I’m sure we’ve all heard the chatter regarding poor performances by Australian Rugby Union sides and the dominance of the New Zealand based outfits.
This year we’ve seen the worst start to a Super Rugby season by Australian sides since 2011. Of the 10 matches played in the opening two rounds, Australian clubs have only managed to record 3 wins.
The Melbourne Rebels are at the forefront of the Aussie disappointment. The Rebels saw a round one defeat to the Blues by a 38-point margin backed up by an absolute drubbing at the hands of the Hurricanes to the tune of 71-6.
Unfortunately for the Rebels, they’ve had a few years since their inception in 2011 to get some semblance of competitiveness. Melbourne has finished 15th, 13th, 12th, 15th, 10th, and 12th and has lost their first 3 games of this season.
The lack of consistent communication by SANZAAR (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina Rugby) has allowed speculations to mount that 3 sides could be cut from the current 18 team competition.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. It would be highly unlikely for three teams to be cut form Australia, even two would be a distressful sign for a competition that has intentions of sprawling globally. The Reds and the Waratahs based in Queensland and New South Wales respectively should and will be considered untouchable if the axe is to be wielded in Australia.
The Western Force and the ACT Brumbies are other possibilities to have their playing days in the world’s premier Rugby league cut short. It has become increasingly difficult for clubs such as these to compete with the more dominant football codes in the AFL and NRL.
To add further uncertainty to any proposed reformatting of the competition, a number of different broadcasters will have to sign off on the decision given that the current broadcasting deal is only 1 year into a proposed 4 year arrangement.
At the end of the day all fans, both fair-weather and faithful know, it is much easier to get behind your club and keep a meaningful interest in them if there is success and promise on the paddock.
The problems with Australian clubs start with their lack of success. This has bred a culture of bit-part support, which hasn’t translated well to attendance records and dulled the perception of broadcasted matches.
At this stage, it appears Australia’s two newest clubs, the Rebels and the Force, are the most likely Aussie clubs to face the axe. Neither club has a good record and should feel legitimately threatened by the upcoming decision.
One thing we can all agree on is that this should serve as a wake-up call. Our South African and New Zealand counterparts are eclipsing the quality of Rugby in our country. Changes need to be made to ensure these multi-million dollar franchises remain sustainable and successful.
By Nik Hatzi