Australia must be selfish to revive the game

FORMER Wallabies skipper Rod McCall is convinced that splitting from South Africa in Super Rugby would re-engage fans in a more appealing competition.

The 1991 Rugby World Cup-winner said bluntly that getting a bit more selfish about what suited the Australian market was overdue after the failed leap to 18 teams - across six time zones - for 2016-17 proved what didn't.

"I think it is obvious that a big part of the reset for the code has to be working out a competition that really suits this region for the next 10 years, and having South Africa involved in Super Rugby doesn't,'' McCall said.

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"It's going to need someone to make a big call because of the broadcast dollars that South Africa have always brought to the table, but cutting travel costs and getting more out of players travelling far less are considerations too.''

McCall revealed he proposed a Super Rugby split from South Africa in 2014, when he spoke to then-Rugby Australia chief executive Bill Pulver as Queensland Rugby Union chairman.

"Bill said 'we can't do that because NZ simply won't leave out South Africa' but I think history is showing that going to 18 teams for the supposed monetary benefit was the start of the end,'' McCall said.

"It's hard to create fan interest when a quarter of your product is redundant in terms of TV times, so I think there's got to be a robust discussion about a competition you can sell with teams from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and, perhaps, Fiji.''

McCall was a signatory to the call for change, backing last week's letter to RA from 10 former Wallabies' captains.

Rod McCall. Picture: Claudia Baxter
Rod McCall. Picture: Claudia Baxter

On Monday, captains' group frontmen Nick Farr-Jones and Phil Kearns, along with Rugby Union Players' Association boss Justin Harrison, were encouraged by a meeting with new RA board member Peter Wiggs in Sydney.

Issues affecting all levels of the game from community rugby, competition structure, pathways, high performance and the business of the game, including broadcast, were discussed.

Farr-Jones said representatives from the captains' group look forward to adding their expertise to the reviews into those parts of the game.

"On behalf of our group of Wallaby captains I'd like to thank Rugby Australia for the opportunity to present our thoughts on the future of Australian rugby," Farr-Jones said.

"It seems Peter, along with Dan Herbert and Brett Godfrey, has brought a much-needed open mind to the board of RA (as new directors) and we are encouraged.

"It was always hoped last week's letter, and our plans communicated to RA and the member unions, would enhance the willingness to overhaul the game.

"We will work closely with RA, RUPA and the willing member unions in a coalition for change."

Nick Farr-Jones and Phil Kearns met with the RA board on Monday.
Nick Farr-Jones and Phil Kearns met with the RA board on Monday.

The call for change was trumpeted most publicly last November by respected former Test centre Dick Marks when he took the remarkable step of paying for ads in two newspapers to ignite a #LetsFixAustralianRugby campaign.

Australia's former National Director of Coaching is adamant that Western Force saviour Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest should be a key figure in rugby's reset.

"Andrew Forrest is the key to uniting and repairing the game. He has the resources, the experience, the business acumen, the motivation and the necessary passion for the game," Marks said.