Could rugby return to each of the Tri-Nations for a domestic league, capped off by a ‘Champions League’ style tournament between the best teams of the Southern Hemisphere.
Let’s firstly look at the fact:
- Australian TV figures for Super Rugby have risen by 28 percent compared to last year, which is agreed to be a result of an increased level of local derbies and further highlighting the need to investigate a national competition sometime in the future.
While some may argue this has to do with the ‘honeymoon interest’ in the Melbourne Rebels, at least for the time being, TV figures in Australian rugby are increasing, not decreasing.
- Australian Super Rugby crowds are improving as well (except for New South Wales and ACT), however this could be unfairly influenced by the ‘new interest’ in the Melbourne Rebels as well as the Reds success, however this is another positive sign to see after years of decline
- The new Melbourne Rebels team has been a breath of fresh air and like the Western Force has identified a number of new players that could be selected as Wallabies such as Nick Phipps, Cooper Vuna, Hugh Pyle and Jarrod Saffy.
I am really excited to see greater intensity for positions and would love it to get to a point where players are not automatic selections for the Wallabies.
However, on the other side:
- Crowd numbers in New Zealand have remained flat. From recent articles, this is because fans are annoyed about price, poor game quality, inconsistent refereeing. However, what seems to be the primary influence is how many games are scheduled late night, in the middle of cold, wet winters. Terrible conditions like this, only exacerbate the other factors.
This is of course, a result of the influence of television, possibly to ensure Australians are provided with a 5:30pm kick off time, before watching their own teams straight afterwards.
- The Super Rugby tournament is increasingly ruining the domestic ITM and Currie Cup Tournaments, particularly in New Zealand, where they are constantly changing the competition to cut costs and to increase interest, to no avail.
- Furthermore, the Pacific Islands are still not getting the attention they deserve. Players such as Sitaleki Timani, Ita Vaea, Afa Pakalani, Cooper Vuna are all Islander eligible. Jerry Yanuyanutawa at the Brumbies wants to play for Fiji, yet if he does he may lose his position at the Brumbies since he is no longer eligible for the Wallabies.
Furthermore, I would love to see some of these players represent the islands over the Wallabies, as it would add so much more to world rugby.
I am suggesting that:
- Australia needs an 8-team national competition, with three new teams to be added
- One team based in Fiji
- Another team, based in Queensland, possibly at the Sunshine Coast – comprising of predominantly Samoans, Tongans and other island nations
- Another team, left to the Roarers to decide, as I cannot think of this one.
- Australia will have its own Australian Rugby Championship (ARC), New Zealand and South Africa can revert back to their ITM Cup and Currie Cup
- At the end of the season, or even during the season, top three from each competition, in addition to top 3 in Japan and top 3 in Argentina, play in a Cup tournament – a 15 team “Heineken Cup” style competition
The Australian Rugby Championship
The basic TV figures, crowd numbers and constant conversations on The Roar suggest that Australia should establish its own national competition.
Currently, Australian rugby is sitting with five teams. For this to happen however, I think Australia, at the very least needs an 8-team competition. Having this would ensure at the very least a 14 week competition between Australian teams.
I have always been a believer that this would allow New Zealand and South Africa to revert back to their original domestic competitions as well, revamping greater interest in their respective competitions.
New Zealanders and South Africans would no longer have to barrack for ‘two teams’ so to speak, particularly one that amalgamates old divides.
Obviously a number of people are going to bring up the same questions such as ‘who will pay for it’, ‘Australia can’t support another team’ ‘rugby does not hold enough national interest’, etc etc.
However, what I am simply saying is that TV and crowd figures indicate that it could work and increasing the number of players that could represent the Wallabies can only be a good thing.
We need to be in a place where previous form has no merit and that people like Adam Ashley-Cooper and Wycliff Palu are not even guaranteed a spot in the team, as they pretty much are right now for Rugby World Cup 2011.
Furthermore, it would help out New Zealand and South Africa and their old traditional competitions.
So if there were to be three new teams added, where would they go?
One article I read recently on the AFL.com website explained that ‘there are over 1.9m people in Western Sydney, speaking over 100 different languages’.
While no one can doubt the importance of Western Sydney for all codes, it is fair to say that it is likely to be one of the most difficult places to establish a successful franchise, particularly for Rugby Union.
As much as I hate to say this, rugby union in Australia is not in a position where they have multiple cities ‘bidding for their affection’ like the NRL.
Finding cities to put three new teams in, is a much more difficult task. Unfortunately the way I see it, these extra teams are required simply to make up the numbers, in order for the ‘greater good’ of an Australian Rugby Championship.
However, that is not to say that we should set them up just anywhere, with little to no thought. In fact, I know of one place, which could be supported by almost a million people, where there is much more cultural homogeneity and best of all, rugby is seen as their ‘religion’ and is considered, the number one sport. That place is Fiji.
That’s right, put a team in Fiji and have them play in the Australian national competition. They have a population of 850 000 and would no doubt fanatically support the country’s first truly professional rugby team.
The second new team, I think should be based somewhere in Queensland, possibly even in Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast. It would comprise of the remaining islander players, notably Samoans and Tongans. The way I see it is that Sydney and Western Sydney has 10 rugby league teams, Melbourne and Greater Melbourne have nine AFL teams, I think at the very least, considering the Reds success, Brisbane, or at least Greater Brisbane could at least hold another rugby team.
Obviously this asks a lot of questions such as ‘Will it take away from the Reds’, ‘Rugby can’t handle another team’, etc but I think it is worth investigating, particularly if you locate it in rapidly growing Sunshine Coast for example.
The third team, I have no idea, however I have no doubt the Roar Community can come up with this one.
Rugby Cup – A ‘Champions League’
New Zealand and South Africa can revert back to their ITM Cup and Currie Cup. The top teams from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Japan and Argentina go into a Cup (or Champions League) style knock-out tournament.
The way I see it is that TV figures and crowd figures, as evidenced with 2011 Super Rugby would definitely go for a national tournament in Australia.
Considering Rugby is bigger in New Zealand and South Africa, there is no doubt there figures would also improve.
The money generated from a truly engaging Cup, including the huge populations and economies of Japan and Argentina would bring large amounts of money back into the game.
It would allow continued penetration into the Asian and South American markets.
Furthermore, at the same time, we have provided for two islander teams, helping to boost the strength of island nations.
What do you think Roarers?