Matt Rowley wrote an interesting piece on the state of Aussie rugby recently. I largely agreed with him. I started typing a reply. But on reviewing before posting I realized it was a mess of my various whinges about all sorts of things. So in-line with my new year’s resolution to be more positive I thought to start by not complaining but by suggesting alternatives. I thought I would throw up some ideas on what I will do to fix rugby in Australia when it finally becomes “The Republic of Nutta” (the revolution is coming…).
So I hereby put forward my four point plan on how to make Rugby the powerhouse it should be in Australia. Each point relies on the others. This has taken an unbelievably taxing 2hrs to compile whilst doing end-of-month expenses so I’m sure I’ve covered all bases.
1. Have an open and proud goal we all can believe in and take our bearings from.
Effort without a goal is a waste of energy. A clear goal provides focus and direction when confronted with competing issues. In my opinion our goal must be for Rugby to be the biggest sport in the country. I would not be happy until that was achieved (and then I would look for a new goal…). Does anyone know what the ARU’s goal is? I don’t…
We must recognise that the primary measure to be pursued, that from which all other things come, is participation. Everything else is a by-product of having numbers involved in the game. Numbers means players which generate a playing pool to select from without having to rely on a chosen petulant few. Numbers means a competitive playing pool that is self-motivating and self-renewing which then increases the probability of consistent success.
Numbers means non-playing participants who administer the grass-roots, ref the games, run the raffles and drive the busses that makes it all run. Numbers means audience which generates sponsors to bring money. Numbers generate more numbers and creates momentum. Momentum, numbers and sponsors means coverage and awareness increases and this in-turn brings more of each… get the point?
3. Centralisation is the key to effective administration and cost-control.
So the States, fiefdoms and the multiplication of replica administrations and functions are gone. Finished. Sure we still have Super Franchises based on the geographic principle to leverege parochial competition, but these are licences to be traded off and their assets levereged for the benefit of the national game. But Country Rugby, NSW Rugby, Queensland Rugby and every other Tom, Dick and Harry-fiefdom-rugby etc etc are all toast. They are a completely unneccessary layers of expense, polliticking and bureaucracy.
We have the ARU. They are the central body and they will administer directly to each competition. Crystalise their accountability by removing all the obfuscating, self-serving layers of beauracracy.
4. Accountability must be driven into the ARU.
How? The ARU is run by the Executive.The Executive is hired/fired by the Directors. So we make it incumbent on the Directors that the ARU Executive are answerable to the grass-roots membership via dramatically increased levels of disclosure and transparency. We do this by instigating elections of Directors and charge them with the accountability. I would facilitate this by having ARU memberships that cost $50 a year (or say $500 for life) made available to anyone who met 2 conditions:
- Is actively involved in a club (a paid-up member of a club)
- Minimum 17yrs old (eligible to play seniors)
Then I would hold elections on the Directors every 4yrs with every ARU Member getting a vote (to be held in the 12mths post World Cup using e-voting based on your ARU card). I say this would dramatically improve the focus of those involved as the Directors have the Executive to pony up to the Members with the ramifications of not doing so being fairly simple and direct.
So that’s the plan. But to help better understand my points above, some further explanation on various ideas is offered below:
So where do we get numbers/participation?
I would invest above all else in kids through teens in high polpulation areas like western Sydney to start with. And there will be similar areas in Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast and the Central Coast. We become King of the Kids and get them playing our game even if it’s only 7 and/or 10’s initially. We place the onus of responsibility for providing the boots on the ground to run these clinics as part of the licence agreement with the Super Franchises to work with local ARU controlled competition administration/development officer to share it out and ensure equity and value.
So how do we get the kids playing?
We have a good product for the audience (it’s a world game, it’s all-inclusive and it doesn’t have the violence and anti-social connotations of AFL & League). What holds it back is cost to play, pathway and heros to emulate.
So I say:
- Cost – make it $50 to play with the rest underwritten by the ARU. Make it attractive via price & get as many bodies playing the game as humanly possible. Have you seen the cost of Little A’s or soccer lately? Insurance, administration etc is provided via the new streamlined ARU and funded by sponsorship rights to reach out to every rugby club/banner/ball/jumper/kit and goal-post-pad in the land
- Pathway – the one thing we have got right of late is the NRC. This provides the hitherto missing link for the later developing, tight forwards or “off the radar” types who didn’t go to Joeys or Churchie (don’t get me started on that…)
- Heroes – a key part of your national contract (discussed later) is a commitment to two fundamentals:
- Availability on an as-needs basis to attend training clinics as required by your Franchise
- To not act in a manner detrimental to the opinion or standing of the game
Without going back over earth turned to dust, under this approach Beiber and Beagle were gone and were easily replaced by the production line of willing kids coming out of the previously un-tapped areas
1) Everyone involved must register and everyone who registers is bound to the ARU and the ARU says for what Franchise/Club they will play/coach/strap whatever for. Part of that Registration is nominating your desired Club. This may seem heavy handed but it would give an ultimate point of control & appeal for all sorts of issues. I seriously doubt the ARU would stop me playing for (say) Blue Mountains Rugby next year and instead direct me to play for Randwick. But if it serves the national interest for (say) Tahs No2 Hooker to be sent to the Rebels then so be it.
The ARU and Franchises will develop their own operating protocols on how this would work most efficiently (eg an internal salary cap with credits for local development and longevity) but the over-riding power goes to the ARU to step-in and deploy players in the national good (ie heavily influenced by the national coach). Further this idiocy of tri-partite agreements ends.
2) Rugby Development Contribution Scheme is a legally binding contract (much like HECS) to be signed by any Player in conjunction with their first top-tier contract in Australia. Its purpose is that the Player under-takes that if they become a Tier 1 player and then choose to leave Australian rugby to play overseas then they owe a calculated figure back to the ARU for the development expense incurred.
3) There are no more flat test match payments. They just piss me off. But they are apportioned to reward result. I, as an ARU Member, don’t mind paying more to a player get a result (and for a loss I pay less). So I would pay less in base salary and far more for test matches. Eg:
- $10k for making the game day 23
- $10k pro-rata for minutes on-field
- $10k win bonus
The point is not the money. It’s that reward equates to result.
So there are my suggestions. Now out with your knives and tell me why I’m wrong or God forbid you offer your own…