Source: FOX SPORTS
HE was the mastermind behind the Wallabies’ maiden World Cup triumph and now Bob Dwyer has a plan to see Australia reach the summit of the rugby world again.
It is a tense time, as the Force, Rebels and Brumbies await SANZAAR’s verdict as to the composition of Super Rugby for 2018 and beyond.
As the axe hovers, Dwyer — who also coached the Waratahs between 2001-2003 — declared Australian rugby “could not afford’ to lose a team to the Super scrapheap.
“I think we have to have five teams,” Dwyer told foxsports.com.au.
“It won’t help us financially if we have four teams because the four teams will only have 80 per cent of the funding that we’ve got when we’ve got five teams.
“If we have four teams and New Zealand five that only gives New Zealand a further leg-up in their development program and us a further cutback in our development program.”
While an announcement on whether Australia will have to drop a team isn’t expected until next week, underwhelming on-field performances have added weight to the argument that the country can’t support five teams.
The Brumbies were the only Australian team to qualify for the finals in 2016, with New Zealand qualifying four.
That pattern could be repeated in 2017.
After four rounds the Brumbies are the only Australian team with two wins.
And the Reds, meanwhile, are the only Aussie side to have beaten a foreign opposition.
Dwyer, who coached the Wallabies to victory in the 1991 World Cup, said Australia’s Super struggles stemmed from issues at grassroots level.
A correlation between performance and turning a buck was also overrated in his opinion.
“People misunderstand that support for the game is dependent upon success at elite level,” the 76-year-old said.
“This has been shown in so many parts of the world to be incorrect.
“I can’t understand how people would follow that false premise.
“If we take French rugby for example, the two teams in Paris that have been champions in the past two years — Stade Francais and Racing 92 — between them they lost 15 million euro and yet they were the two champion teams, so it’s clear that that’s not the case.”
On Tuesday, the Brumbies issued a call to arms, pleading with supporters to turn up and watch Saturday’s home game against the Highlanders after years of low crowd attendances.
The Rebels followed suit on Thursday, as they prepare to host the Waratahs in an important local derby in Melbourne on Friday.
Only 15,000 fans turned up in Sydney to watch the Waratahs lose to the Brumbies on Saturday.
Dwyer, who remains active in the rugby community as president of Randwick, had an explanation for the low turnouts.
“There is a growing disconnect between what I would describe as the game of rugby in Australia and the elite level of the game — Super Rugby and international rugby,” he said.
“If you go around the grassroots and ask people ‘do they feel a part of the Waratahs?’ they’ll say ‘not anymore.’
“Do they feel a part of the Rebels?
“No, otherwise they would turn up.
“Do they feel a part of the Force?
“No, otherwise they would turn up.
“Do they feel part of the Brumbies?
“No, otherwise they’d turn up to watch.”
“It’s that feeling in the community that we’re all a part of the same deal and we’re all striving for the same outcome.
“And we did have that.
“We had that for a long time, but now it is gone.
“And they’ll (Australian Rugby Union) say this is a difficult marketplace.
“But is it easy for French rugby when soccer was the No 1 sport in the country?
“Is it easy for rugby in the UK when soccer’s the No 1 game in the country by a mile?
“Is it easy for them?
“And no it isn’t.
“Yet, England are going pretty well at the moment.
“For the opening game of the season for the English Premiership they have a double header at Twickenham, they get 82,000 people every year.
“Four club teams.
“So those people feel that they’re a part of it.
“All the clubs in England feel that they’re a part of the same deal.
“They feel close to their premier rugby club in the districts and they support them and then subsequently that club helps them support England rugby by way of available tickets for Twickenham etc.
“Whereas we just haven’t got that.
“There’s a disconnect, and I’m not surprised that there’s a disconnect.”
While the current ARU strategic plan (2016-2020) is still in play, Dwyer said a new plan was needed, centring on doing everything possible for the game’s grassroots.
“If we support the bottom level of the game, the bottom level of the game will grow very, very quickly to support the top level of the game,” Dwyer said.
“I’ve heard it said, ‘we haven’t got any money left.’
“I know that the chairman of the Australian Rugby Union has said that elite level of rugby is the only level of the game that attracts income, well that is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard.
“It’s the people that support those games that attract the income, not the team.”
The poor start by Australia’s Super Rugby clubs has also intensified the pressure on the five coaches.
Dwyer believed the ARU should immediately tap into the knowledge of former coaches such as Dick Marks, who was the national director of coaching from 1974-1995.
His long reign led to a period of unprecedented success, where Australia’s win rate rose from 14 per cent in the six years leading up his tenure to 61 per cent during his 21 years in charge.
“If the ARU really want to do something, then they need to get back to core values and one of those is a fantastic coach development program that we had under Dick Marks years ago.
“And that’s gone by the wayside.
“We had a coaching development program, Dick Marks was the chairman and he had a couple of guys — David Clarke and Brian ‘Box Head’ O’Shea — in the Australian Institute of Sport program which supported that coach development program.
“They were seconded coach education officers from the clubs and we developed coaches fantastically well.
“Now, despite what I’ve heard from the ARU that they are developing coaches, most of our major coaches come from overseas.
“I’ve suggested to get those guys back on deck before they go because once they’re gone, they’re gone.
“It’s much untapped knowledge, wisdom that’s accumulated over 40-50 years.
“But they don’t want to know about that.”