Something's Missing

This time last year the Rugby World was abuzz with nervous anticipation at the imminent of arrival of Australian Rugby's latest 'innovation' (innovation meaning desperate attempt at survival as in "innovative selection in the back row"). Colour, excitement and experimentation were promised by Australian Rugby's brand new third tier - the Australian Rugby Championship.

Whether the ARC delivered is open to debate. But what cannot be denied is that the ARC did provide playing opportunties to Australia's Rugby elite, barring those playing for Australia, Australia A, the Australian 7s teams, injured players and those playing in Europe and Japan.

They went head-to-head for eight weeks in front of screaming enthusiastic crowds. OK, so maybe they weren't that hyped but the reasonable crowds (compared to club Rugby) appreciated that some real talent was on offer.

The players responded and some real talent was unearthed such as Ben Alexander, Luke Burgess and Dean Mumm who up to that point were each fringe or non-Super 14 players.

So now we're back to the same old. Club games in front of scattered spectators, Rugby of variable quality, some excellent talent not being pushed or being able to test themselves week-in week-out against class opposition, the Wallabies playing two out of every three weeks against understrength European teams enjoying an end-of season holiday down under before the annual Tri-Nations roundabout.

The point of this post is not to argue finances or success of the ARC by some unmeasurable measure.

The point of this post is that Australian Rugby needs a third tier and needs it now. The players need it, the Rugby Public want it and would support it no matter what its form (though they may not turn up to watch - not initially anyway). Fox would broadcast it. Just today the Rolling Maul was watching Currie Cup so surely there's a market for an ARC equivalent.

So ARU, Provinces, franchises, old clubs, 'elite clubs', expansion clubs, suburban clubs and broadcasters, pull your fingers out and smell the reality. You're in the way. If you can't nut out a viable third tier by the start of next season season then piss off. Appoint a consultant, sign on the dotted line and do what they say, no questions asked. Only then can the rest of us get on with our viewing pleasure, and only then can Australian Rugby reach its full potential.