Australian rugby is on the verge of change.
With the inception of the Melbourne Rebels in what will be next year's Super 15 competition, rugby's footprint across the nation is set to grow. Naturally this change brings about debate over Australia's ability to provide enough depth to sustain a fifth team.
The Melbourne Rebels have just been given the green light to commence their recruitment as early as March 15 which in itself creates a set of issues for existing clubs who are in full swing with their Super 14 campaign. With the need to recruit a 30-man squad I'm sure I don't need to outline the effects on players and teams this could potentially have.
Having been in a similar situation in 2005, I understand the intensity that comes in making these huge career decisions in the midst of a tough Super 14 competition.
The decision for me to leave Queensland was an extremely emotional and confrontational one. The result for the Reds with the inception of the Force was painstaking.
Many players who were unsatisfied with the direction of the Reds at the time made the move west putting the Reds in a position whereby they essentially needed to start again.
I remember being in Cape Town when I finally made the decision to join the Western Force. At that time it was rare that players would move interstate unless they couldn't get a run in their home State - making my decision highlighted all the more.
This point in time concerning Australian rugby was well documented, undoubtedly as a result all State unions will be keen to avoid a similar situation in 2011.
I think it is important for the Australian Rugby Union to get the balance right in terms of recruiting restrictions across all the States to ensure this doesn't happen again. The Rebels have been granted the ability to contract 10 marquee players to their squad but have already stated they would prefer home-grown talent.
Again the issue of depth in Australian rugby at present will be highlighted.
There is no doubt an abundance of potential talent is beginning to emerge, however, it will take several years for that talent to gather experience at this level. Long term, the prospect is very exciting and the additional exposure to high-level rugby will have a long-term, positive impact on the performance of the national team.
Long-term recruitment and retention strategies are vital for the success of provinces going forward.
With the transient nature of professional rugby players nowadays, there needs to be a much stronger focus on provinces having the organisational structure that can support the players and their desire to develop on and off the field.
The best rugby programs will be rewarded with attracting the best rugby players.
Over the last year, this has been a strong focus for the Force, and despite our results on the paddock so far this season, I'm confident the organisation has laid solid foundations for the years to come.
The competition next year will involve a new format whereby Australian, New Zealand and South African provinces play their own domestic rivals twice in an expanded format. Therefore the Force will meet the Reds, Waratahs, Brumbies and Rebels once at home and once away. Each team will also play eight of the 10 sides in the other conferences, NZ and South Africa, giving each club 16 matches in the regular season.