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, by Rupert Murdoch. That threat was the straw that broke the camel's back of amateurism in the game of rugby union. I do see your point: if there are a few pro rugby union clubs in Australia, and they play so many away games in nations as far away as Argentina, South Africa, and now Japan, where is the local rivalry? League has that, and this Super Rugby doesn't. And of course league has always been the more popular of the two sports in Australia anyway, even if the union game had great success with the Wallabies in the 80's and 90's.

    Reply
  • larry
    10:06 PM 05/04/2017

    I don't know what the answer is either. Professionalism was letting the gini out of the bottle. I know you know that participation is slipping. I was just over in the UK for the majority of March, visiting Devon, Cornwall, and the Midlands as well as staying a few nights at the Marriot's in Twickenham. Great time overall, and got to referee two matches. One thing I would mention is that soccer still seems to have many adult participants, but it's a sport with the likelihood of less serious injuries, but I wouldn't want to suggest that some sort of different rugby game with a different set of rules for amateurs and professionals be the answer either. I would say, though, that the amateur game doesn't have to rely on TV adverts and rear ends in seats in the grandstand as the pro game does. Law changes have been made to make the game seem more "attractive" to watch on the TV, especially in recent years. There could be many less line outs in games now than just ten years ago because of that one law change restricting kicking into touch for anyone taking a pass from outside the 22. So there's more running, and therefore more tackling, and therefore more chance of an injury. So many set play scrums and line outs could make a game on the TV seem boring, so less of them means the ball is in play and action is occurring. I read that when New Zealand lost to LLanelli in 1972 that the ball, in 80 minutes, was actually only in play some 15 of them! The rest of the time players were either standing around or getting ready for a line out or scrum. The only injuries were from foul play, not from any tackling per se. Now we are in an age of head injuries in particular, and that's from the fact that the ball is in play more, less kicking, and there is more tackling as a result. Now regarding Australia, even though there was all that success with union in the 80's and 90's, when things were still fairly amateur, league is still on top and more popular to play.

    Reply
  • drg
    9:02 PM 05/04/2017

    I think we tend to disagree on a few points, perhaps when it comes to cards?? I wasn't sure I'd agree with what you wrote as I started to read it, but it actually makes a lot of sense and it's probably hard to dispute. I really don't know what the answer is. It's a bit of a Pandoras box...

    Reply
  • hoot
    7:54 PM 05/04/2017

    The whole international club rugby thing does seem a bit ill conceived. Surely club teams from different countries playing one another should be accommodated via competitions like the Heineken Cup, or the Champions League in football? It seems that having a team which mostly plays teams from other countries is a recipe for lack of local support and empty stadiums. Am I right or am I right?

    Reply
  • finedisregard
    7:30 PM 05/04/2017

    Well put, Larry. The transition from the amateur ethos to a professional (winner take all attitude) is trickling down and making the game less fun to be a participant. Refs used to be like teachers, now they are like cops. Players from opposing teams used to be best of friends and build life long relationships, now they barely shake hands. We've got guys feigning injury, players complaining to refs, top level athletes walking away from test rugby to make some extra cash; actions unthinkable 10 years back. Basically rugby is undergoing a change from a participant model to a spectacle model. It's less fun.

    Reply
  • larry
    7:09 PM 05/04/2017

    Well, let's look at the history of the sport overall. First of all, rugby union was amateur for well over a century, and it only has had a real professional level for barely twenty years. In that it was an amateur sport, most players played for the fun of it, even in the last few decades of semi-professional rugby union for the best of the best players: even those players played some years for free, for not one thin piece of coinage. So, there was always a huge group of adults, and of course young kids, playing just for the fun of it, not for any financial gain, in any of the major rugby playing nations and even those nations were the sport wasn't that well known or popular. From what I understand the numbers of adult participants in rugby union is dropping just about everywhere. Clubs that had two or three sides might now have only one. I've been told this by the president of one club in the West Midlands (they're down to one senior side), but I see it here in California where I live. Perhaps the participation of U-18 is up, but apparently when many kids get into adulthood, if they know there's no future for them in the professional ranks, they are giving up playing. This is not good for the sport, and the main reason I did not favor professionalism in the first place, save for paying national side players for playing in test matches. Does anyone think in America there are large amounts of adult males playing baseball? No, there isn't. Most who played as little kids don't play past 14 years of age. At that point one has to be a really good player to continue, into high school or university, or getting scouted by the Major Leagues. Everyone else who wants to keep swinging a bat ends up playing some amateur softball as an adult perhaps, a game requiring less skill overall. Baseball basically became a sport, on the adult level, for only those who really had good skills a long time ago, being a pro sport since the late 19th century.

    Reply
  • drg
    7:02 PM 05/04/2017

    Issue with bringing in a Pacific Island team is money and fans.... Japan has got so much potential for a fan base than Pacific Islands (quantity, not necessarily quality), they have so many big corporations and businesses that will sponsor, invest, or even set up their own franchises to compete - in comparison, the Islands have sand, sun and a wonderful way of life, I'm not sure that fits in with the big wigs views on how to make more money...

    Reply
  • dancarter
    4:40 PM 05/04/2017

    Something will have to give eventually. The Jaguares have done well, but the new additions the Sunwolves and the return of the Kings have just added 2 whipping boys which only makes it uneven for the teams that play in their conference, it's like the Champions Cup pool which has Zebre. Not adding a team from the Pacific Islands was crazy, and it made a lot more sense logistically than having a team from Japan. Aus teams are hit hard by the new format, having to play the New Zealand teams more regularly. There seems to be a fairly unequal distribution of internationals amongst the Australian teams, with most of them playing for the Brumbies and Waratahs, and relatively few for the Rebels + Force. Even the weakest team in NZ, the Blues, have players like Ranger, SBW, Ioane, Kaino, Moala, Luatua, Faumuina, Tuipolotu etc on their books. Whenever the Force bring through good academy players, or acquire them from other teams, like O'Connor and Pocock, they never hold onto them for very long. It's hard to see Haylett-Petty and Hodge staying at the Force/Rebels for too much longer.

    Reply


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