The Thursday rugby two-up: Super Rugby review

The tipping panel is done for another Super Rugby season, but the panel is by no means done for the 2021 rugby year. With the July Internationals and a Lions Tour upon us, we’re only just getting started. A snappy new name for a format you may well remember; the quick questions have served us […]

The Thursday rugby two-up: Super Rugby review

The tipping panel is done for another Super Rugby season, but the panel is by no means done for the 2021 rugby year. With the July Internationals and a Lions Tour upon us, we’re only just getting started.

A snappy new name for a format you may well remember; the quick questions have served us well at this end of the season for several years now, and who are we to break a winning combination?

So we’ll be going around again, albeit one member down with this week’s departure of .

Naturally, we’ve all deleted his number now that he’s turned his back on the Panel.

But, in some positive news, we’re hopeful of adding the one missing component from the Panel ahead of The Rugby Championship, so stay tuned.

Onto the two-up questions in a moment but first, let’s tie up the tipping loose ends.

LAST WEEK: Harry, Geoff and The Crowd were on the Blues; Dan, Digger, and I weren’t.

OVERALL: Harry 56, Dan 55, The Crowd 54, Geoff 51, Digger 49, Brett 45.

Question 1: What was your highlight of the Super Rugby season?

Harry
James O’Connor scoring a try at the death in the Super Rugby AU Final.

It also came at the exact moment I had some sort of allergic attack; the kind that makes your eyes well up, your heart leap for joy, and the ancient human yearning for redemption find its home.

Bad boy come good; prodigal son falls into our arms.

I’m not crying you’re crying. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Geoff
Did Brett ask for a highlight or highlights from Super Rugby this year? How about passing porn from Aaron Smith? And a cameo off the left hand by Richie Mo’unga at Eden Park.

The Brumbies bravely hanging on against the Reds in the AU final, until sheer weight of numbers and a sense of ‘it’s time’ finally willed the ball out to James O’Connor, for him to bury the ‘amigos’ tag once and for all.

Billy Harmon, not the captain, calling a captain’s challenge for foul play on himself by Dane Coles, when it was actually him who started it all. What on earth was he thinking? That the cameras had been switched off just for those few seconds?

And also from the shame file, Stan/Nine, not for coverage of the Force v Chiefs match turning to custard, but for pretending it never happened.

Digger
There were a few. The thrilling conclusion at Suncorp certainly needs a mention, along with a rejuvenated Chiefs side in Aotearoa and a gritty, never say die Force in Australia.

Not to mention the sheer abundance of talent across the loose forwards right now; I can’t personally recall so many quality options running about and my personal favourite, TOM Robinson, who brings a different perspective to after match interviews, making them a much watch affair.

As cheesy as this will sound, my main highlight was the Highlanders beating the Crusaders, quite well really in Christchurch.

Why? The week preceding the game, with all the peripheral issues dictating a weakened side, written off from pillar to post, it was a magnificent performance and reminded me that Rugby is very much a team game and a well-coached and determined side can achieve great things against the longest of odds. Just marvellous.

Brett
I think from an Australian perspective, it’s really hard to go past how quickly it became obvious that the second season of Super Rugby AU was anything but boring, and how quickly the goodwill of casual and regular rugby fans just blew up like we haven’t seen in years.

Heading into the final rounds, the finals equations meant there was something at play from every game, and it climaxed in incredible fashion for the Final in Brisbane.

And then the Final kicked off, and it became another thrilling Reds-Brumbies encounter and finished with another after-the-bell thriller, and an aggregate margin across the three games this season to just seven points.

Obviously, it was moved on from and even forgotten about a bit too quickly for my liking, but it was the clear highlight of the Super season for me.

Question 2: What’s the logical way forward for Super Rugby in 2022?

Harry
New Zealand and Pasifika need the Australian and Japanese markets; but cross-conference matches are mismatches, at present.

The solution seems to eradicate the barriers for all; so that a young Kiwi playing in Sydney or Brisbane is just as eligible as playing in Dunedin for All Black selection and contracting. A closed system, but 100 percent free within.

Aussie billionaires need to become the new French owners. The only way Super Rugby can gain market share is using the two richest countries in the applicable areas.

Twiggy Forrest

Saviour? Or naughty boy? (Photo by Daniel Carson/Getty Images)

Geoff
Assuming Fijian Drua are added to Australia and Moana Pasifika to New Zealand, look for one round of Super Rugby AU/Aotearoa (5 weeks), one final (1 week), before one full found of SR TT (11 weeks) plus semi-finals and final (2 weeks).

That’s 19 weeks of rugby, which is tight and leaves no room for any kind of ‘champions league’ interaction with Japan at this stage.

If that becomes a goer, then something else will have to give, and the dreaded conferences might be back on the table.

Digger
Well, assuming we all still get along and come to an agreement then the logical solution would be to play a straight round robin with the addition of the new Pacifika sides.

It seems the only practical way to move forward under current circumstances.

Brett
The fact that we’ve all said something different here makes it rather unsurprising that there’s a bit of uncertainty about the way forward even just within Rugby Australia, never mind between RA and New Zealand Rugby.

I think RA are really torn on this, and I’m sure there will be a strong push toward maintaining some form of strong domestic competition among the Australian sides.

But the idea I’ve really warmed to in recent weeks is to play a full trans-Tasman competition as remains the main desire on both sides of the ditch, and with a view to adding in some type of Japanese involvement either in 2022 or more likely 2023.

Len Ikitau celebrates with his Brumbies teammates.

Len Ikitau celebrates with his Brumbies teammates. (Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images)

And then once the international season gets underway, that’s the time of year to play Super Rugby AU. While it’s nice to see the NRC being discussed again, I really do think the easiest, cheapest, and least offensive way to create another tier of rugby development would be to use the existing five state teams and their existing structures.

Add a sixth team, perhaps an Australian Barbarians arrangement if it’s doable, and run a full home and away series while the Bledisloes and Rugby Championship Tests are being played. Call it the NRC, the ARC, the APC, find the old 1990s Ricoh Cup; call it whatever you like.

But it’s known teams with known rivalries providing a much better level of rugby for the contracted players and the injured and fringe Wallabies not in the Test matchday 23 than any confected national club set-up is going to.

I genuinely think that might just be the best way to get everything done in a way that suits the majority of needs.

OVER TO YOU: What were your Super Rugby highlights for 2021?

And what is the best way forward for the competition next season?

Source : The Roar More   

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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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