In seclusion the opening round of Super Rugby AU revealed us the potential in the Australian system but the thought of a Wallabies team drawn from that pool pitted against the All Blacks in three months time is sobering.
Rugby Australia is still working up its Giteau Law fine-tunes however if Rennie isnt allowed to draw on a few of the experience overseas − Izack Rodda and Sean McMahon leap to mind − it might be a really lean year undoubtedly for the Wallabies. It will test the persistence of fans, and likewise Rennies ability to sell his vision of the future while delivering incremental gains. Thats fine in theory, however by the third Bledisloe Cup drubbing Wallabies supporters could be switching off in droves.
Rugbys most recent deal saw a Sunday early morning replay of one Super Rugby game on FTA partner Ten, however a RA representative verified that had been dropped for Super Rugby AU. It is also real that replay delivered inadequately for RA in regards to viewers − something like 5000 in the first effort at the 2020 season.
The experts who advised axed chief executive Raelene Castle on negotiations for next years deal viewed FTA exposure as critical for the sports restore. Castle might not provide a deal before her departure and it stays to be seen whether her interim replacement, Rob Clarke, will have the luxury of holding his ground on this point in the face of a much softer broadcast market.
Officious officiatingSome things never alter. The glass-half-full brigade would have delighted in the launching of the brand-new rules covering goal line dropouts, cross-field kicks, touchfinders and the 20-minute red card (the Hurricanes Scott Scrafton copped a yellow and a red in Sundays Aotearoa match).
The statistics provided cautious recognition. The two Australian games averaged 31.3 minutes of ball-in-play time, which is a 90-second enhancement on last season. The Kiwi video games have enhanced week-on-week to hit 34 minutes, which is similar to a great Test match.
The generation that made history with the 2018 Australian Schools and 2019 Junior Wallabies sides are coming through Super Rugby en masse now and it is not embellishment to say their arrival is as substantial as the arrivals 15 years ago of Will Genia, David Pocock, Quade Cooper, Kurtley Beale and James OConnor on the U20s and schools scene.
Better still, the conditions no longer exist for any of the current crop to cultivate the hubris of their predecessors. Professional sport is undergoing a financial reckoning and the climb of tomorrows stars will be appropriately limited. The Wallabies wont need a no dickheads policy, because the dickheads wont stay.
But if youre drinking from a half-empty glass, they are all still kids, and that implies it might be a lean number of years for the Wallabies, unless new coach Dave Rennie is enabled to enhance his first Test squad with a choose variety of overseas-based players.
Contrasts with New Zealand get exhausted however its difficult not to observe that when talented young players come through over there they are ushered into mature systems. Its a bit like Matt Toomuas observation today of Noah Lolesio and the Brumbies: “… they establish their gamers right, especially because position. He does not play the function where theres loads of pressure mounted on him. He has a dominant forward pack, he plays his role really nicely, and he attacks where he needs to. Its a truly great development example for young halves.”
It is a task of some significance that the Waratahs were able to keep back hyped U20s back rower Will Harris for as long as they did, while Harrison, Bell and Junior Wallabies colleague Mark Nawaqanitawase were included from the start of the earlier 2020 season. Harris made a quiet adequate launching versus the Reds on Friday night but it was reputable, which is all that should be needed of this generation at this stage of their professions.
Rankings dilemmaThe opening round of the all-Australian competition verified rugbys brand-new typical: niche status. While Essendon v Collingwood drew in a combined 1.2 million throughout Seven (870,000) and Foxtel (251,000) and Parramatta v North Queensland drew 747,000 (500,000 on Nine and 246,000 on Foxtel), Australias version of the derby blockbuster, NSW v Queensland, handled 69,000 on Foxtel.
The number itself is in status-quo territory for recent seasons and it does not include audiences on streaming service Kayo, which does not release figures. Foxtel has likewise dropped customers over the previous 6 months, so the counter argument is that to hold ground, however small, is a win. But the AFL and NRL are in the exact same boat and the point with their rankings is that it was with their free-to-air partners that they made huge gains this season.
Penalties and turnovers were also partially lower in both competitions, and should continue to trend down as referees bed down under the brand-new systems.
And yet there were the same old grievances. Consistency was poor, typified by Ben OKeeffes penalty call for a late and reckless hit on Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara on Sunday. With the Hurricanes Scrafton being in the sin bin for a cumulative team yellow, the commentary team was scathing. “There were certainly no arms in the deal with, it was certainly late, and it was high. Apart from that it was great!” they mused. In Fridays game in Brisbane, endless scrum resets overshadowed some amusing deployment of the 50/22 guideline and goal-line dropouts.
Overall, the combined 118,000 who tuned in on Friday and Saturday were treated to some strong basics, including competitive video games and a peek of a brighter future. Neither of which were ensured a mere 2 months earlier.
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Georgina Robinson is the chief rugby reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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The two Australian video games balanced 31.3 minutes of ball-in-play time, which is a 90-second enhancement on last season.
The Wallabies wont need a no dickheads policy, due to the fact that the dickheads will not stick around.
Contrasts with New Zealand get tired but its difficult not to observe that when gifted young players come through over there they are ushered into mature systems. Rugby Australia is still working up its Giteau Law fine-tunes but if Rennie isnt permitted to draw on some of the experience overseas − Izack Rodda and Sean McMahon jump to mind − it could be an extremely lean year undoubtedly for the Wallabies. Thats fine in theory, however by the 3rd Bledisloe Cup drubbing Wallabies supporters could be turning off in droves.