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Thread: O'Neill wants to import Pacific Island flair to bring back Super crowds

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    Champion KenyaQuin's Avatar
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    O'Neill wants to import Pacific Island flair to bring back Super crowds

    O'Neill wants to import Pacific Island flair to bring back Super crowds
    Greg Growden Chief Rugby Correspondent SMH| January 31, 2008

    http://www.rugbyheaven.com.au/news/n...369226585.html

    The inclusion of exciting Pacific Islander players in the four Australian provincial sides is part of a plan to revitalise the Super tournament.

    Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill yesterday provided enough hints that the union would next year end its policy of allowing only those who are eligible to play for the Wallabies to appear for the Australian Super 14 provinces. It is expected that the Waratahs, Brumbies, Queensland and Western Force will each be allowed one or two foreign players.

    While the provinces hope the rule change will include marquee players who will boost home attendances - such as Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, who has shown an interest in playing in the Super 14 - the ARU sees it as a way of promoting and nurturing promising Pacific Islands talent.

    It also believes the Pacific Islanders would be a big draw and bring life to a competition which, like the Tri Nations, has become stale. On Tuesday, O'Neill said rugby in Australia was "at the crossroads", because of serious financial concerns, poor local performances and a slump in spectator interest. His aim is to breathe life back into Australia's domestic and international itinerary.

    O'Neill yesterday said his interest in bringing Pacific Islanders into the Australian Super teams had been prompted by a discussion with the ARU's high-performance manager, Pat Howard, at last year's World Cup. Both had been enthused by Fiji's exciting performances in the tournament.

    "After Fiji went so well in the World Cup, Pat put me through where they are all playing, which is the United Kingdom, and most of them weren't exactly on exorbitant salaries," O'Neill said. "And they should be playing closer to home. You can manage it."

    Although O'Neill said the possibility of a combined Pacific Islands team in an expanded Super competition was "not off the agenda", he added that "in the short to medium term, it involves opening up the gates to allow five, six, seven or eight Pacific Islanders to play in Australia."

    The ARU head said that foreign players who joined the Australian teams would "be carefully selected in positions which don't diminish the competitiveness of the Wallabies". O'Neill added: "There may be opportunities to have specific requirements that involves players from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. It is obvious that Europe and the UK have been picking up a lot of those very entertaining, good players out of the Pacific Islands. And perhaps we could attract them into our Super rugby competition, without hurting their eligibility to play for their home countries.

    "It is important that we do all we can to ensure the Pacific Island nations remain very competitive at the international and national level. But instead of having their players in Europe and the UK, perhaps they might play closer to home."

    Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie yesterday endorsed O'Neill's Pacific Islander move.

    "They have been providing players to New Zealand for quite a while," McKenzie said. "So there are already avenues that way. So we can also tap into that."

    McKenzie has been a supporter of foreign players "for some time, because it is logical, as with four Australian teams we have enough diversity to supply the Wallabies".

    He continued: "It will also be worth considering marquee players, because we all know that an extra 2000-3000 people sitting in the grandstand makes a big difference in terms of revenue. It would be great to get more bums on seats and create more interest.

    "You hear on the grapevine that guys like Brian O'Driscoll want to play in the Super 14. Someone like that playing in the competition would have to help the profile of the game. You can't underestimate the power and intrigue of high-profile players coming into a competition. Maybe you can have one marquee player, and the other could be from a targeted developing nation. You don't take the player, but develop them on behalf of another country.

    "We have to make the jump between not having foreign players to having foreign players. Once we make that jump, then we can start looking at the mechanics of it."

    "It is important that we do all we can to ensure the Pacific Island nations remain very competitive at the international and national level. But instead of having their players in Europe and the UK, perhaps they might play closer to home."

    Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie yesterday endorsed O'Neill's Pacific Islander move.

    "They have been providing players to New Zealand for quite a while," McKenzie said. "So there are already avenues that way. So we can also tap into that."

    McKenzie has been a supporter of foreign players "for some time, because it is logical, as with four Australian teams we have enough diversity to supply the Wallabies".

    He continued: "It will also be worth considering marquee players, because we all know that an extra 2000-3000 people sitting in the grandstand makes a big difference in terms of revenue. It would be great to get more bums on seats and create more interest.

    "You hear on the grapevine that guys like Brian O'Driscoll want to play in the Super 14. Someone like that playing in the competition would have to help the profile of the game. You can't underestimate the power and intrigue of high-profile players coming into a competition. Maybe you can have one marquee player, and the other could be from a targeted developing nation. You don't take the player, but develop them on behalf of another country.

    "We have to make the jump between not having foreign players to having foreign players. Once we make that jump, then we can start looking at the mechanics of it."

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    Veteran beige's Avatar
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    I'd better explain so people don't think I'm just stirring...

    I can see the point of view of people that say that player development within our own borders is more important. However - in my view - in the absence of a genuine 3rd-tier competition that people actually care about, the banning of imports in Super 14 is merely papering over cracks.

    My concern about Super 14 right now, is that - even in the 3 big southern hemisphere countries - Europe is increasingly becoming the be-all-and-end-all destination for top players around the world. This may not seem important now (ah, who needs them) but I can see it causing problems down the track. If a couple of imports can help change this trend, then I think it's worth it.

    Obviously, we don't want to end up like a Stade Francais (where you could almost name every country at the last World Cup from their squad), but having one or two marquee players is a positive in my opinion.

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    Last edited by beige; 31-01-08 at 10:44. Reason: Clarification

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    Champion Contributor jazza93's Avatar
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    its a good idea but i think the only crowds it will bring is more pacific islanders.

    better advertising will bring more crowds, they had crappy advertising in the ARC.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ewen McKenzie
    He continued: "It will also be worth considering marquee players, because we all know that an extra 2000-3000 people sitting in the grandstand makes a big difference in terms of revenue. It would be great to get more bums on seats and create more interest.
    it works in the a-league because they dont have any players close to world class in it. We have some of the best rugby players in the world playing here and all they need to do is advertise it better.

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    Champion KenyaQuin's Avatar
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    Some South African teams have tried it, wonder if they had consultations with SARFU.

    You've got to admit Jazza, if Johnny Wilkinson (current or past) or Jason Robinson turned out for one of the teams, there would be some interest generated and maybe increase the profile of the game. Also, it might say to the world that S14 is the premier comp, the best players want to play in it, watch it.

    Your points regarding advertising are quite valid and I'm sure a combination of the two would produce the desired outcome.

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    Except we are not talking about Wilkinson or the like - that is the window dressing to make it palatable. There is no way that the $100k odd that the S14 teams pay their players will draw any attention from that sort of player, I doubt there would be many NH players who would do better in sponsorships here rather than there, and I can't see the ARU picking up the tab for a player that isn't even eligible for Australia. For mine, the giveaway statement is:
    "After Fiji went so well in the World Cup, Pat put me through where they are all playing, which is the United Kingdom, and most of them weren't exactly on exorbitant salaries," O'Neill said. "And they should be playing closer to home. You can manage it."
    I think JON sees this partly as a way to increase competition and cut player salaries, but also as a way to shore up the player base to justify a S14 team in Melbourne without actually having to do any player development.

    Maybe our East Coast members can assist with their take on a likely first-up scenario: What will draw the crowd, Rocky Elsom or the young, inexpensive Tongan international that would replace him?

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    Veteran beige's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyS View Post
    For mine, the giveaway statement is:
    "After Fiji went so well in the World Cup, Pat put me through where they are all playing, which is the United Kingdom, and most of them weren't exactly on exorbitant salaries," O'Neill said. "And they should be playing closer to home. You can manage it."
    I don't think it's a giveaway statement at all... If a 'foreign' player would earn a lot more money by moving to Europe, then they probably wouldn't consider coming here. However, if a player can earn a similar amount of money in Super 14, then it becomes a legitimate alternative.

    On the topic of imports, I doubt I'm the only one that's curious about how Freddy Michalak will do at the Sharks...

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beige View Post
    However, if a player can earn a similar amount of money in Super 14, then it becomes a legitimate alternative.

    On the topic of imports, I doubt I'm the only one that's curious about how Freddy Michalak will do at the Sharks...
    I think, beige, that's exactly the problem with this proposal. The instant I saw the headline I thought "Argentine Prop" an Argentine Prop would be a good addition to the Western Force to bring a new standard and training techniques to our srummaging. This would be a move that's beneficial to both parties, since Australia certainly has a whole bunch of mobile props who don't get selected for the Wallabies because they don't play with flowers on their shirt and we need to be stiffened up in the set piece.

    The problem is, there will never be enough money in a Super 14 salary cap to attract an Argentine away from the Northern Hemisphere without the player himself having some other reason (perhaps a desire to play for the Wallabies like Patricio Noriega) I'd have to say all J O'N's ideas about developing the competition and injecting excitement, getting more games are sounding like a desperate attempt to try and fulfill all of the things the ARC was successful in without actually replacing the ARC with anything. It seems quite OK to justify this by saying that 3000 'bums on seats' is a lot of money in the coffers, but 3000 bums on seats will not occure simply because you put two PI players in a club, anyone who is really interested in rugby is already going to the games somehow and those who aren't interested in rugby won't go just because they might see on Fijian international play. Their family will probably turn up, that's good for around a thousand.

    the ARC had average crowds of (not sure on specifics for the other teams, Perth averaged around 3000) lets say 2000 for 4 fixtures per round over 8 rounds so that's 8000 bums on seats (When you think that Perth had more than 8000 on it's own it might be better to call it 12000) if every S14 club puts the infrastructure and money into contracting 1 Marquee player and 1 development player from the Pacific Islands, It'll cost around one million bucks a season (George Gregan gets 545 grand US to play for six months in a French Second division club, If we round it to a million a season and take the US exchange rate out of this, that's conservative)So, let's say each club pays 1 million bucks a season for their PI imports and they get 3000 bums on seats....J O'N is happy with this, because Ewen McKenzie says it's a lot of money.

    The total cost to Australian Rugby is 4 Million bucks, the total benefit is about 12000 bums.

    The total cost of the ARC was 3.4 Million bucks and the total benefit was 12000 (or so) bums

    Why is the solution which doesn't attract any new sponsors to our sport, doesn't extend player seasons, doesn't provide a valuable entry path for local youngsters into the top level, doesn't have anything to battle the AFL on any level doesn't change rugby in Australia one iota, WHY THE HELL IS THIS THE SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEMS?

    You will not improve the performance of the Wallabies a single percent by developing another nations players unless (like New Zealand) you intend then to use thos players to fill gaps that your nation cannot provide!

    I'm against this in the strongest possible terms!

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    C'mon the

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    Veteran Contributor frontrow's Avatar
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    First class mate, agree 100%, and i must admit i used Patrico as my role model as a prop...Lets develop what we already have first....(Or become citizens like he did)...ARC was the right concept, just implemented incorrectly...

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    Veteran beige's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frontrow View Post
    ARC was the right concept, just implemented incorrectly...
    Agreed.

    Still, if it's gotten to the point where having imports in Super 14 and having an ARC are mutually exclusive options, then Australian rugby is further up the creek than I thought...

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