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Thread: Trans-Tasman speculation

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    Trans-Tasman speculation

    Hamish McLennan’s five-point plan to resurrect rugby

    WAYNE SMITH
    SENIOR SPORT WRITER

    9:39PM JUNE 12, 2020

    Hamish McLennan, the incoming Rugby Australia chairman, has a five-point plan he intends to implement once he takes the reins from Paul McLean on Monday, although he admits that being able to go to broadcasters with a definite competition structure for next year eclipses everything.

    “We have to determine what our product is so that we can sell it to the broadcasters and if I had my way, given the circumstances with COVID, a cross-Tasman competition makes the most sense and will be the most valuable commodity to sell,” McLennan told The Weekend Australian.

    There is no question a trans-Tasman competition would be the most popular format with broadcasters and with Australian rugby fans but McLennan said it was far too early to speculate on how such a competition would be structured.

    It may well be that the price of securing NZ participation will be to trim Australia back to three or four teams. It seems increasingly likely that Western Force owner Andrew Forrest will negotiate a place for the WA club on the condition he is able to meet their costs. In that event, it could force a possible merger of the Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels — as painful as that would be for players and supporters of both clubs. Only if World Rugby financially supported the islander team as they did the Fiji Drua in the NRC would such a format be accepted. The Force’s culling from Super Rugby in 2017 showed the depth of feeling released when an Australian side is axed. McLennan, as he revealed with his five-point plan, already has problems enough to solve.

    What would be particularly galling would be if one or two Japanese sides were then also brought into the competition, along with an islander side that might play as a virtual West Indies of rugby or a national side made up of, say, players resident in Fiji.

    “The first step is to secure the financial future of the game,” he said. “That incorporates everything from the broadcast deal, to working with our commercial partners, to fixing Super Rugby.”

    He is reassured by the fact that private equity investors have been approaching him, even though he is not yet officially in the chair.

    “The pleasing aspect to the inbound calls that we’ve had is that they see a lot of growth in rugby and that it’s a global game.

    The downside, though, is that the calls also indicate that independent businesses see potential in rugby that generations of Australian rugby officials have left untapped.

    “Stage two is to invest in grassroots and club rugby. We need to have meaningful competitions and clear pathways right through to the Wallabies. And we need to build depth in our coaching talent.”

    Under a McLennan administration, the Australian club championship would become a formal competition, not a random, hastily arranged match between the Sydney and Brisbane club premiers. The trick will be to organise a structure that does not lead to haves and have-nots.

    That priority neatly folds into his third priority of creating a meaningful pathway from amateur rugby to the professional ranks, leading all the way to the Wallabies. Unlike some other RA executives of recent times, he has not set a required target for the Wallabies to reach, although clearly he is totally uncomfortable with their present global ranking of seven.

    He admits to somewhat mixed feelings regarding the Giteau Law. “In my DNA, I’m a free marketer and I acknowledge that rugby players have to earn a living and maximise their earning potential for their playing years,” he said. “But in strengthening those pathways from amateur through to the professional rugby and therefore to the Wallabies, we need to find ways to keep our top players playing senior level rugby (in Australia) for as long as possible.”

    His fourth priority is innovation. Mostly that will apply to law variations but it also will be to change the way the game is presented to broadcasters and, through them, to the viewing audience.

    His final priority is to allocate sufficient resources to Australia’s 2027 World Cup bid. Australia is the only candidate at present and the tournament is overdue to come to the southern hemisphere but McLennan is taking nothing for granted.

    Wayne Smith
    Senior Sport Writer

    https://www.theaustralian.com.au/spo...30ee35cc893153

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    It's 'me first': Australia warned over trans-Tasman plans

    By Georgina Robinson
    June 12, 2020 — 5.45pm

    Rugby Australia's bullish new attitude to private investment has been met with cautious optimism and a number of warnings, including one exhortation that Australia should be careful if it chooses to "get into bed with the Kiwis".

    Current and former officials and administrators have welcomed new chairman Hamish McLennan's openness to drawing private capital to the embattled code, which is about to embark on the most important competition redesigns since the game turned professional in 1996.

    But there has also been a keen sense of deja vu as the once-rejected trans-Tasman model roars back into favour, plus nervousness Australia will again be locked into partnerships that do not serve fans and the game's interests at home.

    "At the end of the day, the [18-team Super Rugby] competition which the Kiwis were great advocates for was an abject failure one year in," highly-respected administrator Greg Harris said.

    "They were the architects of that competition. I would say if you want to get into bed with the Kiwis - they do have a new CEO now [Mark Robinson] - it's 'me first' and you running a long last."

    Harris ran the Waratahs, the Rugby Union Players' Association, the Western Force and Sydney University Sport over a 20-year career in rugby, commissioning various reports in those roles that advocated doing away with Super Rugby in favour of domestic or trans-Tasman models.

    New Zealand had strength where their game was concerned but they didn't have strength in their numbers and their commercial model.
    Former Waratahs, RUPA boss Greg Harris

    RUPA under his tenure and that of his successor Ross Xenos were vocal opponents of the 18-team, two conference Super Rugby model unveiled at the end of 2015. They argued the record-breaking broadcast dollars would not cover the competition's structural weaknesses, which included Australian teams playing overseas for weeks on end and poor fan engagement.

    In the aftermath of the coronavirus shutdown, Australia and New Zealand are both taking time to work out what 2021 and beyond look like.

    Australian consensus seems to be that the strongest fan-centred and commercial model will lead to a trans-Tasman competition with the addition of Japanese and Pacific Islands teams, but strong rumours out of New Zealand suggest they favour a Kiwi-only competition with room for one PI team and potentially the Western Force, leaving Australia's eastern seaboard heartland out in the cold.

    Harris urged McLennan and interim RA chief Rob Clarke to take a more hawkish attitude into any future alliances.

    "I was amazed with the disdain the ARU [now RA] and NZRU showed for the work that was done on viable competition models at the time," he said.

    "Without a doubt, New Zealand had, and continues to have, strength where their game was concerned but they didn't have the strength in terms of their numbers and their commercial model."

    His comments were echoed by former RA boss John O'Neill, who first proposed a trans-Tasman competition more than a decade ago.

    "We had the model fully-costed by the broadcasters and us in 2009. It was viable financially and much more user friendly in terms of time zone and vastly reduced overheads," O'Neill said.

    "But New Zealand blinked at the last moment and left South Africa in. The rest is history; 18 teams later, a disaster by any measure."

    O'Neill was also among the earliest Australian administrators to use a private ownership model in the two codes he ran, football and rugby.

    "There was overwhelming worldwide evidence then and for years before that private ownership of professional teams was more the norm than the exception in all the significant and successful competitions - the EPL, NFL and rugby in UK and Europe. In our own market with NRL and AFL there were forms and variations of private investment," he said.

    "Indeed when I joined the FFA we created the A-League in 2005 the state federations were prohibited from owning a team on the basis that their job was to run the community game and that ownership of professional teams was financially too high-risk.

    "All eight A-League teams were funded by private money. No cost to the community game. Made sense then and it still does now in all sports."

    NSW chairman Roger Davis applauded McLennan's attitude to broadening Australia's revenue base, alleging he and then-NSW CEO Andrew Hore were rejected out of hand by former RA boss Raelene Castle and deputy chairman Brett Robinson on a proposal to enter into talks with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners.

    "Private equity is a terrific idea, it enables the game to keep control of the rules and the playing content while leveraging the commercial prowess of the private equity players," Davis said.

    Broadcast rights expert Colin Smith also gave the thumbs up to a private equity investment in the commercial rights to Super Rugby, or whatever replaces it.

    "It can work because there is mutuality of interest in terms of maximising the commercial return but also maximising the competition and fan engagement," Smith said.

    "You can't run a sports league and drain it for cash. It has to work as a genuine competition and be seen as one. The problem with Super Rugby has been that it shot itself in the foot with chasing huge dollars with a competition with huge costs."

    Georgina Robinson

    https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/spo...12-p55235.html

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    The future of rugby: Summer Tests, October tours and a Top League alliance

    By Georgina Robinson
    June 12, 2020 — 3.15pm

    Late next Monday night, acting Rugby Australia boss Rob Clarke will dial into one of the most anticipated meetings of northern and southern hemisphere rugby heavyweights for some time.

    He will be joined by SANZAAR boss Andy Marinos and likely his South African, New Zealand and Argentinian counterparts, as well as the chief executives of the home unions, the Six Nations top brass and the heads of the UK and French club competitions.

    They will discuss - again - the subject of the global rugby calendar. Unlike last year's failed Nations Championship concept, however, commentators on both sides of the equator this time believe there is genuine will in the north to reach consensus.

    What consensus looks like is not certain, but one of the most popular models would change the face of the game in Australia.

    Think Wallabies Rugby Championship Tests in March and April, a true winter professional club competition, inbound Test tours in October and the traditional Wallabies spring tour in November, before a Christmas break. An even more radical proposal is replacing the conventional inbound and outbound tours with a World Championship tournament over those two months.

    This has emerged as the preferred model for the SANZAAR unions. Australia is provisionally on board. Of the other three partners, not everyone loves it. But all four are pragmatic enough to know moving the Rugby Championship to the start of the year is an easier sell than asking the Six Nations to tinker with their beloved - and successful - blockbuster spring tournament.

    For Australia, the pay-off could also be substantial: a long-coveted continuous professional club season, with no momentum-killing break for an inbound Test series.

    Some of the hotter games I've played have been in France because we're playing at 3pm. I don't think it's an unworkable situation.
    Wallabies playmaker Matt Toomua

    Australian administrators also believe a Wallabies squad announcement in late January or February could be a punchier way to carve out air time during the footy pre-season at home. There is no doubt the Super Rugby pre-seasons have become something for fans to endure rather than celebrate.

    It will be a big change for fans to kick off the year with a Bledisloe Cup Test. The gold scarves might have to be swapped for gold T-shirts and hand-held fans.

    But as Wallabies and Rebels playmaker Matt Toomua told News Corp on Wednesday, when the issue of late-summer temperatures was raised: "A lot of the effects of the heat [are] mitigated by later starts. I know every now and then you'll get late games when it's still 30 or 40 degrees, but some of the hotter games I've played have been in France because we're playing at 3pm. If we're playing New Zealand in February, there are hot nights but you can mitigate that through stoppages. I definitely don't think it's an unworkable situation."

    With the Rugby Championship crown bestowed by the end of April, Test players would have a short break before pitching up for club duty with their teammates, who will have started training at the end of February at the latest.

    Then it's club footy time, with community and premier club rugby likely mirroring the professional competition in timing, if not duration.

    Few are foolish enough to predict what form that will take. Australia and New Zealand have made it clear everything is on the table, from domestic competitions to a trans-Tasman alliance with Japanese involvement, or a more evolutionary model of geographically aligned conferences with a play-off series to crown a champion.

    Australia have started gently sounding out the Japanese about inviting leading Top League teams to take part, as the Herald reported last month. The concept was well-received by fans, coaches and current players, but the Japanese environment means it will take time to make it a reality.

    The October-November window has a couple of possibilities. The most conventional proposal is to keep it simple with inbound and outbound tours. Instead of Ireland touring Australia in July, they would tour in October, before the Wallabies' usual European tour the next month.

    Also on the table, however, is a resurrection of the Nations Championship concept in that two-month window. Australia and its SANZAAR partners, as well as developing nations - such as Fiji, Japan and Georgia - were bitterly disappointed by the collapse of talks about the competition last year.

    Encouragingly, northern sentiment has shifted, driven by coronavirus-triggered financial calamities hitting all levels of the game. Clubs and unions have been forced to reassess their revenue models. An annual, global tournament is attractive to the north in a way it was not 12 months ago.

    Player welfare should not be an issue because this version of a global calendar is swapping windows rather than adding them. The main break for southern hemisphere players will still come in December and January with another, shorter break between the end of the professional competition and the start of the October Test window.

    Other models involve leaving the Six Nations and Rugby Championship intact, with the European professional league season aligning with whatever replaces Super Rugby in the south.

    Both models require a calendar shift for the Premiership, Top 14 and other European leagues. The March-April Test window model would see them start their competitions in January, break for the Six Nations, then run from late April through to September. The second option would allow the leagues to run continuously from late March.

    Ongoing travel restrictions are likely to mean next year will still be considered some kind of transition year globally. The club competitions could make their debuts but it is hard to see the Six Nations and Rugby Championship running as per schedule by next March.

    The European clubs have always been opposed to calendar changes that mess with business models. But with those clubs now under pressure, coupled with distressed national unions on both sides of the equator, Monday's meeting could yield a meaningful result.

    It will be Bernard Laporte's first big test. The new World Rugby vice-chairman built his campaign around being France's 'inside man' who had the relationships and influence to bring French club owners to heel.

    The two powerhouse joint ventures said in a statement late last month: "The Nations [Six Nations and SANZAAR] together with other key stakeholders remain open to shape the options that have been developed in an effort to resolve an issue that has held the game back for many years and are committed to putting rugby on a progressive path."

    Georgina Robinson

    https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/spo...12-p551x0.html

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    Picking out quotes from those 3 articles respectively, bearing in mind it may all be speculative BS ...

    Quote Originally Posted by WKSmith
    It seems increasingly likely that Western Force owner Andrew Forrest will negotiate a place for the WA club on the condition he is able to meet their costs. In that event, it could force a possible merger of the Brumbies and the Melbourne Rebels — as painful as that would be for players and supporters of both clubs
    Quote Originally Posted by GROB
    strong rumours out of New Zealand suggest they favour a Kiwi-only competition with room for one PI team and potentially the Western Force, leaving Australia's eastern seaboard heartland out in the cold.
    Quote Originally Posted by GROB
    Australia and New Zealand have made it clear everything is on the table, from domestic competitions to a trans-Tasman alliance with Japanese involvement, or a more evolutionary model of geographically aligned conferences with a play-off series to crown a champion.
    ... there might be some GRR-NZ Asia-Pacific collaboration in prospect (perhaps with more than one division to retain GRR partners - who knows?).

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ham105 View Post
    Picking out quotes from those 3 articles respectively, bearing in mind it may all be speculative BS ... ... there might be some GRR-NZ Asia-Pacific collaboration in prospect (perhaps with more than one division to retain GRR partners - who knows?).
    I think that's exactly the point isn't it? Who knows? These two are obviously pid by the word and not by the fact, because 90% of both of those articles was speculation and bullshit. I think the biggest thing you can take out of them is that the force is the name on every journos lips at the moment, being included in every single possible model that is mentioned. I hope twiggy sticks to his guns about not being involved without revolutionary change in Aussie rugby and I hope the good work that has been started with grr gets completed

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    C'mon the

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    Quote Originally Posted by GIGS20 View Post
    I think that's exactly the point isn't it? Who knows? These two are obviously pid by the word and not by the fact, because 90% of both of those articles was speculation and bullshit.
    Especially......

    Quote Originally Posted by GeeRob
    O'Neill was also among the earliest Australian administrators to use a private ownership model in the two codes he ran, football and rugby.
    Which astonishingly attempts puts a positive spin on the outcome of his brilliance - the ongoing Rabble disaster in Melbourne.

    As GIGS says most is speculation by journos who routinely stitch together barely substantiated fluff to cobble up a "story". I have seen similar reports of "sauces" in NZ Rugby proclaiming Australian involvement would only include a couple of teams on the eastern seaboard and a couple more PI outfits.

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    Empty vessels....................

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    Are you inventing a nickname to replace blood?

    With most of his squad leaving, it might be appropriate

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    C'mon the

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    If there is one fact it is that Andrew Forrest will not agree to anything that is not beneficial to WA or the future of rugby in Australia. He wants to see Australian rugby succeed and the Wallabies back at the top again. And he wants to see WA as an equal partner in that success.

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    Champion andrewg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GIGS20 View Post
    Are you inventing a nickname to replace blood?

    With most of his squad leaving, it might be appropriate
    Just my opinion of Georgina Robinson and Wayne Smith - neither of whom I rate highly.

    Obviously both suffering from relevance deprivation

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    Quote Originally Posted by GROB
    strong rumours out of New Zealand suggest they favour a Kiwi-only competition with room for one PI team and potentially the Western Force, leaving Australia's eastern seaboard heartland out in the cold.
    So they can mooch off Twiggy's money instead of the Australians? Bugger that.

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    Japan and the Pacific Islands for Aussie Super 9's!

    Let's have one of these in WA! Click this link: Saitama Super Arena - New Perth Stadium?

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    Quote Originally Posted by chibi View Post
    So they can mooch off Twiggy's money instead of the Australians? Bugger that.
    Bargaining tool.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bakkies View Post
    Bargaining tool.
    That's not a nice thing to call Chibi

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chibi View Post
    So they can mooch off Twiggy's money instead of the Australians? Bugger that.
    Looks like the Aucklanders are having a ",sometimes you dunno what you've got till its gone" day at Eden Park. Looks close to 50000 capacity. Keep half that up and they will have the bucks to go it alone.

    Great game so far too.

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    Veteran chibi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by shasta View Post
    Looks like the Aucklanders are having a ",sometimes you dunno what you've got till its gone" day at Eden Park. Looks close to 50000 capacity. Keep half that up and they will have the bucks to go it alone.
    About time

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    Japan and the Pacific Islands for Aussie Super 9's!

    Let's have one of these in WA! Click this link: Saitama Super Arena - New Perth Stadium?

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