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Thread: Australian Rugby, A Pathway Forward

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    Australian Rugby, A Pathway Forward

    I keep hearing the phrase, “Australian Rugby is at rock bottom”.
    It is tempting to respond with either “Are you sure?”, or “I bloody hope so!”
    Regardless, I believe enough damage has finally been done that may just see the changes required to start the bloodletting, the triage and then finally the rebuild to our former glory days. And I believe it can happen in the next four year cycle.

    1. 25 September 2023. Day 1 of the Australian 2027 Rugby World Cup Campaign started yesterday. This year is done and the only viable ambition with the remaining time in France is to start the rebuild in some meaningful way immediately. Those players that will not be there in four years need to be used as fierce training opposition. Those players with a future need to be focused on, supported in the wake of what has happened over the weekend and put “back on the horse” immediately. There was talk post-match, particularly by Stephen Hoiles, about the potential (almost inevitable in Hoiles’ world) scarring for life of these players. There needs to be a narrative around using the pain, focusing it in every single hill run, bench press, scrum engagement, sprint from a tackler, to work towards it never happens again.

    2. Arguably the second most important event of the 2027 Campaign is on Stan this Thursday.
    Australian Schools & U18s v New Zealand Schools - Trans-Tasman U18s Test 1 2023
    Starts: 12:00pm 28 September 2023 (Test 2- 9:00am 2 October 2023)
    How this Squad conducts themselves (not just the result) and, far more importantly, how Rugby Australia conduct themselves around player retention, will set the tone going forward. With potentially only the 2024 Under 20‘s the exception, the pool of players that will have any meaningful influence on RWC ’27 is now known, with the majority only to be culled from, not added to.

    3. The obvious one, arguably the most important match now of 2023, amazingly against the lowly ranked but extremely plucky Portugal. This isn’t about the scoreboard (though they must win), it is the moment Australians unite behind the current team if they are a Rugby SUPPORTER, not just a FAN, in this country. The XV/23 that wear the jersey this night are the future of the Code in this country. Regardless of all the noise around RA Administration, Coaching, budgets, Super Rugby inclusions and countless other distractions, this is the match where the “shackles come off” (James Horwill) and these young men show the spirit and style that is Rugby in Australia. These young men did not pick themselves (ironically, in a different use of the phrase, part of the problem in several cases…) they were drafted to this position and done the best with the ability they have. If it is good enough for Michael Hooper to be as gracious as he was post-match in expressing his support for the Touring Party and specifically Eddie Jones, then it is the least we can do to get behind this Squad and get them home.
    Australia v Portugal - Rugby World Cup Pool C 2023 Starts: 11:15pm 1 October 2023

    4. The Review. Yes, it must happen, would have always happened in the context of the campaign, and now must expand to go into the entire Australian Rugby landscape. To miss this important juncture in the Codes history to make real positive change would be even more negligent than the events that have led to this point. I would take this process outside of Rugby Australia hands, either to respected leaders of other Codes in Australia (they say AFL’s Gill McLachlan might be looking for a job after the Grand Final…) or perhaps a Steve Tew-Graeme Henry type combination for an independent International view. Having just watched NZ’s “The Breakdown” (Their version of “Rugby Heaven”) where they led the show for 16 minutes with Tim Horan as guest on the Wales match, but Australian Rugby in general and the potential impact on NZ, I was struck by the genuine concern, particularly (from all people!) from Sir John Kirwan in saying that NZ needed to stand and support Australia for the betterment of both nations. Australia has fantastic leaders, both in Rugby currently and elsewhere. Four years is not a long time. Four years is long enough, with the right people in control, making the right timely decisions on the right plan.

    5. Player retention and eligibility. It is a phrase I have banged on about for years, “It isn’t player creation, it is player retention”. It infuriates me when I hear this tired tripe (usually from NSW) that Australia doesn’t have enough players for five SR Franchises. We actually have and continue to produce enough for six, or even seven Squads at a better standard than the current situation, they are just all playing overseas. There are currently (2022/23) over 150 professional Australian eligible players playing overseas. There are roughly 40 required for a Super Rugby Squad! Imagine the lift in standard is say 60 of them still plied their trade in Australia? Australia needs to create a more attractive environment for professional players to stay. Largely, but not entirely, this is around how much they earn. Players also want to play, they don’t want to be constantly training without opportunity for meaningful minutes. RA needs to do everything in its power to make the various competitions more attractive and lucrative, to enable/allow higher salary caps and top ups. There will always be an element who want to see the world and Rugby provides them a fantastic avenue to do that. The return of players from different playing environments is a positive thing too. However, the transition to so many of our young players leaving our shores, anywhere down to 18 years in some cases without even a year in an Academy, is very concerning. It used to be players wouldn’t head overseas until 28 or later, once their Wallaby aspirations were over or they were being pushed out by younger players of higher value to their SR Squad. The “Superannuation League” we used to call it, particularly in Japan. While some players will inevitably fall through the cracks and some players will rebuild their International journey through the heritage laws introduced, it is the sight of Mack Hansen, an Australian U20 25 year old staring for the #1 ranked Irish that should never have happened. There are others as well. The ones I feel sorry for there, as they must be head butting a nearby wall, is the poor bloody Coaches (School, Club and Junior Rep) that brought Mack and others to that point, only to see another nation benefit. How such a player can be junior identified, invested in and “lost” is worthy of a Review of its own! Players want to play, you can’t blame the individuals. Ultimately, is Australian Rugby better off with three Tight Heads starting each week, or five. Or Hookers, Flyhalves, Fullbacks etc. If the Rebels and Force were hypothetically to fold, there is no evidence to suggest the best of each Squad would be retained in Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra. Some would make the move, but only to displace others of high standing and International value. In any case, according to Horan on The Breakdown, a pre-requisite of awarding RWC ’27 was in having five franchises, so it is unlikely to happen in the next cycle. Finally it is the retention of players within the Code, to stop the flow of juniors and schoolboys to League and to regain the children of past Union people that now don’t even start the journey. There are myriad fronts there, but for the missed youth a major factor is around head injuries, while contract values is a huge issue with the flow to League.

    6. Australian Rugby, from the Wallabies to the Dunsborough Dungbeatles, need leadership. I am a strong believer in giving back to communities and careers that have given you a great deal. I believe a good way to go would be to form (for want of a better name) a “Captains Club” based on the leadership of all past retired Wallaby Captains, Chaired by the most recently retired Captain of 10 or more Tests as Captain. Membership being open to all interested past Wallabies. While arguably similar to the Classic Wallabies, I would propose the efforts aimed more internally to Wallaby, Australia A and Under Age leadership, mentoring and general support. We need more genuinely engaged individuals “inside the tent”. You cannot buy speed or experience, but you can assist in it’s discovery and maturity.

    7. Development pathways. Australia must continue the long disbanded and recently revived Australia A program. This is the forum for trialing players and combinations, not cheaply throwing around Test Caps on a whim. A strong schedule of matches against nations such as Georgia, Romania, Chile, Namibia etc should be established every year to bring through the next generation. Even better, make each match a double header with an Under 20 fixture. Likewise, Super Rugby Pacific needs a full season Under 20 competition matching the Senior schedule as double header fixtures. Our players need more match time, to gain experience but also just to damn well harden up! By accompanying the Senior schedule there would be savings per fixture compared to duplicating all the expenses with stand-alone fixtures.

    There are 100 and 1 other areas that need attention, these are just the main initial ones that come to one supporters mind, but I believe they would all assist the pathway forward. The one thing I know for sure is it is "shoulder to the wheel time" for those who love the Code in this country and I for one will do whatever is within my power to assist getting things back on course.

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    Veteran chibi's Avatar
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    Love points No.5 and No.7, but wonder about funding?

    Hope this doesn't offend forum members, just brainstorming temporary ideas until we get back on our feet...

    Depending on how much funding it currently takes, I've often wondered if we should ditch the sevens programs and the World Sevens Series in the interim, instead holding a national sevens tournament with trials to send a squad for the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and World Cup only? Could these tournaments also be open? As in, to any team and any players/athletes from other sports wanting a shot at a gold medal? Without there being a WSS team, we wouldn't have to worry about there being sevens players on the circuit all year who miss out due to blow-ins.

    Again, depending on how much funding it currently takes, should we consider going back to having a separate Australian Women's Rugby Union? Let them generate their own revenue and fund themselves for the time-being, but have them piggyback the men's events as double-headers to help with ticketing and have their games on Free-to-Air as much as possible, even if it's on the ABC? Should we try to get more rugby on FTA, womens or mens, at any level, for any channel that will take it?

    Speaking of the interim, could we ditch the current Super Rugby Pacific, go the Socceroos route and just let our top players go and earn overseas, bringing foreign expertise back from France, England and the URC to the Wallabies squad? All the while we pile the money saved (from Wallaby tests) into getting those lost State schools back, and keeping our expansion of developmental areas (W.A, western Sydney, the AFL States) alive and give the remaining domestic Australian players and graduating school players a self-sufficient NRC to play in; keeping the Force, the Rebels, the Brumbies/Kookaburras and (as a compromise/olive branch) allowing traditional Sydney and Brisbane clubs into the comp? Those NRC players can then get representative games as the Australia A side or the Aussie Barbars, creating a core of players used to playing together like the Drua? Speaking of the Drua, would they rather play in an Australian NRC or a New Zealand NPC?

    Once we get a Nucifora-style Irish re-structure, could we then re-integrate both the womens game and the World Sevens Series back into the RA fold, while looking at bringing back a better version of a top-class competition like the way Super Rugby used to be?

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    Last edited by chibi; 27-09-23 at 16:55.


    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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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Great points from Burgs & Chibi re player development and retention. Until there is an admission from the top that this is the absolute, priority the demise of Rugby in Australia will continue. The "shrink to grow" mentality, blaming the NH player drain, blaming the NRL/AFL, blaming everyone except themselves has failed dismally. Only investing in kids to young adults and giving them sufficient playing opportunities can keep elite players in the code.

    I don't know reasons why young people choose AFL in preference to Rugby but I understand a lot about what happens in NSW & Qld. I just read n article and some comments about the current crisis in the SMH. There are still plenty of comments perpetuating the myth of the big bad NRL stealing "our juniors". RA must stop leaning on this myth and actually invest in juniors, even if it is a drain on the elite level. I know I've banged on about this before but so people around here at least, can see the true situation I'll just list a few of the current crop; there are many, many more with similar Mungo backgrounds. The bloke they have just signed for $1m per year in particular...............

    Joseph Suali'i was born in Penrith,
    He grew up playing rugby league for the Glenmore Park Brumbies and then moved to the Coogee Wombats from age 12.[10]
    Sua'ali'i attended Regentville Public School and then attended The King's School, Parramatta
    In 2018, Sua'ali'i played rugby league for the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the Harold Matthews Cup (under 16s).[12] He played rugby union as a fullback for The King's School's 1st XV from the age of 14, and in 2018 was selected to represent the GPS 1st XV, and the NSW Schoolboys and Australian Schoolboys in rugby sevens.[4]

    Kaylin Ponga born in Port Hedland
    In 2011, at the age of 13, Ponga and his family returned to Queensland, settling in Mackay. He attended Mackay State High School and was a member of the Rugby League Academy program, as well as playing junior rugby league for Souths Mackay. Also in 2011, he was signed to a scholarship with the Central Queensland NRL bid side. In 2012, he was selected for the Australian Schoolboys under-15 side, becoming just the second 14-year-old to make the side.[5]
    in 2013, Ponga, then a scholarship holder with the Brisbane Broncos, moved to Brisbane. He attended Anglican Church Grammar School and competed for their rugby union side in the prestigious GPS competition

    Cameron Murray
    .............played his junior rugby league for the Mascot Jets, before being signed by the South Sydney Rabbitohs. He attended Newington College in 2015. ….. He was captain of Newington's GPS Championship Winning 1st XV Rugby team that same year.[5] In his final year at the college he turned down captaincy of the Under-18 NSW State of Origin side in favour of playing for his school.[6]
    Cameron's father, Corey Murray, made 12 appearances for South Sydney.

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    If they just took a step back, their problem is pretty obvious. Before professionalism, all money generated by the elite game flowed down to the grass roots. Since professionalism, all the money has been directed back into the professional game. The sport is bigger, but the return has shrunk to almost nothing. Yet those that yearn most for the 'good old days' can't seem to see the glaring change from what made them so good, or do anything about it.

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    Senior Player Leo86's Avatar
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    Completely talking as an arm chair expert with no expertise – so pick to pieces, add / criticize

    To keep players we need money. To get money we need content. To have content is to have interest. Interest not only needs to retain current interest, but bring past interest as well as future/new interest.

    Interest is the hardest thing to generate with the 3 differing points of views current/past/new. Especially with a media that’s does nothing but beat down on Rugby or completely ignore it.

    Past fans - Unfortunately the majority who no longer follow rugby can’t get over the fact its no longer an amateur representative sport. That other countries have moved on and adapted. The “We need to go back to 3 teams when we won” negate the fact that other countries weren’t playing to the standard they are now, its an era/time that no longer exists. From a WA / Force point of view, 2017 killed Rugby, our crowds/support has not recovered. When peanuts like Hoiles want to shrink the game, again, it dampens the publics perception of the code. I think not only in WA but Vic and ACT as well. This does nothing but kills interest. These ex-players need to understand the damage their comments / views cause. To quote Kerry Packer “Stop bagging the F***ing game”

    New fans – What does Rugby offer? At the moment nothing. A competition where results are mostly predictable. Super Rugby, a NZ team has won 20 out of 27. 12 by one team. A code that wants to keep culling teams, a code that only exists on the East coast, that may only want to exist in only 2 states. To governing bodies constantly taking pot shots at each other. I can see the general viewer lining up to get involved.

    Super Rugby to be a professional sport in the professional era needs to change. Remove the representative ideology of players playing where they come from. Play and pay the best players, recruit for the positions required. AUS/NZ/Pacific teams need to allow their players to play anywhere within Super rugby to be picked for national honours. A strong Super Rugby (content) should have flow on effects, increased skills for Test teams, money for grassroots/academies/investments.

    A draft is required in some form, across all the nations taking part. This crap players don’t want to leave home is rubbish, they all leave overseas for money / opportunity. Have each team cherry pick a certain number of current players (3 forwards, 3 backs ?), the rest go into the pool. (this might even get some diehard Kiwi supporters come out to watch specific players?) If this occurred and talent was spread, it would be bloody hard to pick who would win the comp let alone each game… how interesting.

    For money/content/interest – we need games. SR started at the end of Feb and finished by June. AFL started 3 weeks later, finishes 14 weeks after. NRL 1 week after SR, finishes this week.

    Super Rugby needs to have more games, to not only create content/interest but to build skills. Cheika wouldn’t pick Medrano unless he moved to NH to get more games.

    We need a second tier - and for god sake its not Shute, its not Sydney, we need an Australian competition. How that looks I don’t have the answers.

    NRC – I thought was good

    The obsession with representation / tribalism, make this second tier that. Make it a comp that follows SR, more games more content. Players return to state of origin. Use existing clubs in a relegation scenario, like the dreaded SR pool system (it works in America) top 3 clubs from Syd/Bris with other club teams around the country. That way I, from WA might give a shit, when they start talking about Shute on Rugby Heaven instead of turning it off. Interest

    How to bring all the Clubs to want to watch, be a part of SR, want their players to go to SR? Aside from the politics (and past) of which I have no idea, what as a fan of Rugby will get Clubland on board? Games only played on Fridays and Sundays? Cheaper tickets?

    Money is a major sticking point for me. I think I understand the basics of supply and demand, if the seats are empty, it needs to be cheaper, not just the tickets, but the whole lot. How do we get Venueswest on board? How do we make merchandise affordable? Id like to buy my kids 5 Force gear, all that is available is $130 jersey which wont last long size wise. But with $130 I could get an Eagles hat, shirts (polo, long sleeve), jacket, hoodie, singlet and pyjamas.

    There is no bandaid or short cut solution

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    Veteran chibi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo86 View Post
    ...This crap players don’t want to leave home is rubbish, they all leave overseas for money / opportunity...
    That's brilliant, I never thought of that. All that talk of "homesickness" and "the problems/cost of relocation" when moving within their own country to play Super Rugby; yet they have no issue buggering off to the cold and wet of the British Isles in the winter or other places where they can't even speak the language???

    What a cure-all money is hey?

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    Last edited by chibi; 27-09-23 at 12:11.


    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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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyS View Post
    If they just took a step back, their problem is pretty obvious. Before professionalism, all money generated by the elite game flowed down to the grass roots. Since professionalism, all the money has been directed back into the professional game. The sport is bigger, but the return has shrunk to almost nothing. Yet those that yearn most for the 'good old days' can't seem to see the glaring change from what made them so good, or do anything about it.
    Return?

    They started levying club rugby players several years ago so that they could make sure they had enough money to keep paying overs for the Wallabies.

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    Immortal GIGS20's Avatar
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    Let us not forget that they tried the "shrink to greatness" dealio from 2017 to 2020 (forced out of it by COVID and NZ knifing SAR)

    Did we win a Bledisloe? Did our International rugby teams demonstrate an improved standard? Did the beneficiary of this system (mainly Rebels) improve their performances at Super Rugby level? Was it effective in providing the well-publicised extra funding to grassroots? did it confidently and irreversibly turn the finances of Rugby Australia around?

    in short, did it achieve any part of any one of the things that it was initially promised to deliver or was it (as I assume it is today) simply a smoke and mirrors job by the good mates of the bastards who are under scrutiny to ensure that they are not held accountable for their poor decisions, because we can blame the Rebels and the Force.

    Let's not forget. This bullshit is currently being exclusively pedaled by ex players from only two teams - the Waratahs and the Brumbies - Who, pray tell, are the two teams who have overspent their budget and are now going cap in hand to Rugby Australia seeking a financial bailout so they can continue?

    Of those teams, who has won a Super Rugby title in the last 5 years?

    It's a well coordinated con job which, unfortunately, stands a similar chance of working as it did in 2007 so I demand that Rugby Australia undertake the same procedures as they did with the Force back them. Provide the bailout in exchange for the Super Rugby license and Intellectual Property of the teams and pick who is the first out the door based upon a similar massive spreadsheet. I can guarantee you that, since Waratahs and Brumbies continued operatiojn is on the line, Rugby Australia will suddenly magically find a way to fund five teams and not go bust!

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    Quote Originally Posted by GIGS20 View Post
    Let us not forget that they tried the "shrink to greatness" dealio from 2017 to 2020...

    Let's not forget. This bullshit is currently being exclusively pedaled by ex players from only two teams - the Waratahs and the Brumbies...

    Provide the bailout in exchange for the Super Rugby license and Intellectual Property of the teams and pick who is the first out the door based upon a similar massive spreadsheet. I can guarantee you that, since Waratahs and Brumbies continued operatiojn is on the line, Rugby Australia will suddenly magically find a way to fund five teams and not go bust!
    My feedback to a Stan article on X-

    "How about we cut the Tahs and allow them to nurture their beloved Shute Shield?
    This can become the nursery of Australian talent, leaving the rest of us to get on with Super Rugby.
    If three teams then ditto Hospital Cup and Queensland.
    Too many NIMBYs in East Coast Rugby."

    I see the Horan quote around five teams prerequisite for RWC being repeated in NZ media

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    We have been looking from outside the tent since 2006. Andrew Mehrtens can see the same things we do and is saying so publicly. I don't recall too many times such a blunt appraisal of the atrophy at the heart of RA has been published in the Sydney press.....

    ' I can’t see a lot of humility at the top level. Humility is important,” Mehrtens said. “[It is about] actually analysing and taking genuine responsibility for decisions that are made. I think the perceptions from people, whether right or wrong … it’s an old boys club in there. Whether it’s Shore or the GPS schools, yes it’s been a strong base for Australian rugby and we have got to continue to nurture that, but people don’t see a lot of humility.

    “They see cronyism a lot of the time and if that’s the perception of the public, then you’ve got to work bloody hard to change that perception because something is not right"

    https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-u...27-p5e7ux.html

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    Veteran SNOB's Avatar
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    How many inquiries have been made in the last 10-15 years and how many points raised have been acted on!
    Can no one on the east coast see the blaring obvious because right now I can see rugby disappearing into a niche market.

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    May the FORCE be with you!

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    Immortal jargan83's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SNOB View Post
    How many inquiries have been made in the last 10-15 years and how many points raised have been acted on!
    Can no one on the east coast see the blaring obvious because right now I can see rugby disappearing into a niche market.
    Look at Super Rugby crowds and media coverage. We're already in a niche market.

    We're the West Indies of World Rugby.

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    The only deal / speech McLennan should be making is his exit one
    …… Further he should use his Six Figure Salary /Severance to pay for the Wallaby Fans trip home from France ……. then get someGENUINE lovers of Rugby around a table and start looking for plans and solutions

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bootsetal06 View Post
    The only deal / speech McLennan should be making is his exit one
    …… Further he should use his Six Figure Salary /Severance to pay for the Wallaby Fans trip home from France ……. then get someGENUINE lovers of Rugby around a table and start looking for plans and solutions
    He's copping a lot of deserved flak, but over-payment is not to be included. AFAIK he's working pro bono and donating his salary to grass roots women's & indigenous Rugby.

    For all that has gone wrong on his watch, he's got a lot of calls right too, so I'm not sure his walking the plank is any benefit. Until Jones's actions of late are clarified, I don't think sacking him in a hissy fit is the right decision either - right at the moment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by shasta View Post
    He's copping a lot of deserved flak, but over-payment is not to be included. AFAIK he's working pro bono and donating his salary to grass roots women's & indigenous Rugby.

    For all that has gone wrong on his watch, he's got a lot of calls right too, so I'm not sure his walking the plank is any benefit. Until Jones's actions of late are clarified, I don't think sacking him in a hissy fit is the right decision either - right at the moment.
    I'm on the fence about whether he should stay or go.

    Pro, he's apparently released some of the pressure on finances and started taking tentative steps to funding the women's game

    Con, he was the architect of the Jones disaster, he's failed to get PE money into the code when literally everybody else in the World has been able to get it over the line and he spends money the code doesn't have on a never ending stream of expensive rugby league stars. Now, I have absolutely no idea whether those players are actually worth 1.6 Mill a season, they certainly might, but I'm pretty confident that 3.2 Million a season could fully fund the entire women's program or could remove the requirement that club players pay a levy to play the game, could upgrade facilities around the country, could fund a world class coach developmet program or could be used to strengthen junior pathways. (potentially multiple items out of this list)

    Any one of those things would be far more beneficial to the development of the code than TWO (and only two) players.

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