Hey cobbers & dobbers all,
I hope this finds you all in a peachy mood this fine Tuesday morning given the smashing cacophony of rugby that is seems to be available at every turn. Whether your team is winning or losing, both the sheer mass and the general quality of the games we are surrounded by at the moment, is surely putting Joe Average Punter in a good place.
Before I get to this weeks Nutta’s Aussie Super Team of the Week, I thought to touch on the Six Nations and a discussion from last week and clarify a few points from my perspective on the elusive Aussie 3rd Tier. I will note up front that I am not the Messiah. I am, instead, if anything, only a naughty boy. So should you choose to disagree then please wail in to the comments below.
We likely all know the Irish have taken the tournament by knocking over the English 29-16 in Dublin. In a match that was surprisingly close for quite some time, the affair was characterised by the Irish having a bad case of the jitters, while the English were clearly stung mightily by their diabolical performance of the week before and were turning in at least a pride-restoring effort. The match arguably turned on the red card given to Big Fred Steward when his clumsy challenge on opposite number Hugo Keenan left the ever-popular Jaco Peyper with scant alternative to show red under the current protocols. Three tries to two Irish hookers later and the game was done. Although it must be noted the hookers themselves weren’t done with England’s Jamie George also snagging a pie before the final whistle.
And while we’re having a front row love-in, congratulations to Dan ‘Old Man’ Cole for reaching his 100th test, joining Tangaki Taulupe Faletau and Stuart Hogg as the 2023 Six Nations test centenary graduates.
My other impression about Ireland winning this match is that the Irish clearly still have choking/nerves issues. Yes they were up 10-6 at oranges and ultimately won well, but not only did they let England stay in the game when they should’ve blown them off the park, but it was arguably only the vino to Steward that opened the point-scoring gates. So in my eyes, the Irish are still emotionally jiggly when it counts. That’s a weakness for them leading into the Big Show, as is their complete reliance on Sexton.
In other news, the French sworded the Joneses in a highly entertaining and free-flowing affair in Paris and the Scots likewise upended the Italians with a breathtaking 26-14 win. While the Welsh turned in probably their best performance for perhaps the last two years, to my eyes the Frogs where toying about. And then, when it mattered, the Frogs turned on the after-burners. The French ability to ‘kick into gear’ from anywhere on field gave everyone just enough of a reminder that while Ireland may be current world no1, the French are arguably the favourites for the Big Show later this year.
And as for the pinko-Scots (I loved the jerseys fellas), Blair Kinghorn scored a hat-trick of tries as he dispelled the fears of him being capable of stepping into the big shoes of Wee Jack Russell at no10, while Duhan Mac Daddy van der Merwe also delivered a scorcher of a try as the Scots finished the tourney with three wins out of five for the first time since 2018. And the Scots proved they have depth when and where needed as the Big Show looms.
And again, Italy collects the wooden spoon.
Nutta’s 3rd Tier
There was substantial chat last week regarding how we may develop some maturity into our current crop of 10s, so we don’t do the usual Aussie game of over-exposing one of them to the point of selection death and lose the others to mungo or ‘to the north’ (be that UK, Europe or Japan – they are all north of us in some manner after all). This chat isn’t restricted just to 10s of course. That then dove-tailed with EJ riling up the mungoes with his ‘poaching talk’ and the noises coming out of Fiji that the Drua are already riddled with corruption issues (surprised?).
For me, the answer to all these things converge into a 3rd tier as a proper NRC. I know some folk are getting tired of talking about it but I see it as fundamental to our code’s sustainability and, in an increasingly competitive environment, therefore its survival.
In the Republic of Nutta there would initially be an initial 8 team NRC competition:
- 2x Brisbane Teams (North & South)
- 3x Sydney Teams (North, South, West)
- 1x Canberra Team (Kookaburras)
- 1x Country Team (combination of Qld & NSW Country type idea)
- 1x Southern Stars (generally a Melb/Perth combo)
The likely best expansion teams as & when ready would be:
- Fiji Exiles
- Tonga Exiles
- Samoa Exiles
- First Nations
One of the biggest issues we face as a code is in activating and then retaining ‘Non Chosen-Few Private School’ talent. Part of combating that is by pathway generation through a legitimate 3rd Tier. And part of that is leveraging that pathway to build sustainable club growth beneath them. To that end, as we’ve seen, Sydney would be critical in making the competition function at least in its formative years. As such, the Sydney landscape would see the 3x 3rd Tier teams pulled as follows:
- Northern Sydney pulled from Norths, Manly, Warringah, Gordon & Eastwood
- South Sydney pulled from Uni, Southern Districts, Randwick & Easts,
- Western Sydney pulled from West Harbour, Parramatta & Penrith (who are currently in ACT/Dent but only due to the stupidities of NSWRU/SRU bovinial excrementus)
- Newcastle goes to Country with others from Sydney & Brisbane who didn’t make 1st cut.
I say “pulled” because without (very) special dispensation, those clubs are the designated feeders for those sides. The reason I say this is to develop, attract and retain talent into West Harbour (who it should not be forgotten were originally Western Suburbs) and Parramatta, while bringing Penrith back up and then lifted again to where it could/should/would be. Make those clubs a genuine pathway, instead of an incubator for eastern Sydney rugby clubs (and mungo) to raid at whim. I say give them a pathway and then watch them deliver cattle from those catchments to the rugby fold.
I know that frightens the Bejeezus out of Sydney/NSWRU (and would aggravate the mungo lads no end), but that is where the easiest growth and ROI lies, in the +700 schools and associated +2 million population of the Parramatta-Richmond-Campbelltown basin to begin with (y’know, the area that NSWRU and SRU have had ‘Big Plans’ for for ages now?).
That gives us a sustainable, 8 team competition to start with, overwhelmingly based in eastern Australia so the cost of doing business is controlled. And to help pay for it, I would relieve the Super franchises from the cost (and take back the budget) of having to run their ‘Runners’ outfits. There is half the cost right there.
And by the way, for the sake of pathways (other than, say, 1 marquee signing per franchise or explicit RA dispensations for injury/positional needs) all Aussie Super rosters are to be filled ex the 3rd Tier. This way the 3rd tier is the gateway to Super and the Wobblies. That’s then the development crock-pot, the talent warehouse and the golden pathway to Super, the Wobbs and world domination thereafter.
Regarding the expansion clubs, a couple of really simple options would be to have the Fiji, Tonga Exiles & Samoa Exiles. How? By leveraging money already spent. Our federal government spends significant amounts of tax dollars on various support mechanisms into the PI group of nations already. I say leverage that money to our benefit. When ready for expansion, we put a PI ex-pat team in each eastern capital (Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane) or appropriate regions (say Newcastle or Townsville) and tie their business and administration into existing development & aid programmes.
As an example, imagine Sydney Samoa (as opposed to Melbourne Tonga and Brisbane Fiji) leveraging their pre-established Sydney Samoa community, based somewhere like Parramatta or Liverpool. Give their home unions some assurances these aren’t ONLY recruitment grounds for the Wobblies (we aren’t total buggers, we aren’t New Zealand), but, be sure to retain governance and brand control here in Australia. The community would keep the train on track, the tax spend would be appropriately deployed to better both parties and the product would be both tv/marketing friendly and denied to the mungoes.
Then also cross-support with scholarships tied into Uni of Western Sydney so (for example) Samoan students doing business, admin and governance etc have a scholarship pathway to learn real business and organisational skills to eventually take home on a return-of-debt basis?
There are all sorts of community and economic spin-offs there for both Australian and ex-pat communities well beyond just rugby. And we can leverage the federal funds already being spent on (if nothing else) a comparatively corruption free environment (c’mon, let’s be honest…).
First Nations – essentially the same model as the various PI Exiles, but slightly adjusted for our own reasons and needs.
Late Edit: regarding timing, I would have the Sydney and Brisbane premier club competitions run from March to end-June maybe July, largely in line with Super. I would then run the 3rd tier from July/August to October/November. This way we don’t overly impact top-end Super Wobblies while still leaving club-land free to do their thing.
Now to be clear, the 3rd tier doesn’t exist in isolation. There need to be a few other strategic shifts by RA alongside the 3rd tier to put rugby in the place of primacy it can/should hold in the Australian landscape. Namely, those other strategic areas are ‘owning the kids’, ‘playing beyond the school tie’ and centralising the contracting and administration arrangements. But I’ll save those for another day.
But the 3rd tier is all do-able in my eyes. And between the eastern seaboard orientation to keep down costs, the claw-back of funds from the Franchise Runners and redirecting some funds ex the Feds and their pre-existing PI and First Nations programmes, the full competition programme is (by my estimate) at least 60% already funded before we even talk revenue from media channels looking for good content let alone investment opportunity in light of the Bill and BIL.
Nutta’s Super Selection:
Again I’m nominating a Nutta’s Australian Super XXIII each week and the selection rules will be kept nice and simple:
- Selection is for one week only and based on last game only. There are no cumulative results. Reputation means nothing. Each week is a clean slate.
- If you played for an Aussie Super team last week, then you can be selected. You can be Wobbly eligible or not, as that isn’t really relevant.
Also, this is not who I think EJ would pick and where. This isn’t the Wobblies. This is from ‘The world according to Nutta from the weekend just gone’. But as ever, I’m open to healthy discourse on who made the cut. Righto…
Nutta’s Aussie Super XXIII for Round 4 2023:
- Matt Gibbon – Going from strength to strength in the No1.
- Connal McInerney – Best of the bunch but still no one is stepping up to really own the Wobbly 2.
- Rhys Van Nek – Continues to impress by adding some sharp passing to meat & potato game.
- Nick Frost – The Donkey Locks were an inseparable powerhouse at scrum and lineout.
- Cadeyrn Neville – See above.
- Bobby Valetini – Again impressive.
- Pete Samu – I play him at 7.
- Langi Gleeson – Like Uru, too good to leave out.
- Ryan Lonergan – The more I see the more I like.
- Carter Gordon – The more I see the more I like.
- Corey Tool – I appreciate his respect of possession.
- Stacey Illi – The Cleaner is showing real worth.
- Josh Fluke – The standout centre of the weekend.
- Filipo Daugunu – Broke Fijian hearts.
- James O’Conner – He’s turning into the Cool Surfer Dude out the back.
- Alex Mafi – Steady, dependable game without the penalties of a few years ago.
- James Slipper – Mr Reliable.
- Peni Ravai – A footballers footballer.
- Trevor Hosea – Squeezed out Dirty Harry for a balanced bench and reward for a really solid game.
- Luke Reimer – Gleeson couldn’t be ignored. But two tries and some great pilfers deserves a jersey.
- Gareth Simpson – Where has this guy been hiding?
- Noah Lolesio – I don’t understand the lack of love. I rate the guy.
- Max Jorgensen – With judicious development, the sky is the limit.
Man of the Round: Look, it’s too easy to decry the fact that I’m a well known Irish supporter and so this is dismissible as bias. But besides winning everything of late, Ireland’s Jonathon Sexton went past O’Gara’s 557 points on the weekend to become the Six Nations tournament’s most prolific point scorer. That surely deserves a nod.
Righto, I would say there’s enough to chew on in that grab-bag of half baked ideas. So am I right? Am I wrong? Did Bill Clinton really not enter the breakdown from the side? Does Eddie Jones really want to hire a New York Jets wide receiver to play outside centre? Are club trial matches in +35* heat worth the effort? Are the Gulargambone Galahs doing their preseason in the local pool on the right track? Let me know in the comments below…