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Thread: Things can only get better for rugby in 2018 - Wayne Smith

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    Things can only get better for rugby in 2018 - Wayne Smith

    There is one sure-fire certainty in Australian rugby: after the 12 months it has had this year, there is no way that 2018 can be as bad.

    That’s not saying much, however. Even if 2017 was the game’s annus horribilis, many of rugby’s problems still survive and will make the carry-over journey from December 31 to January 1. The key difference is that they will be looked at with a fresh set of eyes.

    Raelene Castle’s appointment as Rugby Australia chief executive officer offers a circuit-breaker to the uniformly rigid messages emanating from the national body.

    And each time the message has been repeated, it has reinforced, even solidified the “we had no choice” orthodoxy. But, of course, Rugby Australia have always had choices. It had choices about axing a Super Rugby team; it had choices about singling out the Western Force for execution; and now it has choices about how it handles the fallout.

    It is flawed logic to suggest that Rugby Australia, or the Australian Rugby Union as it then was, was forced to behave in the way that it did. And the longer it persists in refusing to acknowledge that any other course of action, any other viewpoint, had any legitimacy, the longer the healing process will take. That’s not to say the healing process has not already begun but the Sea of Blue, the Force’s support base, is still heaving and windswept and nothing less than the return of their team to the main event is likely to pacify it.

    So Castle’s appointment to replace Bill Pulver is as timely as it is necessary.

    One of her first problems will be to sort out how the Western Force’s playing roster has been divvied up. The Melbourne Rebels played a high-risk game (or was it, given the number of “hints” that have come to life regarding the fate of the Perth team?) by holding a swag of places open for refugees from the west. It was a gamble that paid off brilliantly, as Force player after Force player reluctantly *accepted the reality of the situation and followed their coach, Dave Wessels, to Melbourne.

    But look at how it has played out. So great was the influx, all of it approved by Rugby Australia, that such Rebels stalwarts as former Test hooker James Hanson and current first grade captain Nic Stirzaker have had to be given virtual releases to ply their trade in Europe, just to ease the salary cap strain.

    How did it come to this, that the culling of a club to provide extra depth to the four surviving Australian franchises would lead to quality players being released to play in Britain or France?

    Rugby Australia did nothing to regulate the flow of players from the west to the eastern franchises. And, unsurprisingly, the Force players stuck together. Why was a cut-off not imposed? The first 10 players to put their hands up could play for the Rebels, the rest would have to go elsewhere.

    Yes, yes, nothing is ever as simple as that and players’ wishes have to be respected where possible. But, financial imperatives aside, the main motivation behind the “five into four” campaign was to equalise the talent and bring the other clubs up to the standard being set by New Zealand.

    Instead, look at what has been achieved. The Rebels have potentially been turned into a super-club but at the cost of a salary cap system which Rugby Australia has allowed to be blown out of the water. And while the Brumbies have picked up a couple of ex-Force recruits, the NSW Waratahs have gained only Curtis Rona and the Queensland Reds have not benefited in any way from the Force’s demise.

    Some might say they have only themselves to blame for shutting down their roster so early and giving themselves no chance of picking up players from the west, but then it was an ARU employee who sent out the mid-season directive that the salary cap would be strictly enforced.

    So the Reds sacrificed first Rob Simmons and later Will Genia. Why should they now be penalised for adhering to rules that RA might now wish to ignore? And how does Australian rugby benefit by having its two heartland states battling to make an impression while Melbourne goes from strength to strength? Where is the long-term strategy in that?

    Perhaps Castle’s experiences as Canterbury-Bankstown boss in the NRL will give her some *insights into how a salary cap can be justly imposed. The outward appearance is that RA’s strategy is one of stalling for time and then, when the Super Rugby season is almost upon us, throwing its hands in the air and declaring that since the whole situation is without precedent, maybe the sensible thing is to let this season play itself out and over time the salary cap will return to normal.

    Not good enough. During all those months of uncertainty, the one benefit was that RA had plenty of time to work out what the landscape would look like when only four teams remained. They now have no place to hide. This is a problem that must be solved, and before the season gets under way in Australia on February 23.

    The competitiveness of the four Australian teams will be closely evaluated and already the first trans-Tasman match of the season, Rebels v Hurricanes, on March 30 in Melbourne is shaping up with perhaps more urgency than ever before.

    RA officials will be desperate for a change of fortune. If reducing to four teams doesn’t work, where do they go? To three teams. Don’t laugh. It has been discussed.

    Meanwhile, Andrew Forrest’s Indo Pacific Rugby Championship keeps ticking along. RA doesn’t want to antagonise him, especially because his Asia-based teams might well form the basis of life after Super Rugby, but equally it doesn’t want to give away the farm either. Thankfully, Brett Robinson is handling negotiations on behalf of RA so there is some hope of a diplomatic solution being reached.

    Castle at least has one thing to be thankful for. Virtually Pulver’s last act for 2017 was to finalise the collective bargaining agreement with the Rugby Union Players Association. As cricket proved earlier this year revealed, CBA agreements can be hazardous and rugby *potentially had more reason than most to explode, given that RA had effectively cut RUPA’s membership by 20 per cent. Indications are, however, that the new deal, details of which have still to be released, has been negotiated with a minimum of bloodshed, which is a credit to both Pulver and RUPA boss Ross Xenos.

    A New Year is a time for fresh beginnings, especially with a new person running the show. But no New Year ever comes without some leftover entanglements. How Castle navigates the next few months will set the tone for her *administration.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/spor...36bbaa1a60a81a

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    Quote Originally Posted by volvo View Post
    There is one sure-fire certainty in Australian rugby: after the 12 months it has had this year, there is no way that 2018 can be as bad.

    That’s not saying much, however. Even if 2017 was the game’s annus horribilis, many of rugby’s problems still survive and will make the carry-over journey from December 31 to January 1. The key difference is that they will be looked at with a fresh set of eyes.

    Raelene Castle’s appointment as Rugby Australia chief executive officer offers a circuit-breaker to the uniformly rigid messages emanating from the national body.

    And each time the message has been repeated, it has reinforced, even solidified the “we had no choice” orthodoxy. But, of course, Rugby Australia have always had choices. It had choices about axing a Super Rugby team; it had choices about singling out the Western Force for execution; and now it has choices about how it handles the fallout.

    It is flawed logic to suggest that Rugby Australia, or the Australian Rugby Union as it then was, was forced to behave in the way that it did. And the longer it persists in refusing to acknowledge that any other course of action, any other viewpoint, had any legitimacy, the longer the healing process will take. That’s not to say the healing process has not already begun but the Sea of Blue, the Force’s support base, is still heaving and windswept and nothing less than the return of their team to the main event is likely to pacify it.

    So Castle’s appointment to replace Bill Pulver is as timely as it is necessary.

    One of her first problems will be to sort out how the Western Force’s playing roster has been divvied up. The Melbourne Rebels played a high-risk game (or was it, given the number of “hints” that have come to life regarding the fate of the Perth team?) by holding a swag of places open for refugees from the west. It was a gamble that paid off brilliantly, as Force player after Force player reluctantly *accepted the reality of the situation and followed their coach, Dave Wessels, to Melbourne.

    But look at how it has played out. So great was the influx, all of it approved by Rugby Australia, that such Rebels stalwarts as former Test hooker James Hanson and current first grade captain Nic Stirzaker have had to be given virtual releases to ply their trade in Europe, just to ease the salary cap strain.

    How did it come to this, that the culling of a club to provide extra depth to the four surviving Australian franchises would lead to quality players being released to play in Britain or France?

    Rugby Australia did nothing to regulate the flow of players from the west to the eastern franchises. And, unsurprisingly, the Force players stuck together. Why was a cut-off not imposed? The first 10 players to put their hands up could play for the Rebels, the rest would have to go elsewhere.

    Yes, yes, nothing is ever as simple as that and players’ wishes have to be respected where possible. But, financial imperatives aside, the main motivation behind the “five into four” campaign was to equalise the talent and bring the other clubs up to the standard being set by New Zealand.

    Instead, look at what has been achieved. The Rebels have potentially been turned into a super-club but at the cost of a salary cap system which Rugby Australia has allowed to be blown out of the water. And while the Brumbies have picked up a couple of ex-Force recruits, the NSW Waratahs have gained only Curtis Rona and the Queensland Reds have not benefited in any way from the Force’s demise.

    Some might say they have only themselves to blame for shutting down their roster so early and giving themselves no chance of picking up players from the west, but then it was an ARU employee who sent out the mid-season directive that the salary cap would be strictly enforced.

    So the Reds sacrificed first Rob Simmons and later Will Genia. Why should they now be penalised for adhering to rules that RA might now wish to ignore? And how does Australian rugby benefit by having its two heartland states battling to make an impression while Melbourne goes from strength to strength? Where is the long-term strategy in that?

    Perhaps Castle’s experiences as Canterbury-Bankstown boss in the NRL will give her some *insights into how a salary cap can be justly imposed. The outward appearance is that RA’s strategy is one of stalling for time and then, when the Super Rugby season is almost upon us, throwing its hands in the air and declaring that since the whole situation is without precedent, maybe the sensible thing is to let this season play itself out and over time the salary cap will return to normal.

    Not good enough. During all those months of uncertainty, the one benefit was that RA had plenty of time to work out what the landscape would look like when only four teams remained. They now have no place to hide. This is a problem that must be solved, and before the season gets under way in Australia on February 23.

    The competitiveness of the four Australian teams will be closely evaluated and already the first trans-Tasman match of the season, Rebels v Hurricanes, on March 30 in Melbourne is shaping up with perhaps more urgency than ever before.

    RA officials will be desperate for a change of fortune. If reducing to four teams doesn’t work, where do they go? To three teams. Don’t laugh. It has been discussed.

    Meanwhile, Andrew Forrest’s Indo Pacific Rugby Championship keeps ticking along. RA doesn’t want to antagonise him, especially because his Asia-based teams might well form the basis of life after Super Rugby, but equally it doesn’t want to give away the farm either. Thankfully, Brett Robinson is handling negotiations on behalf of RA so there is some hope of a diplomatic solution being reached.

    Castle at least has one thing to be thankful for. Virtually Pulver’s last act for 2017 was to finalise the collective bargaining agreement with the Rugby Union Players Association. As cricket proved earlier this year revealed, CBA agreements can be hazardous and rugby *potentially had more reason than most to explode, given that RA had effectively cut RUPA’s membership by 20 per cent. Indications are, however, that the new deal, details of which have still to be released, has been negotiated with a minimum of bloodshed, which is a credit to both Pulver and RUPA boss Ross Xenos.

    A New Year is a time for fresh beginnings, especially with a new person running the show. But no New Year ever comes without some leftover entanglements. How Castle navigates the next few months will set the tone for her *administration.
    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/spor...36bbaa1a60a81a
    The leftover being de Clyne and the nominations committee?

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    https://omny.fm/shows/the-alan-jones-breakfast-show/cameron-clyne

    Link to Senate Report http://www.aph.gov.au/senate_ca

    https://www.change.org/p/rugby-australia-petition-for-cameron-clyne-to-resign-as-chairman-of-the-rugby-australia-board

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    I’ve been stewing over Wayne Smith’s article in The Australian , 12 December 2017 in which he quotes Brett Robinson of the EARU.
    The article was published day before the EARU was meeting with Minderoo personnel.

    Wayne Smith The Australian 12 Dec 2107
    (Sorry - Pay Wall)

    Every time I read the article it makes me as angry as hell. It’s taken nearly 3 weeks to be able to write without expletives.

    Pulver will depart carrying much of the credit/blame for reducing Australia’s Super Rugby footprint from five teams to four.
    While it may take years to repair the relationship with RugbyWA, there are indications RA is prepared to work with Forrest.


    Can anybody direct me towards a single outcome which indicates that the EARU has “worked with Forrest”.

    The IPRC had expressed concern that RA was reluctant to give a long-term commitment to the competition but Robinson yesterday indicated RA was looking at whether Forrest’s competition might be worked into the post-2020 landscape.

    The EARU was reportedly prepared to give limited sanction to the IPRC but for 2 years only. This is totally impractical and unrealistic. As highlighted by Michael Lynagh, nobody is going to make this type of financial commitment for only 2 years! Andrew Forrest has stated that it is likely to take at least 3 years for the competition to become financially viable.

    “The issue around the term (of the agreement) we’re certainly open to discuss but really what we’re seeking to achieve is a trigger for a conversation around alignment going into the next broadcast deal,” Robinson said.

    There’s a big difference between being ‘open to discussion’ and actually agreeing upon anything. Rhetoric and platitudes as usual from the EARU.
    The EARU action, or total lack of action, indicates that it has NO INTEREST in maintaining a professional team in WA.
    Why should WA playing in the Indo Pacific region have any impact on what’s planned for the East Coast teams? Any broadcast deals will be impacting very different audiences.
    I for one have absolutely ZERO interest in a Super Rugby competition which doesn’t include a Perth team.


    What that means is Australia is looking to a time when South Africa might decide its future lies in Europe, at which point RA would be looking at how Super Rugby evolves. The proposal is that New Zealand and Australia each would field five teams, which presumably would mean the Western Force would be revived, and that the trans-Tasman partners would join Forrest’s five Asia teams to form a 15-team time-zone friendly competition.

    It’s totally gobsmacking that Robinson can be talking about a return to 5 teams in the 4th season after axing the Western Force.
    Having built up a good playing squad, including significant numbers of local talent, the Western Force get decimated and spread far and wide only to have to go back to rebuilding a squad from scratch.
    Can anybody direct me to any reference where the EARU has talked about reaching out into Asia BEFORE the possibility was raised by Andrew Forrest?


    By the time of the next broadcast deal, the IPRC would have been running for two seasons. It makes sense that the IPRC is going head to head with Super Rugby in the February-July timeslot rather than taking on the ¬National Rugby Championship. If RA combines with the IPRC, the two competitions could gel in terms of playing schedules.
    Head-to-head for timing was evidently World Rugby and the EARU’s preference in order to not compete during the Test “window” and the NRC. It seems that the IPRC was prepared to delay until 2019 to enable this timing to work.
    It’s unlikely that RA will agree to Forrest’s request that it make all Australians playing in the IPRC — those spread throughout Asia and the Pacific — eligible for the Wallabies. And even in the case of those Australians who join the Perth club in the IPRC, Wallabies eligibility will be judged on a case-by-case basis.
    That means that a Scott Fardy, for instance, could be considered for the Wallabies but any player who tries to negotiate a better contract by playing off Super Rugby against the IPRC might find the selection door shut.


    The EARU has always talked about maintaining the pathway for WA based players. But players playing for a Perth-based team, playing in the IPRC, will only be considered for Wallabies on a case-by-case basis.

    How can this be acceptable to RUPA? Why should this be acceptable to RugbyWA? We need to keep on with the good fight!!


    Then there is the issue of access to club players. NSW are understood to have slammed the door on IPRC interest in the Shute Shield, while Melbourne have not formulated an opinion either way. Queensland and the ACT are looking to see what sister-city relationships can be built with Forrest’s Asian clubs that would give their players access to a higher standard of football. For that to work, the IPRC needed to be staged from August onwards.
    Robinson says all the states will have the opportunity to negotiate with the IPRC themselves. There will be no centrally monitored RA policy on player access.


    Is this an example of how the EARU is prepared to “work with Forrest”? The EARU is not prepared to get any agreement with the Member Unions. IPRC – go and do your own negotiations!
    Andrew Forrest was interested in attracting Australian players back to the Australian region. To increase the player pool availability for the Wallabies. The EARU appear to have no interest in this potential benefit.


    “This process has been a good one. We’re into the detail of working through what the issues are, we have a term sheet that we are looking to discuss tomorrow and we don’t believe there is anything in that that we shouldn’t be able to resolve,” Robinson said.

    Can the EARU actually advise any outcome to date which would indicate that “this process has been a good one”?
    Has there been any points that have actually been resolved?


    The EARU obviously believe that the only pathway that should be available to WA is for WA Club Players to show their stuff in the NRC and then move to East Coast Super Rugby franchises to get prepared for the Wallabies.

    We have been told that the EARU is happy for the Western Force to be a professional team and play wherever it likes (but apparently NOT with the IPRC).

    Where does the EARU suggest the Western Force actually plays during the February – July window?

    Under what conditions would Western Force players be automatically eligible for Wallabies selection?

    Can the EARU actually explain the pathway to National Team selection for WA based rugby players?

    Andrew Forrest in clearly interested in growing rugby in WA.
    We’ve heard the announcement regarding the Future Force and financial support for RugbyWA.
    There is clearly opportunities to grow community rugby at all levels.

    But RugbyWA has to develop its own strengths and not just rely upon handouts from Andrew Forrest.
    Things have to change.
    Nobody should be thinking that RugbyWA was blameless in the Western Force getting axed.

    I've highlighted before how Michael Foley was white-anted by having team funding slashed by 50% over his 1st 3 years.
    The accounts for his final year will probably never be made available
    However, I suggest that this team funding was slashed even more in his final season..

    Rugby in WA will only thrive by having a Perth-based professional team to attract and nurture rugby talent in WA.

    And the sooner the better. As we continue to bleed our best playing stocks to the East Coast and OS.
    I hear that we may have lost Kane Koteka to Japan!!


    Wayne Smith's comments today indicate that he has more faith in Brett Robinson than what is supported by Robinson's outcomes with the IPRC to date...

    Meanwhile, Andrew Forrest’s Indo Pacific Rugby Championship keeps ticking along. RA doesn’t want to antagonise him, especially because his Asia-based teams might well form the basis of life after Super Rugby, but equally it doesn’t want to give away the farm either. Thankfully, Brett Robinson is handling negotiations on behalf of RA so there is some hope of a diplomatic solution being reached.

    What does "ticking along" actually mean?Where are the outcomes?

    I can't understand why RUPA hasn't been more involved during their recent negotiations. Super Rugby players cut by 10-20%. No pathway to the Wallabies for WA-based players (But they can apply to be considered). RUPA should be up in arms about this restriction.

    It seems that nothing has been agreed.
    I reckon that Andrew Forrest should just do his own thing and find a way to get the professional team playing in 2018. But it better start happening soon otherwise there will be few players available.
    Perhaps we need to let public opinion force the EARU's hand regarding Wallabies selection.

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    Last edited by andrewg; 29-12-17 at 20:38.

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    What the journos have failed to mention is that despite the tv deal ending in 2020 the Super Rugby season will still have to be played out.

    The EARU was reportedly prepared to give limited sanction to the IPRC but for 2 years only. This is totally impractical and unrealistic. As highlighted by Michael Lynagh, nobody is going to make this type of financial commitment for only 2 years! Andrew Forrest has stated that it is likely to take at least 3 years for the competition to become financially viable.
    Which is impressive as Super Rugby has barely been profitable in its own right in 21 years. Propped up by profit making test Rugby. That's why the Europeans are ahead.

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    I am sorry for our ex players but I hope to goodness the Rebels get beaten by 50 points on march 30!! Sorry still so very bitter 😡

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jules View Post
    I am sorry for our ex players but I hope to goodness the Rebels get beaten by 50 points on march 30!! Sorry still so very bitter 😡
    A repeat of their last game should cheer even you up a tiny bit:
    https://www.rugby.com.au/news/2017/0...es-rebels-live

    Hurricanes smash woeful Rebels 71-6

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    Great post Andrew G. My recommendation would be to turn it into a letter addressed to Raelene Castle for her to respond to during the first few days of her tenure. She needs to hear OUR side of the story directly from US, not the biased hogwash she’s likely to have received from Clyne et al.

    I’m certainly going to write to her to ask her what she is going to do to repair the huge damage her organisation has done, and is continuing to do, to rugby in WA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Alison View Post
    My recommendation would be to turn it into a letter addressed to Raelene Castle for her to respond to during the first few days of her tenure.
    Hopefully such an approach will work, but a common expectation in North Shore circles seems to be that Clyne will be Castle's puppeteer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FingerTips View Post
    Hopefully such an approach will work, but a common expectation in North Shore circles seems to be that Clyne will be Castle's puppeteer.
    That view isn't exclusive to the North shore. Being able to smile while taking it up the ass for other people's mistakes was a selection criterion wasn't it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by GIGS20 View Post
    That view isn't exclusive to the North shore. Being able to smile while taking it up the ass for other people's mistakes was a selection criterion wasn't it?
    Ay cuzzy bro
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    The clubs need to put a motion to the NSWRU to knife de Clyne. Apart from Sydney Uni he isn't welcome in to any other clubhouse.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lou View Post
    A repeat of their last game should cheer even you up a tiny bit:
    https://www.rugby.com.au/news/2017/0...es-rebels-live

    Hurricanes smash woeful Rebels 71-6
    Yes Lou that would do :-)

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    Nothing will change while Clyne is there.

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    Dry July! TWF Contributor! 141 Club Award TWF Competition Winner!
    "The moments that mattered to WA in 2017"

    "5. The Western Force rollercoaster ride

    Western Force fans across the state were outraged when Rugby Australia announced it would axe the Force from its SuperRugby competition.

    The WA club lost its fight with Australian Rugby Union in August, when the ARU won its arbitration case against Rugby WA and said it would discontinue the Western Force Super Rugby licence.

    But the fight didn't end there.

    RugbyWA took the ARU to the Supreme Court of NSW after the decision, and even mining magnate Andrew Forrest got behind the boys in royal blue.

    While Premier Mark McGowan said the State Government had sought legal advice regarding possibly suing for restitution following the axing, Rugby WA's appeal was eventually dismissed.

    It seemed like all hope was lost, but Andrew Forrest went on to make a landmark announcement: he would be starting his own breakaway rugby competition in order to accommodate the Force.

    The billionaire businessman said he planned to set up a six-team Indo-Pacific rugby competition where players from Australia will compete against franchises from other countries.

    And only earlier this month, RugbyWA came out of voluntary administration after Rugby Australia waived a legal debt of more than $1 million and flagged a possible return to the sport by April.

    Either way, Perth locals should keep an eye out for Twiggy's breakaway competition in 2018."

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    Yeah I’m not sure is was even $1million that was waived in the end. I think when pressed for evidence, RA’s claim may have reduced by a few hundred thousand!!!

    Clyne et al are so used to throwing out figures that bear no resemblance to the reality (without consequence) that it’s now second nature for them to make up a figure that best suits the situation.

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