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Thread: The ARC and lessons from New Zealand

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    The ARC and lessons from New Zealand


    As the brave new frontier of Australia’s Premier Rugby Competition unfolds amidst brickbats and bouquets, I was moved to investigate how our Antipodean cousins have managed to build such a successful National Competition and what growing pains they may have experienced.
    What I found is interesting and reflects well on the starting point of the ARC.

    They too started out with significant opposition from leading retired players and “expert” media talking heads and doom-sayers.
    They too made compromises to ensure that something, indeed anything, got up and running and as you will see below, the 2006 launched Air New Zealand Cup and Heartland Championship is a significantly different format to the National Provincial Championship model started way back in 1976.
    Change and evolution needs time to bed in before rational decisions can be made.

    The one certainty in the Australian Rugby landscape was that there had to some sort of change. The Club-Super 12/14-Wallabies model was widely acknowledged to be unacceptable as the way forward in this professional era we now find ourselves in.


    Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. ~ Margaret Mead ~

    The ARU, in my view, did the responsible thing in having a lock down meeting with all the parties concerned so as to arrive at a consensus to try and please as many as possible.

    Traveler, there is no path. Paths are made by walking. ~ Antonio Machado ~

    Obviously not everyone will be 100% supportive of the model eventually decided on and we have seen that several of the traditional power bases of Sydney Rugby have, in hindsight, strongly denounced the ARU, the process and the outcome.
    It is interesting to note that very little dissent of a similar nature has come from the Queensland Clubs.


    "It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to bring to hand or more perilous to conduct or more uncertain in its success than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new." (Machiavelli 1469-1527)

    A popular view is that certain power brokers are extremely jilted at their apparent loss of status now that a new level of hierarchy has been “imposed” on them.
    Fortunately, as we have seen, the vast majority of the Australian Rugby “movers and shakers” have now gotten behind the concept and are prepared to let time take its course before condemning the new Competition.


    There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come. ~ Victor Hugo ~

    The Australian Rugby public has already voted with their feet (and wallets) in unexpectedly high turnouts (except for a rain soaked Perth) in Round 1 last week.

    I am confident that we will see this popularity grow in the future.
    I am also confident that, as with New Zealand, we will see some changes in the format and number of teams involved as the Australian Rugby Championships goes through some growing pains.

    However, one thing is certain, for future generations of Rugby players 2007 will be seen as a landmark year when Australian Rugby took a bold step forward to evolve the code across the Nation and caste aside years of political baggage for the common good of this sport we all love.

    Congratulations to the ARU and Gary Flowers, your legacy will be here long after your names dwindle from memory.


    In the beginning of a change, The Patriot is a scarce man, brave, hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot. ~ Mark Twain ~

    The New Zealand Experience


    NPC History:


    The Air New Zealand NPC was New Zealand's premier domestic competition generally played between August and October every year. Twenty seven teams, each representing a provincial union, made up the competition across three divisions.


    A map of NZRU provincial boundaries. The teams in teal are Air New Zealand Cup teams, whilst the teams in light blue are Heartland Championship Teams as listed below.


    New Zealand's provincial unions are (from north to south):

    Northland,
    North Harbour,
    Auckland,
    Counties Manukau,

    Thames Valley,
    Waikato,
    Bay of Plenty,

    East Coast,
    Poverty Bay,

    Hawke's Bay,
    King Country,
    Taranaki,
    Manawatu,

    Wanganui,
    Wairarapa-Bush,
    Horowhenua-Kapiti,

    Wellington,
    Nelson Bays, *
    Marlborough, *
    Buller,
    West Coast,

    Canterbury,
    Mid Canterbury,
    South Canterbury,
    North Otago,

    Otago,
    Southland.


    *Marlborough and Nelson Bay combine to form the ANC Team "Tasman"

    The style of rugby differs as you travel around the country.

    South Island teams tend to base their game around the forwards, mainly because of wet, heavy grounds. Teams in the North Island are better known for their expansive play with conditions more suited to running rugby.

    Some of the more remote unions, like the East and West Coasts, are famous for unique and free-spirited styles all of their own.

    The NPC was contested since 1976, but changed in format several times since then.

    In the first year, Division One comprised seven North Island teams and four from the South Island, with the remaining provinces contesting a split second division, where South Island teams played each other and North Island teams did the same.

    The lowest-placed Division One team (South Island) played the winner of Division Two (South Island) in a promotion / relegation battle, thus keeping four South Island teams in Division One.

    The lowest-placed Division One side (North Island) was automatically relegated, and the winner of Division Two (North Island) was automatically promoted. But Taranaki found in 1979 that they were relegated after finishing ahead of three South Island teams.

    The format continued until 1985 when Division Three was introduced, split between islands in the same way. The bottom-placed team was relegated automatically from Divisions One and Two, and the winner of Division Two was automatically promoted.

    The two winners from each island section of Division Three played off for promotion, which led to North Harbour's promotion to Division Two only a year after the union was formed.

    At the end of 1991 three Division One teams were relegated to make the total number of teams in each division equal at nine. From 1992 until 2005 there have been semi-finals and a final to determine the winners of each division.

    The only change came in 1998 when 10 teams were introduced in Division One and by doing so eliminating the need for byes.

    Bay of Plenty won the NPC Division One title in 1976 but has enjoyed no success since then. Canterbury won the following year, and again in 1983 and 1997. Wellington took the title in 1978 and 1981, and Counties Manukau won for - to date - the only time in 1979.

    Manawatu got their only title in 1980 and Waikato in 1992. Otago have won the title twice - in 1991 and 1998. And apart from that it has been all Auckland, winning in 1982, 1984 and 1985, four times in a row from 1987 - 1990, another four times consecutively from 1993-1996, and brilliantly in 1999, 2002 and 2003.

    Titles:

    Auckland 15
    Canterbury 5
    Wellington 4
    Otago 2
    Waikato 2
    Bay of Plenty 1
    Counties Manukau 1
    Manawatu 1

    Past Winners:

    1976 Bay of Plenty
    1977 Canterbury
    1978 Wellington
    1979 Counties Manukau
    1980 Manawatu
    1981 Wellington
    1982 Auckland
    1983 Canterbury
    1984 Auckland
    1985 Auckland
    1986 Wellington
    1987 Auckland
    1988 Auckland
    1989 Auckland
    1990 Auckland
    1991 Otago
    1992 Waikato
    1993 Auckland
    1994 Auckland
    1995 Auckland
    1996 Auckland
    1997 Canterbury
    1998 Otago
    1999 Auckland
    2000 Wellington
    2001 Canterbury
    2002 Auckland
    2003 Auckland
    2004 Canterbury
    2005 Auckland
    2006 Waikato
    2007

    Second Division Winners:

    (North Island/South Island)

    1976 Taranaki/South Canterbury
    1977 North Auckland/South Canterbury
    1978 Bay of Plenty/Marlborough
    1979 Hawke's Bay/Marlborough
    1980 Waikato/Mid Canterbury
    1981 Wairarapa-Bush/South Canterbury
    1982 Taranaki/Southland
    1983 Taranaki/Mid Canterbury
    1984 Taranaki/Southland
    1985 Taranaki
    1986 Waikato
    1987 North Harbour
    1988 Hawke's Bay
    1989 Southland
    1990 Hawke's Bay
    1991 King Country
    1992 Taranaki
    1993 Counties
    1994 Southland
    1995 Taranaki
    1996 Southland
    1997 Northland
    1998 Central Vikings
    1999 Nelson Bays
    2000 Bay of Plenty
    2001 Hawke's Bay
    2002 Hawke's Bay
    2003 Hawke's Bay
    2004 Nelson Bays
    2005 Hawke's Bay

    Third Division Winners:

    1985 North Harbour
    1986 South Canterbury
    1987 Poverty Bay
    1988 Thames Valley
    1989 Wanganui
    1990 Thames Valley
    1991 South Canterbury
    1992 Nelson Bays
    1993 Horowhenua
    1994 Mid Canterbury
    1995 Thames Valley
    1996 Wanganui
    1997 Marlborough
    1998 Mid Canterbury
    1999 East Coast
    2000 East Coast
    2001 South Canterbury
    2002 North Otago
    2003 Wanganui
    2004 Poverty Bay
    2005 Wairarapa-Bush

    Ranfurly Shield:


    Alongside the provincial competition, and often between teams from different divisions, another battle takes place.
    In 1901, the Earl of Ranfurly, Governor of New Zealand, announced his intention of presenting a cup to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, of which he was patron. Ranfurly made no stipulation as to what form the competition for the trophy should take, leaving the national union to decide.

    The annual general meeting of the NZRFU in 1902 decided that the cup should be for competition among affiliated unions on a challenge basis, the first holder to be the union with the best record for the 1902 season.

    When the trophy arrived it was found to be a shield, rather than a cup, and had obviously been designed for a soccer competition. The centre-piece was duly altered and on 13 September, 1902, the shield was presented by the Governor to G.H. Dixon, the Auckland delegate to the NZRFU.

    Auckland, with an unbeaten record, was declared the first winner of the Ranfurly Shield.

    The Shield has since become affectionately known as the “Log o` Wood”, and is played for when the holders accept challenges from other unions, scheduling home games to defend it.

    The significance of the Shield is immense. Just to play for it, no matter whether your team wins the challenge or loses by a big margin, is regarded as a huge privilege.

    The fervour and festival atmosphere of the clashes is legendary, and the celebrations that have marked successful challenges by underdog lower division sides are remembered as red-letter days by those provinces for decades to come.

    Lowly Marlborough upset Canterbury in the first challenge of 1973, and then put it up in Blenheim against all-comers for seven straight games before South Canterbury took it to Timaru, albeit briefly.

    Challenges:

    The Shield holder at the end of each season is required to accept at least seven challenges for the following year. All home games during league play, but not during knockout playoffs, in the Air New Zealand Cup or Heartland Championship are automatic challenges.

    The remaining shield defences must be made up of challenges from unions in the other domestic competition. For example, since North Harbour, an Air New Zealand Cup team, held the Shield at the end of the 2006 Cup season despite losing their home quarter-final to Otago, they were forced to defend the Shield against Heartland Championship teams during the 2007 pre-season. Having successfully done so, all their home fixtures in the round-robin phase of the Cup will be Shield defences.

    The Shield-holder is never forced to defend the Shield in an away match, although they may choose to, as Auckland, for example, did on a number of occasions during their record tenure as Shield-holder between 1985 and 1993.

    If a challenger successfully takes the Shield, all of their home matches for the rest of the season are defences of it.

    Every year, along with more fancied sides, Division Two and Three sides have an opportunity to challenge for the Shield. It's a big occasion for both players and supporters.

    When the smaller rugby unions make a successful challenge for the Shield, you are guaranteed that the people in the towns come together as one. This usually results in parades down the main streets, shop windows decorated and a general 'buzz' in the air for what everyone knows is the peak of provincial rugby, retaining the Ranfurly Shield.

    Many traditionalist New Zealanders hold the winning and defending of the Ranfurly in higher regard than the NPC/ANC and some even the Super 14.

    The pride of New Zealand's rugby provinces, the hard fought battles, the grit and determination, the blood, sweat and tears - all to hold aloft the Ranfurly Shield - the log of wood.

    As at the start of the 2007 Season the holders were North Harbour who won it from Canterbury in Round Two (Week 10) of the 2006 Air New Zealand Cup.

    Recent and upcoming defences:

    June 30, 2007 North Harbour 69 - Thames Valley 0

    July 14, 2007 North Harbour 99 - Horowhenua-Kapiti 6

    August 4, 2007 North Harbour 19 - Taranaki 13

    August 25, 2007 North Harbour v Waikato


    List of successful Challenges:

    Auckland 15 (Includes Inaugural Recipient)
    Canterbury 11
    Wellington 9
    Waikato 7
    Southland 5
    North Auckland 4
    Otago 4
    Taranaki 4
    Hawke's Bay 3
    Wairarapa 3
    South Canterbury 2
    Bay of Plenty 1
    Manawatu 1
    Manawhenua 1
    Marlborough 1
    North Harbour 1

    Longest Defence:

    Auckland, 61 Matches from September 14, 1985 to September 18, 1993. Lost to Waikato.

    2006 and Onward:


    The Air New Zealand Cup replaces the former Air New Zealand National Provincial Championship Division One competition.
    The Air New Zealand Cup was established following the wide-ranging Competitions Review, which the NZRU launched in 2003. The objective of that Review was to conduct a comprehensive review of all NZRU competitions to ensure they provide the best possible platform for sustaining a winning All Blacks team and maintaining rugby as a game accessible and attractive to all New Zealanders.

    The inaugural competition involving 14 teams kicked off in 2006.

    The Air New Zealand Cup features the following teams from the former NPC Division One:

    Auckland
    Bay of Plenty
    Canterbury
    North Harbour
    Northland
    Otago
    Southland
    Taranaki
    Waikato
    Wellington

    It also features three teams from the former NPC Division Two:

    Counties Manukau
    Manawatu
    Hawke's Bay

    plus one newly formed team, the merger of the former NPC Division Two teams of Marlborough and Nelson Bays:

    Tasman Makos

    The 2006 Air New Zealand Cup champions are Waikato.

    Key features of the revised Air New Zealand Cup format

    • The competition will feature the same 14 teams that participated in the inaugural 2006 Air New Zealand Cup.

    • The revised format will now see all 14 teams playing in a 10-week Modified Round Robin, followed by the quarterfinals, semifinals and final.

    • There will be seven matches played each week during the Modified Round Robin.

    • Not all teams will play each other during the Modified Round Robin. A formula has been developed to determine which teams do not play each other, based on a team’s competition placing from the previous season.

    • During the 10 weeks of the Modified Round Robin, there will be a match played on every Thursday night.

    • During the 10 weeks of the Modified Round Robin, two matches will be played simultaneously at 7.35pm on Friday night, with SKY Television broadcasting each match live on separate channels then repeating both matches on alternate channels straight after the live broadcast.

    • The 2007 Air New Zealand Cup will kick off on Thursday 26 July 2007 with the Final played on Saturday 20 October 2007.

    • Teams accumulate competition points as per normal: 4 points for a win; 2 points for a draw; 1 point for scoring four or more tries in a match; 1 point for losing a match by seven or fewer points.

    • The top eight teams at the end of the Modified Round Robin will advance to the quarterfinals with the top four ranked teams hosting the matches. The quarterfinal match ups will be as follows: 1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5.

    • The first semifinal will be contested between the highest-seeded quarterfinal winner and the lowest-seeded quarterfinal winner; the other semifinal will be contested between the two remaining teams.

    • The Ranfurly Shield maintains its special place within the Air New Zealand Cup, with the holder putting the Shield up at all home games in the Round Robin only. If current Shield holders North Harbour win their pre-competition challenges they are scheduled to face Air New Zealand Cup challenges from Taranaki, Waikato, Manawatu, Bay of Plenty and Southland.


    The Heartland Championship:


    To continue a strong level of competition following the formation of the Air New Zealand Cup a new Second Division was created and titled the Heartland Championship.
    The current member Unions are:

    Buller
    East Coast
    Horowhenua-Kapiti
    King Country
    Mid Canterbury
    North Otago
    Poverty Bay
    South Canterbury
    Thames Valley
    Wairarapa Bush
    West Coast
    Wanganui

    Prior to 2006, East Coast, North Otago, Poverty Bay and Wanganui competed in Division Two of the NPC. The remaining teams competed in Division Three of the NPC.



    FORMAT

    The Heartland Championship will be played:
    a. In two rounds of pool play ("Pool Rounds"); followed by
    b. Semifinals and finals ("the Finals Rounds") in the Meads Cup Pool and the Lochore Cup Pool.

    Please click here to a graphical layout of the competition structure.

    POOL ROUNDS

    Round 1:

    Round 1 of the Pool Rounds will be played in a round robin format in two, nationally seeded pools as follows:
    a. Pool A will consist of those Provincial Unions seeded 1st, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 12th in accordance with clause 7 of this Appendix.
    b. Pool B will consist of those Provincial Unions seeded 2nd, 3th, 6th, 7th, 10th and 11th in accordance with clause 7 of this Appendix.

    Round 1 will be played over a period of five weeks with each Provincial Union playing every other Provincial Union in its Pool.

    Round 2:

    Round 2 of the Pool rounds will be played over three weeks in two pools as follows:
    a. The Meads Cup Pool, consisting of the three Provincial Unions in Pool A with the most competition points in Round 1 and the three Provincial Unions in Pool B with the most competition points in Round 1;
    b. The Lochore Cup Pool, consisting of the remaining Provincial Unions in Pool A and Pool B.

    In the Meads Cup Pool, each Provincial Union will play the Provincial Unions in the pool that it did not play in Round 1. Home games in the Meads Cup Pool will be allocated using the following criteria:
    a. The Provincial Unions placed 1st in Pool A and Pool B based on competition points in Round 1 will have two home games. When these two teams play each other, the team that had the most competition points in Round 1 will have the Home Match. Ties will be broken in accordance with clause 13 of this Appendix.
    b. Of the Provincial Unions placed 2nd in Pool A and Pool B, the Provincial Union which has the higher aggregate competition points in Round 1 will have two home games. Ties will be broken in accordance with clause 13 of this Appendix.
    c. All other Provincial Unions in the Meads Cup Pool will have one home game.

    In the Lochore Cup Pool, each Provincial Union will play the Provincial Unions in the pool that it did not play in Round 1. Home games in the Meads Cup Pool will be allocated using the following criteria:
    a. The Provincial Unions placed 4th in Pool A and Pool B based on competition points in Round 1 will have two home games. When these two teams play each other, the team that had the most competition points in Round 1 will have the Home Match. Ties will be broken in accordance with clause 13 of this Appendix.
    b. Of the Provincial Unions placed 5th in Pool A or Pool B, the Provincial Union which has the higher aggregate competitions points in Round 1 will have two home games. Ties will be broken in accordance with clause 13 of this Appendix.
    c. All other Provincial Unions in the Lochore Cup Pool will have one home game.

    Many thanks to NZRU, Wikipedia and others more massive chunks of blatant plagiarism in the article above

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  2. #2
    Champion tdevil's Avatar
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    Nice compilation of info, Burgs

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    Immortal Contributor shasta's Avatar
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    Another beaut article, mate. There will need to be a bit of intestinal fortitude shown to keep the knockers at bay. The foundations that those NPC unions are built on are very deep. The ARU, however are creating a new structure which also has new footings.

    Those old time arm-twisters in inner Sydney will not lay down easily and as we know, they've got their share of flunkies willing to do their dirty work in order to stay "in the loop".

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    Champion Contributor Seldom's Avatar
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    it is a good model to follow. Most of the kinks have been ironed out already. this will help the player base in Aust in the future. Possible even the 5th super 15 team in Aust.

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    Veteran Contributor JediKnight's Avatar
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    Thanks for the insight, Burgs. Gives us hope for the future.

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    Tong Master Dry July! TWF Competition Winner! TWF Contributor! MO-vember Donator
    Great work Burgs and Gary Flowers for the cajonnes of pushing through with the ARC.

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    Immortal Contributor The InnFORCEr's Avatar
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    Dry July! Tong Master 141 Club Award TWF Contributor! TWF Competition Winner!
    never cease to amaze me Burgs...thanks again.

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    Thanks fellas, glad to give you some enjoyment

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    Veteran Contributor JediKnight's Avatar
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    Got no enjoyment out of the article - just a very informative collation of facts.

    Now another photo of some cheerleaders (or maybe a video of them in action) would constitute enjoyment for me!!!

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    Rookie Bails's Avatar
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    Amazing article Burgs - only just found it - apologies.
    The loss of this competition will be be greatly felt.

    Thanks

    Bails

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