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 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.
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 teams, but to scoop up promising rugby   cut representation from five teams to three.   “[I] gave it a run. Hopefully be the catalyst for
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