Tag Archives: queensland rugby

A New CEO at Rugby Australia

The annus horribilis at Rugby Australia culminates in current CEO, Bill Pulver, falling on his sword and a newly minted boss in Raelene Castle being named. From the outset, this caught the Australian rugby community off guard as a past player or rugby union minion was not elected. No NSWRU or QRU baggage to overcome or have to justify. Castle has worked for the past 4 years as the CEO of the Bulldogs Rugby League where she had to deal with the strong personality of Des Hassler, putting her in good stead for ‘handling’ the Wallabies coach, Michael Chieka. There were salary cap issues at the Bulldogs and Hassler was sacked after she had left, but it seems on the surface she did a good job. She also had 6 years before that as the head of Netball New Zealand building great relationships with other administrators, notwithstanding NZ Rugby boss Steve Tew.

If Rugby Australia had of picked Phil Kearns, then a business as usual mentality would have set in and the rot and coverups would have continued to permeate. Sydney’s North Shore brigade would retain its power base, leaving the rest of grassroots rugby to try and tread water unassisted.  This might have been where Eastwood President, Brett Papworth, may have been parachuted in, as he has had plenty to say about developing grassroots rugby (see here). Although, his health may have been of concern (more info). It was even believed that belated saviour of the Western Force rugby union, Andrew Forrest, could have even been given a nod, despite not having sports administration background (see IPRC).

So we turn to Ms Castle and her credentials certainly stack up as a competent administrator with high profile positions in various sporting landscapes. There will always be detractors out there, though, on a whole, it appears she has done a wonderful job. Also, she sees opportunities for both male and female athletes to develop with international opportunities not found in AFL or NRL. My question, however, turns to the fact that she is a New Zealander and an avowed supporter of the All Blacks, “There wouldn’t be a Wallabies-All Blacks Test match that I have missed in the last 35 years, unless I was travelling.” When every fibre in the collective conscious of rugby aficionados in the Australian rugby community focussed on regaining the Bledisloe Cup, would getting into bed with the ‘enemy’ be seen as a positive step? The overall attitude of the rugby leader is, of course, to build relationships and seek to increase participation in our game (that they play in heaven). Grow the grassroots and plant the seeds for Wallaby success. But, the end goal for young aspirants is to see a successful progression and ultimately an all-conquering Wallabies outfit with at least a Bledisloe Cup in the cabinet, then there may be a conflict of interest.

I hope I am wrong, though the Robbie Deans saga was arguably a mistake. Rugby followers are passionate beasts and any chink in the armour at the top is not looked on too fondly. Pulver has had some great initiatives for Australian rugby, especially in developing women’s rugby, but regrettably botched the handling of the Western Force in Super Rugby with a complete coverup and will forever hang his head in shame. Not since John O’Neill has Australian had a rugby boss of pedigree and after Ms Castle has sorted out New Zealand Rugby League’s failure at the RL World Cup she can attend to our rugby woes. Hopefully, she does not see this appointment as a stepping stone to take Steve Tew’s position as the head of New Zealand Rugby, because, with the announcement to apply for the Women’s World Cup in 2021 and the Men’s in 2027, we need someone here for the long haul.

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Former All Black on the Pathway as Future Wallabies Coach

The Coaching merry go round that has now become synonymous with the Qld Reds has once again reared it’s ugly head with Nick Stiles the latest to fall victim to the position which could be referred to as a ‘poisoned chalice’.

If what former Coach Mark McBain has hinted at recently is true, then player power is still alive and well, in fact, it’s never been better at Ballymore.

With Brad Thorn set to become the 10th Coach in the last 16 Seasons what does that tell you about loyalty and staying strong? Not a whole lot, I would have thought.

Sure, Stile’s record in the 2017 season wasn’t great, in fact, it was the worst of any Qld Reds Coach so far with a 4-11 win/loss record. Also, they finished 14th overall in the Super 18 Competition, but as is the case a lot of the time the Head Coach is made the scapegoat while the players appear to get off Scott free with little or no accountability being taken.

There will be those who are quick to point out that Coaching at the elite level in any sport is results driven and if you don’t perform you’ll fall on your sword and  pay the price. Well that’s  fine if all of the players buy in to that and give the coach their full and unwavering support. Did that happen  at the Qld Reds this Season?

For the Qld Rugby Union (QRU), who are supposedly cash strapped, to continue to sack coaches mid-term time after is beyond belief Now they’ll have to fork out another substantial amount of money with Stiles contracted to the Qld Reds until the end of the 2018 Season, unless they can shuffle him to another position within the QRU.

In 2018, a rookie Head Coach at Super Rugby Level, Brad Thorn will be under the spotlight and he may very well succeed with his tough uncompromising nature and respect  that he had as a player sure to rub off on his players in his new role with the Qld Reds.

An outstanding and distinguished career  in both Rugby Union and Rugby League, Thorn, achieved major success at the highest level. He enters the coaching fold with impeccable credentials as a player, but that doesn’t guarantee that he will be able to replicate that success as a Coach at the Elite Level.

As well as Qld Country are performing at the moment it’s a quantum leap from coaching in the National Rugby Championship (NRC) to being a coach in the Super Rugby Competition.

You can only  imagine the pressure that Thorn will be under next Season, fully aware that if the Qld Reds don’t perform his Career as a coach at the Elite Level may very well be short lived.

I think you will find though, that no matter what. the QRU will persevere with Thorn if what has been reported is true in that the Australian Rugby Union  are impressed with Thorn and that his coaching credentials have been rubber  stamped. It does seem to have some credence, when you consider how Thorn has  been seemingly fast-tracked through the system to become the Head Coach of a Super Rugby Team in a very short time.

It can only be hoped that Thorn’s tenure as Coach of the Qld Reds will be long and successful and act as a pathway to one day possibly becoming the the Wallabies Head Coach. How ironic, if in the future the Wallabies coached by Brad Thorn were to play  the All Blacks. Would Thorn be able to sing ‘Advance Australia Fair’ with the same  pride and passion that he sung ‘God of Nations at thy feet’ and how would he feel watching the ‘All Blacks’ perform the ‘Haka’ before kick off? When you consider that as a boy Thorn’s  dream was to play for the ‘All Blacks’ and to perform the ‘Haka’.

GJ

Staff Writer

What is the Relevence of Rugby Union in Australia?

From little things, big things grow.”

 

Paul Kelly

 

Watching rugby leagues gala event, the Dally M Awards, live from The Star in Sydney, tonight, one questions what is the future of a code that has been relegated to “boutique” status that rugby union now occupies. Queensland and New South wales are the only true “rugby” states in the Australian landscape with the Australian Football League (AFL) dominating the rest. I am reminded of a guy from Melbourne I was talking to in China, in 2011, and how he remarked that it was incredible to him that Australia did so well in rugby union when most of the country does not understand the game; at the time we were ranked No. 2 in the world behind the New Zealand (who went on to win their second World Cup later on that year).

 

A stark contrast to our near neighbours, New Zealand, that absolutely worship the code from Auckland to Bluff. I remember visiting there in the late 1990s and being amused by the New Zealand Herald’s coverage of news being dominated by rugby union. Even the real estate pages making note of All Black legend Murray Mexted (1979~86) selling a property in Auckland. So often I scan the Courier Mail in the hope that there’s a least some mention of rugby union amongst the voluminous coverage of rugby league and more often then not there is not any.

 

Mal Meninga (Kangaroos Coach) made a great speech praising the exploits of Dally Messenger, from which the awards are taken. Reiterating the fact that this rugby union great was instrumental in the creation of rugby league in this country over one hundred years ago. Built on mateship and looking after the guy who was injured on the weekend playing the game he loves without any recompense from his employer. Once rugby union became professional in October 1995, the relevance of rugby league would then come under question. However, this was not to be, the stranglehold of that code has on the eastern states of Queensland and New South Wales were to prove too strong. The fact that the State of Origin has such a powerful following in those two states, akin to the AFL grand final in the rest of the country, that to supplement it would be sacrilege.

 

Growing up in a decidedly pro-rugby union family the code has always been my passion. To pull on my high school’s 1st XV jersey was an honour that I will cherish to the grave. The opportunities and friendships that it has created for me throughout the world bodes testament to a code that has relevance, just maybe not so much in my home country, Australia. Having played in Canada, USA, Japan, France and even China has opened my eyes to a sport that is truly an international game and growing stronger and broader every year. There is not an international bar in Asia worth its salt if rugby union games are not telecast, sadly that is not the case in Brisbane. I have driven to several pubs on a Friday night trying to find a venue showing the Super Rugby, despite the local Queensland Reds playing, to no avail.

 

After what I described as our annus horribilis the code will surely resurrect itself and hold a prominent position on the Australian sporting landscape. If it takes billionaire, Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, in Western Australia to inject the capital to garnish more interest in rugby with his IPRC than that is not a bad thing. There will surely be more pain before a silver lining, but the code will survive and hopefully come out better for the anguish that has been caused in 2017.

 

CJ

Editor-at-Large

 

What’s Happened to Rugby in Australia?

“Out of adversity comes opportunity.”

 

Benjamin Franklin

In what could only be described as annus horribilis for rugby union in Australia, 2017 will be left to historians to rake over the coals of a year that no Australian Super Rugby franchise could defeat any New Zealand rival. And that is the benchmark of rugby union here, to beat those pesky Kiwis across the ditch. The Wallabies lost to Scotland in June and were under the pump against the Auzzurri of Italy a week later. Not to mention the drubbing by New Zealand in Sydney in the first Bledisloe clash with 50 minutes of scintillating rugby from the World Champions to go to an unassailable 56-6 lead. The debacle of the way the ARU drew out the axing of the Western Force franchise showed such disdain that rugby has all but been obliterated from the Australian sporting landscape in 2017.

But for an unlikely source in Western Australia, larrikin billionaire mining magnate Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, fuel has been thrown on the smouldering remains of the code by the announcement of the Indo-Pacific Rugby Championships (IPRC). Drawing on rugby aficionados from Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Fiji a six-team competition will begin in August 2018. Ideally it will be fully sanctioned by the ARU to allow another avenue for Wallaby selection, but as Twiggy says, “They’re not quite running at the same speed as we do!”

Twiggy’s bold plan.

Leading up to the first Rugby World Cup in Asia, hosted by Japan in 2019, this competition could capitalise on the hype developing in the region. There would need to be marque players, the likes of former Reds flanker Liam Gill have been mentioned, to attract more attention and add to the interest in this competition. If successful, there could be a relegation system with Super Rugby franchises in the current Super 15 format.  

 

It could be a case of putting the cart ahead of the horse, but if such a competition could come off there is the potential for it to make a mark on the sporting landscape. Being able to financially compete with cashed up European and Japanese clubs could see the IPRC making a real identity for itself and it would of course seek endorsement from World Rugby.

 

I, for one, am hoping such a visionary concept could come off. The promotion of rugby in the fastest growing economies of the world is the real key for an international product that has huge growth potential with the upcoming World Cup 2019 in Japan.