Canny administrator … ARU boss John O’Neill.The Wallabies’ woes lie in their own back yard and run much deeper than the simple excuse of a long list of injuries.
The year after a World Cup is always a fresh start, a bit of a clean-out, and the Rugby Championship has been an ideal tournament to judge new approaches and progress.
Steve Hansen has moved the All Blacks on in terms of tactics and performance.
There have been some promising signs for the Springboks under new coach Heyneke Meyer.
It’s fair to say the Pumas have proven themselves a worthy addition.
But there’s no denying that Australia have gone seriously backwards.
It’s not acceptable to shrug that off as just a bad season complicated by injuries and coming against the best teams in the world. Their drop in standards has been unprecedented in recent times.
One of the great strengths of the Wallabies, as with many Australian sports, has been their “Digger” approach of courage, confidence and loyalty.
But these are qualities that have diminished in Australian game and I’m talking more than just the Wallabies.
ARU CEO John O’Neill is a fantastic administrator but he has taken an expand-at-all-costs approach that I think has weakened rather than strengthened their game.
Desperate to break into new markets and fight against the threats of Aussie rules, league and soccer, O’Neill has been guilty of diluting their product. Sometimes it’s better to simply look after your core customers.
Looking back to the old days of the Super 10, Australia had two very good sides in their traditional rugby states of New South Wales and Queensland.
The addition of the Brumbies to the Super 12 was justified and worked well. They became a champion side and provided the backbone for the Wallabies’ 1999 World Cup triumph with the likes of George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Stirling Mortlock, George Smith and more.
The move to invade Perth and build the Western Force stretched their playing resources to the limit.
But still they wanted more and O’Neill’s ability to ride over New Zealand and South African administrators and get the Melbourne Rebels established in the AFL hot-bed of Victoria took rugby beyond breaking point.
They simply don’t have enough good players and this isn’t a development competition – it’s meant to be the global pinnacle of provincial rugby.
Their concession to allow more imported players is an admission of their own weaknesses and the flow-on certainly hasn’t helped the Wallabies this year in their hour of need.
But this hasn’t been just an Australian problem, it’s also adversely affected Super Rugby.
International rugby is a success because of parochialism. When you blatantly commercialise the game, you lose that key element.
We’ve already seen that across the Tasman where their top players are constantly on the move. Look at the likes of David Pocock, Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor, Julian Huxley, Mortlock, Rocky Elsom and Drew Mitchell shifting franchises.
We need a strong Australian team for the sake of international rugby and if they’re blatantly honest they would be better to downscale and go back to four Super Rugby teams.
Who could come into Super Rugby to replace that Aussie franchise? I’d go for a Pacific Islands nation.
It would be a great way to get some top island players back from the northern hemisphere clubs and encourage them to play in their own back yard. They would also strengthen the competition and add real interest.
Would they be competitive? I’d back an island team to get more wins than the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels combined.
They might struggle on the road a bit initially, but at home, they’d be more than competitive.
– Taine Randell is a former All Blacks captain
Fairfax NZ News
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.