Rugby in Australia needs Drop Bears

What should Australia’s rugby structure look like? Rugby Australia is at the crossroads, incurring record losses on the field and in the financial statements. The code faces enormous debt while the carrot of private equity is being dangled. We face growing challenges to keep our strongest players on-shore as increasingly cashed-up competitions abroad seek to […]

Rugby in Australia needs Drop Bears

What should Australia’s rugby structure look like?

Rugby Australia is at the crossroads, incurring record losses on the field and in the financial statements. The code faces enormous debt while the carrot of private equity is being dangled.

We face growing challenges to keep our strongest players on-shore as increasingly cashed-up competitions abroad seek to recruit our talent.

I’ve previously advocated for a purely domestic solution to our professional rugby but am no longer convinced it’s our best option.

What if we decide the majority of our teams in Australia can only be at a rookie professional level? The key is having the footprint and the pathways for local rugby players to achieve as high as they can.

What if we could offer a $45,000 minimum wage to a squad of 35 players in each city that hosts a premier rugby competition?

The goal would be to have teams taking the place of our current Super AU sides. Yes, they would not be as strong as the current teams but bear with me.

We are looking for these teams to provide the pathway out of the local premier and country competitions into the first steps of professionalism.

If we add South Australia beyond our current Queensland, NSW, ACT, Victoria and WA footprint, this would enable us to contract 210 players around the country and play them in a version of Super AU concurrently with our amateur club competitions.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Player salaries would cost $9.5 million, a far cry from our $20.5 million player wages bill today.

I can already hear keyboards thundering to say it won’t provide a high enough level of competition to maintain the Wallabies and that all our best players will move off-shore as soon as they show any promise. I agree.

That’s why I want RA to form a rugby club or buy into an existing one in England with the goal of gaining access to the Premiership. This would give our players a home in the north that can pay northern hemisphere salaries off the back of northern hemisphere club incomes.

The average Aviva Premiership side loses about £4.4 million ($8.1 million) per year but Exeter have shown that you can be a top club and stay in the black. So bring on the London Drop Bears RUFC.

With the backing of a national union and the ability to pay Wallabies top-ups, we could have 50-plus players contracted to the London Drop Bears and give some of our best players the chance to both compete in Europe and still play for the Wallabies.

Don’t like the Drop Bears name? That’s okay, I’m not wedded to it. We’ll just use it as a place holder for our elite pro rugby sides below the Wallabies for the purposes of this article.

Not all of our players will want to go off-shore you say? I agree again.

If New Zealand will have us, we could maintain a Super team based in Australia to compete against the Super Aotearoa, Fiji and Moana Pasifika sides.

The Super Drop Bears would play their home matches all around Australia, in each of the cities that hosts a premier rugby competition and a Super AU state team.

A general view of a lineout at sunset

(Photo by Richard Heathcote – World Rugby via Getty Images)

When the Super Drop Bears play at home the local club teams and Super AU sides would have a bye scheduled so that the entire rugby community can get in to support the Aussie side and witness higher grade rugby played in Australia.

This side would contract 35-odd players as Super AU teams do today. Currently our teams operate under a $5.5 million per annum salary cap but that is a rule set by RA. Even if we budgeted $7 million for our Super Drop Bears, our total wages bill would still be less than our current $20.5 million.

I’d love it if we could have L’ours Tombant competing in the French Top 14 as well but I am not sure if a team can operate at break even and survive in that competition.

If we could, then we’d have 50 elite contracts to the London Drop Bears in England, 50 elite contracts for L’ours Tombant in France, 35 in the Super Drop Bears playing the New Zealand, Fiji and Pasifika teams and our 210 rookie Super AU contracts all around the country.

Below that are our amateur premier club competitions and country competitions.

Is this a pipe dream? Possibly. Are there holes in this plan you could drive a truck through? Please tell me.

Got any other out-of-the-box ideas that deliver opportunity for players all around the country? That also deliver high quality competitions for Australia’s elite rugby players to ply their trade in? I’d love to hear them.

In the mean time, up premier rugby, up country rugby, up the Drop Bears and up the Wallabies!

Source : The Roar More   

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Stop complaining that Super Rugby Aotearoa is too intense and boring

I want to make an appeal to my fair-minded Kiwi friends on The Roar. Let me tell you the plan, and then let me address your concern. Here’s the plan. For the next two years, we stick with a separate Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa competition with six teams each. A six-team home-and-away […]

Stop complaining that Super Rugby Aotearoa is too intense and boring

I want to make an appeal to my fair-minded Kiwi friends on The Roar.

Let me tell you the plan, and then let me address your concern. Here’s the plan.

For the next two years, we stick with a separate Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa competition with six teams each.

A six-team home-and-away season will take us to 13 weeks including finals, a bye week, and an Anzac Bledisloe Cup game (see below).

Both the AU and Aotearoa finals would be played to a packed house, as would the mid-season Anzac Bledisloe Cup game.

The AU and Aotearoa finals would be followed by a Super Bowl game between the winner of Super Rugby AU and the winner of Super Rugby Aotearoa. Boom! Another packed house. This takes us to 14 weeks.

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

This would be followed by a Champions League played over five weeks. The top two Japanese teams would join the top two Aotearoa teams and the top two AU teams. Each team would play all other teams not from their own domestic competition for four games followed by a final between the two best teams. Boom! Another packed house.

At the same time as the Champions League is being played, the bottom four AU teams would play the bottom four Aotearoa teams in a shorter Super Rugby Trans-Tasman. Again, each team would play all the other teams not from their own domestic comp for four games followed by a final between the two best teams.

The Champions League and Trans-Tasman would take us to 19 weeks, which would fill the window between late February and the July Tests.

Every team from New Zealand and Australia would get a minimum of seven home games and seven away games each year. There would be plenty of blockbuster events and finals throughout the season to capture the interest of spectators.

The season would look as follows.

Week 1: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 2: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 3: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 4: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 5: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 6: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 7: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 8: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 9: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa (week off for all Test players in camp)
Week 10: Anzac Day Bledisloe Cup (week off for all non-Test players)
Week 11: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa
Week 12: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa semi-final
Week 13: Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa final
Week 14: Super Bowl
Week 15: Champions League/Trans-Tasman
Week 16: Champions League/Trans-Tasman
Week 17: Champions League/Trans-Tasman
Week 18: Champions League/Trans-Tasman
Week 19: Champions League/Trans-Tasman final

Now let me address your main concern.

You say Super Rugby Aotearoa is too intense for the players and too boring for the fans.

But here’s the thing I want to say to my Kiwi friends: Super Rugby Aotearoa is not the worst thing that could happen to you. Seriously.

You don’t realise how good rugby fans have got it in New Zealand compared to Australia.

I’m absolutely befuddled that more Kiwis aren’t besotted with Super Rugby Aotearoa. It was such fantastic rugby! And look at how good it has made your teams and players. They’ve never been better!

Being worried about the intensity of Super Rugby Aotearoa or feeling a bit bored by it are seriously not big problems compared to the negative impact losing Super Rugby AU and replacing it with a full season Trans-Tasman will have on Australian rugby.

Salesi Rayasi of the Hurricanes is tackled.

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Let me say that another way: retaining Super Rugby Aotearoa will hurt New Zealand rugby a lot less than losing Super Rugby AU and replacing it with a full-season Trans-Tasman will hurt Australian rugby. That’s the bottom line. Please hear this concern.

Australia needs Super Rugby AU in the short term. And we can’t afford to have a full-season Trans-Tasman comp at the moment because of the competitive gap that exists between our teams. The above plan gives us the goldilocks amount of Trans-Tasman games for now.

Now, please don’t threaten to walk away with the two new Pacific Island teams. That’s just silly. A seven-team home-and-away Super Rugby Aotearoa would take up the whole season, leaving Australia alone to do something special with Japan after Super Rugby AU. You don’t want to miss out on that. The above plan is better for you.

However, if you really can’t accept Super Rugby Aotearoa, then at least bear with it for the next two years before we join together for a full-season Trans-Tasman comp. This will give Rugby Australia time to put in place and execute a plan to develop the depth and competitiveness of our Super Rugby teams while we play slightly fewer games against the New Zealand teams in the Champions League and Trans-Tasman as explained above.

Surely that’s a fair deal, and not too much to ask from our noble Kiwi friends.

Source : The Roar More   

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