Back in 1997, When Super14 was first raised as a serious possibility in WA, I wrote a short article for the Palmyra in house newsletter about what could be expected in the eventuality.
I republished the article in the same publication in 2005, the year before Super 14 was about to kick off here.
I got a lot of things wrong, some right, but I believe what is occurring today thoroughly justifies my scepticism all those years ago.
Here is a copy of that article as it was republished in 2005.
Appearing below is the text of an article first published in June 1997 in the then monthly Newsletter of the Palmyra Rugby Club, the “Paly Press”. It is reproduced without editing, except to correct minor errors which appeared in the original publication.
One doesn’t have to agree with the sentiments or views expressed in the article, and probably most readers won’t, but it does bear thinking about.
How true was it back in 1997, how true is it now, and more importantly, how true will it be in 2006 when Super 14’s kicks off in Western Australia.
Let us hope the writer was a pessimist, not a prophet!
Super 14’s in WA – Another Viewpoint
The WARU is pushing for the inclusion of a team from WA in Murdoch’s “Rugby Circus”. But can we afford it?
Many die-hard Rugby supporters see this only as an expensive ego-trip for the megalomaniacs at Perry Lakes.
What has the WARU to gain from it? They will tell you:-
A. National and International exposure.
But for whom? For the Administrators and officials? Certainly! For the two or three WA-born players who might meet the standards? Perhaps! For Associates Rugby Club? Possibly! For ARKS, Cottesloe, Kalamunda, Rockingham or others in the local competition? Not on your life!
B. It will raise the standard of WA Rugby.
Like the Western Reds (now Perth Reds) did for local Rugby League? Like the Eagles did for Aussie Rules?
The fact of the matter is that since the advent of a national side, the local Rugby League competition is nothing but a sad shadow of its former self. The players and supporters have abandoned it in droves. The sponsors don’t want to know, and at least four clubs (Armadale, Rockingham, Applecross and Willagee) have dropped out of 1st Grade or out of the competition altogether. And much the same has happened to the WAFL (now Westar Rules) competition – total emasculation. The fact is, the glamour (and therefore the money) will follow TV exposure and the hype, and to hell with the development of the game. Already the bull-dust is being spread – promises of money for local and junior development, coaching directors, etc, etc, being bandied about. If Rugby development is so close to the corporate heart of Rugby Union, why did the ARU wait until now? Ask Armadale, Rockingham, Applecross and Willagee Rugby League Clubs. How much of the spoils came their way from the ARL and Uncle Rupert?
Sadly, a local national side will seek to skim the limited cream from the local competition (all three players!) and make up a side from well-paid, over-rated, soon-to-be pensioned-off New South Welshmen, Queenslanders, Kiwis and South Africans. And when their faded lights burn out, they will be replaced by other imports of the same ilk. It will be cheaper to buy players than to develop them. And who will be around to do the developing anyway?
C. It will bring money into WA Rugby.
See B. above. Sure there will be some money. Money for the top imports. Money for the administrative Taj Mahal. Money for the parasites who will worm their way into the administration. Money for Murdoch! But money for the local Clubs? Money for the semi-amateurs who play local club rugby? Money for junior development? Never!
If anything, money will be drained away from local Rugby; in the way of sponsors; in the way of spectator support; in the way of the financial demands of reasonably competent (by local standards) players upon their clubs; in the way of the insatiable demands for more and more money from clubs by an administration which will become increasingly profit orientated at everyone else’s expense.
D. It will increase local interest in Rugby.
Really? Maybe! Maybe an entire 20 or 30 thousand locals will show a flicker of interest. Some will even attend the first few games. But the broad support will come from the enthusiasts who once (or now) played the game in all grades at the local club level. They are the financial life-blood of those clubs; and, as many of these people, for their own reasons, turn to the glamour of TV-coverage, the local clubs will die the death of 1,000 cuts. A team in an international competition will turn local rugby from what is essentially a participator sport into a spectator sport.
What it all boils down to is this. Rugby in WA is not big enough to support a Super-14’s team as well as maintain a vibrant local competition. WA is not big enough.
Finally, having used a number of clichés in this article, let me add another. I have yet to see a mouse eat a cat. And I can see Rupert grinning already."