Page 8 - Touchline Edition 39
P. 8

8                                                                                                                                                                                                                             9

               The Decline in Australian Rugby: Can It Be Saved?                                                                   THE JOURNAL OF SPORT,  LEISURE & RISK  WITH AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE        November 2023
             The Decline in





             Australian Rugby:                                                                                                                                     So, if these are the problems,




             Can It Be Saved?                                                                                                                                      what are the solutions? There
                                                                                                                                                                   are many voices competing
                                                                                                                                                                   in this area, and so far, none


               Tim Mottram, independent sports journalist                                                                                                          are rising above the din.
               Australian Rugby is facing terminal decline and only swift and brutal
               remedies will haul it back to even a shadow of what it once was.
               Getting booted out of the World Cup at the group stage has pulled
               away the mask, showing an almost irredeemable institutional crisis
               under the gaze of millions.

               Losing to Fiji could be seen as an aberration,     players. Even when an elite junior starts out                    This would mean that more players would            change. Sometimes you have to eat shit for
               but the 40-6 mauling by Wales is unarguable        in rugby, they are increasingly moving to                        have to tough it out in club rugby and the         others to eat caviar further down the track,”.
               and irrefutable evidence that Australian           Rugby League, where the pay is better.                           best talent could be stacked in the three          Clearly, he sees what needs to happen.
               Rugby has hit its nadir. While a strong World                                                                       remaining teams. They could then be more of  Rugby needs to change.
               Cup would have papered over the cracks,            One of Rugby’s misguided attempts to                             a force. There is nothing better for a sporting
               there were many in the game who were               remedy this was to poach players back.                           team than success.                                 So, if these are the problems, what are the
               banking on a strong run to get momentum            This is only successful rarely, such as in the                                                                      solutions? There are many voices competing
               revved back up for the code. Australia’s worst  case of emerging star Joseph-Aukuso Suaaii:                         Speaking of success, one choice Australian         in this area, and so far, none are rising above
               ever World Cup showing puts the lie to that,       but the cost was considerable and is only an                     Rugby made in 2022 should have been                the din. For every advocate of a three team
               and means that change has become not just          example of triage.                                               iron-clad. Bringing in Eddie Jones on a five-      representation in Super Rugby, for example,
               urgent, but mandatory.                                                                                              year contract was seen as a simple way             there are others who say the five team
                                                                  Beyond the cash vortex, Australian Rugby                         to jump start The Wallabies, but the team          system is here to stay. Others say Australia
               The problems are manifold and appear               seems hampered by institutional issues.                          under Jones did not make the right noises.         needs to drop out of the competition
               at every level of the game. There are few          Based on a federated system, rugby lacks                         The performances have been lacklustre              altogether and focus on a national
               problems that can’t be eased with money,           direction and seems moribund. Each state                         and a win-to-loss ratio of 2:7 did not inspire     competition. Australian teams playing other
               but it would seem that funding is actually         has a say, but their voting power is based on                    confidence in the Aussie. The fact that those      Australian teams means that they would
               the central issue. Rugby has always been the       the respective power within the game. This                       wins have only come over Georgia and               be investing in a winning mentality. Of the
               poor cousin of the Australian football codes.      means that the two biggest rugby states                          Portugal tells its own story. Statistically, at    roughly 16 games most players play, and with
               According to some reports, Rugby has               -Queensland and New South Wales- can                             least, Jones’s predecessor Dave Rennie had a  such low win rates, Australian players simply
               A$130 million in revenues, whereas AFL             block any moves by creating a bloc. This                         35.71% win rate in 2022, and who knows how         aren’t used to winning. This counts on the
               dominates with A$940 million. This not             makes systemic change very difficult. A                          far into the World Cup they might have gone        biggest stage.
               only reflects the relative popularity of the       federated system means that self-interest can                    if Rennie had been retained.
               rival codes, but also rugby’s lack of financial    trump the national good, and it also means                                                                          The appointment of a high-performance
               wherewithal.                                       that unpopular decisions can be pushed.                          Jones further unsettled the squad when it          director is imminent, but until rugby
                                                                                                                                   was revealed that he took an interview with        centralises, there will be a lack of direction
               Without financial clout, Rugby cannot hope         Naturally, the Wallabies are only ever going                     the Japanese Rugby people with an eye              in the sport. The clock is ticking. The 2025
               to compete at a grassroots level. All levels       to be as good as the players selected. But                       on taking over there. Perhaps the best that        Lions Tour offers a perfect opportunity to
               of the sport have been neglected for years,        Super Rugby doesn’t seem to be helping                           can be said for Jones’s dismal tenure is that      gain back some pride, and as hosts in 2027,
               and the player drain is becoming increasingly  the process. Australian teams are not really                         he had the grace to fall on his own sword          Australia needs to pull themselves back into
               grave. There simply aren’t enough teams at         setting the competition on fire. The Force                       rather than wait for Rugby Australia to get        the global reckoning. The future of the sport
               the local level to spark community interest.       and the Rebels have never even made the                          rid of him. The mood surrounding rugby in          depends on its ability to reshape itself, but it
               Both the AFL and the NRL have the financial        finals, and the win rate for Australian teams                    Australia was neatly summed up by Jones            can only do this by creating a sense of unity
               clout not only to invest in the grassroots         last year was 40%. There have been calls to                      himself in the aftermath of the resignation:       and positivity within the Australian fanbase.
                  Back to contents
               teams, but to scoop up promising rugby             cut representation from five teams to three.                     “[I] gave it a run. Hopefully be the catalyst for
   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10   11   12   13