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A hand grenade was dropped by Australia rugby boss Hamish McLennan: “All bets are off.”
Australia could drop Super Rugby from 2024 and, like the NRL and AFL, focus on a domestic competition.
It’s intriguing. And what would a national competition look like?
For starters, it can’t be the NRC. It can’t be the AU Super Rugby either. Both have flaws.
Tim Horan is right. When you only have five Super AU teams, it gets boring very quickly when teams only play each other twice.
And the problem with the NRC is that it dilutes the competition. When the Wallabies were most successful, we had a concentration of talent in the Reds, Waratahs and Brumbies.
From these teams we had combinations and the backbone of a World Cup winning Wallabies. It is essential that we develop combinations before facing the All Blacks and European powers.
So what might our own national competition look like? And how do we focus our talent?
Here’s what I would watch carefully.
Nine teams. Two more than the current AU Super Rugby. We focus on our core regions in Brisbane and Sydney and leverage Sydney and Brisbane’s most marketable club names – Randwick and Brothers.
Now people will complain about the arrival of clubs like Randwick or Brothers. Do not worry. You go with your most marketable names possible. Names with a long history to give the competition a better pedigree. My team is the Sunnybank Dragons, for what it’s worth.
Not only that, but we ensure that the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney and Bond University are integrated. This shows them respect and provides three solid team sponsorships in the future.
The NRC would be as follows:
1. Western Force
2. ACT Brumbies
3. Melbourne Rebels
4. Northern Sydney Stingrays
5. NSW Country (perpetual sponsor – University of Sydney)
7. Brisbane Brothers (North Brisbane – Sunshine Coast)
8. Queensland Country (perpetual sponsor – Bond University: Southside Brisbane to GC)
9. Western Brisbane (perpetual sponsor – University of Queensland)
Each team plays each other twice with bye rounds. This provides our national competition. System of the first five finals.
Now for the next key element: a best-of-three Union streak (Waratahs vs. Reds). This should ideally take place after the Grand Final. The important thing here is that we have two champions and that we are not undermined by the dominance of the New Zealand teams.
The revised NRC will deliver an Australian champion.
The State of the Union will deliver an interstate champion.
Then on the test matches and Bledisloe. And hopefully more winning.
One thing I’m not sure about is a post-State of the Union trans-Tasman title fight between the New Zealand Super Rugby champion and the State of the Union champion. On the one hand, we would have a concentration of talent for the first time in a long time as you take on New Zealand’s top team in Super Rugby.
But on the other hand, would that harm the Bledisloe, or would we drive straight into the Bledisloe?