DEBATE: Will a domestic competition help or hurt rugby?
DOMESTIC RUGBY NOT GOING TO TURN HEADS
RUGBY union has been a sinking ship in 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has not done the sport any favours.
The resignation of Rugby Australia chief executive officer Raelene Castle last month was a big blow as we started to feel the full effects of coronavirus, but that’s not the only problem with the organisation.
After a strong period challenging New Zealand and South Africa’s best sides, we are quite possibly the worst we’ve ever been in Super Rugby competition.
With four of five sides from the Australian conference finishing in the bottom five last season, the ACT Brumbies are our only beacon of hope and even they are struggling to attract interest.
I must say that interim Rugby Australia CEO Rob Clarke is making the right moves as he looks to get rugby up and running again because, as bad a state as the sport may be in, it’s only going to be worse if they can’t get back to playing.
But once crowds are allowed at games again, will anyone even notice? They’re struggling to attract fans as is.
The silver lining for this is that the Australian-only games tend to attract more interest than when an overseas side comes to town and it could very well drum up some more interest in the game. That’s best-case scenario.
But with the state of the game and the growing interest in NRL, which is to return in no time, rugby union has a really difficult task in trying to hold on to its supporters.
I fear that the effects of COVID-19 could do some serious long-term damage to the game, but I hope I’m wrong.
ANY RUGBY IS BETTER THAN NO RUGBY AT ALL
FOR any sport in general the sooner its athletes are able to compete at an elite level the better. No amount of hours on the training paddock and in the gym can equate to match fitness, and develop awareness.
While there is little choice but to turn towards this option, looking to our own backyard for opposition might not be such a bad thing.
This temporary segregation might help to reinvent an Australian brand of rugby. After all, do we even have our own style anymore?
Meeting the same teams every five weeks could become somewhat monotonous, but it should reignite some rivalries, and give national selectors a better gauge by having prospective players on the same paddock more often.
However, given four Australian sides finished in the bottom five in the 2019 season, it does not bode well with the idea of having strong competition to play against.
But as far as being competitive on the international stage, we need to take advantage of this unfair playing field we find ourselves blessed with.
All our rivals are dealing with their own COVID-19 situations, with some such as England and France in far worse shape to resume normal activities or consider international schedules any time soon.
However, New Zealand is even better placed to make a similar competition reality, so we could just about give up the ghost on gaining ground on the All Blacks.
But we could be in a position to resume the Bledisloe Cup long before many other international fixtures take place, which is not a bad competitive edge to have.