Ok, let’s be honest, professional rugby in this country is crook.
Generally speaking, successful professional sports work on the same principles as a well-functioning cheese fountain. Powered with resources from its base, the top levels gush a torrent of embellished product, replenishing the tiers underneath, satisfying the people’s demand, encouraging engagement and aspiration to ‘get a piece of this’.
Sporting this up a bit, a strong pointy end is its best product and most efficient and effective promotional vehicle and generator of revenue for the code.
Like a fully-functioning cheese fountain, people (organisations, even) flock from all over to participate in its consumption. It’s also a self-replenishing process. Plentiful resources from the base are embellished at the top, flowing back down in a cascade of wonderfulness. And so on.
Well, that’s not the case in rugby in Australia.
The two most promoted and best-known tiers of the game are in a dark place at the moment, turning prospective spectators and sponsors away from all tiers of rugby, and its core supporters away from the top.
That’s not to say community rugby is weak. Rather, community rugby is a strong, vibrant place. In my part of the world, I’m far more interested and entertained at a Noosa v Maroochydore game, for example. And at the Brissie GF, Easts beat GPS 27-22 in front of just under 8,000 people.
Instead, our cheese fountain is malfunctioning. The base has plenty of nutrient-rich resources, but it is being let down by under-performing top tiers.
Maybe we need to re-engineer, or restructure our cheese fountain to work from the base up? Possibly. But why not simply get the top tiers to do their job of showering the sporting marketplace with sweet, warm, tasty cheese.
And it appears that new-ish ARU CEO, Bill ‘The Pulverizer’ Pulver thinks so too.
From what I’ve heard, The Pulverizer met with all Aussie Super Rugby team ‘heavies’ outlining the precarious state of the code (if they didn’t already know), and let it be known the main culprits for the code’s crookness were the people in the very room.
People can argue all they want that winning is everything in professional sport. In the context of Austraian rugby, that is sooooo short sighted it makes me crook even typing it. Rugby is in such a shaky position in this country, that winning is not just not enough. How you go about playing and winning the game is of more value to the code and the marketplace.
Like it or not, to do good business in Australia’s sporting marketplace the top tiers must appeal on an entertainment level to the wider sporting punter, not just rugby people.
Boring, risk-averse rugby by the professionals just doesn’t cut it in the Aussie sports marketplace. The top tiers need to be dragged into the reality and responsibility of Australia’s team-sport-entertainment industry.
As the ARU has minimal power to influence the laws of the game, the only thing they can do is determine ‘the norms’ of the game, and how we play it in Australia.
Professional rugby needs to focus on the basics: attitude and execution; catch; pass; run; hit gaps; win set pieces; make tackles; and then mesh those elements into an attractive, enterprising attacking and defensive style.
Anything less and the code will be irrelevant by next World Cup.
And we welcome in new Wallaby coach and cheese fountain top-tier technician, Ewan McKenzie. It’s public knowledge that The link has been given a directive to win via attractive means-the means being just as important as the ends.
And I think he is the bloke for the job. He did it for the Reds. Now he has been tasked with doing it for the Wallabies. The last ‘Sloe gave us an idea of where Link can take this squad.
Us punters should be rejoicing in the streets, ready with our corn chips!
(Follow Slatts on Twitter @pjslatts)