The two lingering questions from an incredible weekend of Super Rugby finals

Finals are always gripping contests, purely by nature of them being the last game of the season and having a trophy at stake. More than any other game in a season, someone is going home happier than after a normal win and someone is going home hurting more after a loss. Both Super Rugby finals […]

The two lingering questions from an incredible weekend of Super Rugby finals

Finals are always gripping contests, purely by nature of them being the last game of the season and having a trophy at stake.

More than any other game in a season, someone is going home happier than after a normal win and someone is going home hurting more after a loss.

Both Super Rugby finals on Saturday ticked those boxes emphatically. Both finals had their moment in the second half where it looked like the team trailing on the scoreboard was about to make their move.

The Chiefs clawed back to 15-13 down when Damian McKenzie kicked a 59th-minute penalty, but couldn’t go on with from there, as Richie Mo’unga kicked a drop goal and two penalties to close out yet another Crusaders title.

James O’Connor’s 64th-minute penalty drew the Queensland Reds back to within one point, and we all know how that ended from there.

As far as deciders go, both finals had everything. And really, you can’t ask for much more than that.

But despite all this, two questions entered my mind over the weekend and have lingered ever since.

Do we really want to lose the domestic flavour completely in 2022?
A full house in Christchurch was followed by not quite a full house in Brisbane, but still the biggest crowd for an Australian Super Rugby derby match in more than 15 years.

Away from those among the euphoric, heaving atmosphere within Suncorp Stadium, the TV and streaming audience made it the most-watched Super Rugby match on Australian screens since the Reds claimed the 2011 Championship over the Crusaders.

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

After a weekend where the feel-good factor for the game practically overflowed in Australia, are we really prepared to give all this up completely?

There is clearly much work being done behind the scenes to establish the way forward for Super Rugby next year on both sides of the Tasman, and certainly all the commentary and the momentum seems to be around an all-in, 12-team trans-Tasman competition comprising the ten existing New Zealand and Australian sides, as well as welcoming Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua.

On paper, it’s pretty much what many of us have been dreaming about and calling for, for years.

But is there actually merit in sticking with this year’s model and playing the AU and Aotearoa series within each country, before rolling into the combined Super Rugby trans-Tasman?

I’m sure it will be a major point being considered within Rugby Australia, as they pore over all the information and business cases and provisional NZR approval for the two new teams. The format of the new competition goes hand with considerations about the number of teams, so it would have to be a discussion topic at the moment.

And it’s at this point I’m reminded of the Rugby Australia statement at the time NZR granted its provisional approval to Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua:

“As joint participants and administrators in the competition, Rugby Australia looks forward to understanding the outcomes of the next phase in their licence approval,” the RA statement read last month.

“Rugby Australia is excited about the growth of Rugby in the Pacific and is committed to exploring future opportunities in the region, in conjunction with the continued sustainability and success of Australian Rugby and its Super Rugby teams.”

That final point about success and sustainability provides a bit of a hint into RA’s thinking about all this, and as I wrote myself last month, it’s clear RA will go into this whole process comfortable in the knowledge that they can and will make the best decision for Australian rugby.

The ‘feel’ around the game in Australia over this last week would be hard to ignore, and it’s not that hard to see a reluctance to making any decisions about future competitions that would see much of that feeling evaporate.

Timing and length of the competition, of course, could be a deciding factor in any decision.

Richie Mo'unga celebrates

(Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

A full home-and-away round of AU matches plus five trans-Tasman rounds and two or three weeks of finals would require 17 or 18 weeks to complete.

A trans-Tasman round-robin plus another round of AU matches and finals would need 18 or 19 weeks, while a trans-Tasman round robin on its own plus two or three weeks of finals would only need 13 or 14 weeks if no byes are included.

There’s a lot to consider, and I don’t know the answer. But it’s great that strong feelings already exist about this.

What if the supposed gap between the Australian and New Zealand teams actually isn’t much at all?
The Australian teams are rightly seeing the trans-Tasman series are the perfect opportunity to benchmark themselves and see where they’re at, but it still feels like there’s a wide expectation that this will be a one-sided competition.

And I think that’s going to result in some egg on some faces.

At the extreme end, we can put the Crusaders ahead of the pack just as we can push the Waratahs off the bottom end. But within the other eight teams, I’m not sure there will be any significant amount of difference.

The Reds, Chiefs and Brumbies are well on par. You could probably try and make an argument for the Blues to join that group, but I obviously won’t be supporting it. And then of the Hurricanes and Highlanders, and the Force and Rebels, I think it’s going to come down to when sides meet and where games are played.

Noah Lolesio celebrates with teammates

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

For example, the Chiefs having to travel to Perth first up certainly improves the Force’s chances. The Rebels will and should fancy their chances against the Blues in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Queensland’s three toughest games – the Crusaders, Chiefs, and Blues – will be played in Brisbane and Townsville over consecutive weeks, making all three games completely different prospects.

No doubt, the other four Australian sides would love another crack at the Waratahs in their current state, but they will also be able to play with the freedom of no expectation whatsoever. Imagine being the first team to lose to the ‘Tahs of 2021?

It’s going to be a fascinating six weeks, without doubt, but I’m not sure the assumption of an all-New Zealand final is anything like the fait accompli that is being suggested in some quarters.

Source : The Roar More   

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Referee abuse is eating away at the grassroots of rugby

Friends, This weekend has been hard. Not only because my beloved Ponies lost in a thriller. It was hard because, during and after my match as a volunteer official, I was the subject of verbal match official abuse. While I do not wish to write a story of ‘woe betide me’, and will certainly not […]

Referee abuse is eating away at the grassroots of rugby

Friends,

This weekend has been hard.

Not only because my beloved Ponies lost in a thriller. It was hard because, during and after my match as a volunteer official, I was the subject of verbal match official abuse.

While I do not wish to write a story of ‘woe betide me’, and will certainly not entertain the masses with the comments aimed at me, there must be a way we, as a rugby-loving community, can be better.

Refereeing is the only thing that I am (relatively speaking) good at on a rugby pitch. For many referees, there is either the sense of giving back, of contributing to the game in some way, or for some sneaky pocket change as a junior referee before their own match.

At what point is it still ‘rugby’ that players, coaches, club officials and spectators abuse a match official?

Notwithstanding the vitriol aimed at the professional level of referees as seen in recent weeks across SR-AU and SR-A, that these behaviours even occur face-to-face at a local, volunteer level is disgusting. The excuse of “passion”, or, “I lost control in the moment” is not viable.

What is more concerning is that my story is not an isolated one either. I know of other matches across numerous jurisdictions where referees, both adults and children, are the subject of match official abuse this weekend gone.

In some instances, the club involved have been vocal in their apologies to referees involved; others where there was no way out for the referee except to beat a hasty retreat to the carpark and hope to escape the attention of the remnants of the crowd sinking a tinnie and a snag sanga.

While I, and most other referees, are all for banter and ‘the ironic rugby cheer’, the line that ought not be crossed is seemingly becoming invisible.

Perhaps this is a result of social media, of news outlets giving airtime to unrepentant coaches in both union and other codes looking for a scapegoat, or society losing some of its compassion and ethic around treating sporting volunteers.

I would be battling many other referees for the position to be the first to put my hand up and say “I’m not perfect”, at some point there has to be a clear line in the sand. Many referee associations are at breaking point with a lack of members.

Referee abuse is a leading factor in the loss of referees to our code.

I would suggest at least 40 per cent leave each season due to abuse.

It is little wonder it’s next to impossible to find new talent, let alone retain whomever associations have.

What is the answer? To be honest, there is no clear and simple fix that I can see. Club culture starts at the top and works its way down to on-field leaders.

Jurisdictions must have, pardon the referee terminology, a clear and obvious plan with consequences that will be followed through. Referees must also be courageous and feel supported in reporting the abuse so it can be identified and dealt with.

Players take part in a training session (Photo by Odd Andersen/AFP via Getty Images)

Across the ditch, we have seem examples of the Hawke’s Bay competition having a crystal clear match official abuse policy after repeated incidents of match official abuse lead to the withdrawal of refereeing services for a fortnight. Of interest, players, clubs, ground marshals and spectators are ‘rated’ by the referee team for the day. There are severe sanctions for anyone abusing match officials and this is enforced from thr organising bodies down to clubs.

As a rugby community, I implore you as a spectator to place yourself into the footy boots of the volunteer with the whistle and/or flag. These men, women and children are volunteering their time to be involved in the game they love. Often, they are by themselves with no support at the ground due to the nature of refereeing at every ground.

The referee will make errors.

The referee is not perfect.

Until you are willing to try to referee yourself, keep your unhelpful and abusive comments to yourself.

But by all means, help us to “get em’ onside!”

Source : The Roar More   

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