Australian Rugby to undertake historic strategic reset

Tue, Aug 22, 2023, 9:00 PM
Rugby Australia
by Rugby Australia
Rugby Australia (RA), the Australian Super Rugby Clubs, Member Unions and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) have agreed to pursue a historic strategic reset of Rugby in Australia. Photo: Getty Images
Rugby Australia (RA), the Australian Super Rugby Clubs, Member Unions and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) have agreed to pursue a historic strategic reset of Rugby in Australia. Photo: Getty Images

Rugby Australia (RA), the Australian Super Rugby Clubs, Member Unions and the Rugby Union Players Association (RUPA) have agreed to pursue a historic strategic reset of Rugby in Australia.

With a once in a generation pipeline of major Rugby events set to supercharge the game in Australia, headlined by the 2025 Lions Tour, the Rugby World Cup for men in 2027, and the women’s World Cup in 2029, the vision for this transformation is for all levels to have clearly defined roles, with stakeholders aligned to work more collaboratively towards greater success for Australian Rugby on and off the field.

As part of the change:

  • Member Unions will continue to oversee and deliver the Community game
  • Super Rugby Clubs will be responsible for local talent development and pathways, as well as the operational delivery of Super Rugby Pacific and Super W programs, aligned with the National High-Performance Plan
  • RA will lead the National High-Performance Plan and system, which includes national pathways and development programs, National Teams across XVs and Sevens and contracting players and key high-performance staff within Super Rugby Pacific, Super W and national programs.

The planned strategic reset between RA, Super Rugby Clubs, the Member Unions and RUPA is designed to implement a structure that:

  • Continuously improves on-field results for Super Rugby Clubs across Super Rugby Pacific, Super W and Teams in Gold throughout the golden decade of major events in Australia
  • Provides for increased investment in Women’s Rugby, with a particular focus on the high-performance programs and sustainable growth in player payments
  • Attracts and retains the best Australian players, coaches and officials
  • Drives focus on, and investment in the Community game – particularly with the expected surge in engagement and participation numbers following the Lions Tour and Rugby World Cups
  • Increases fan engagement and grows the brands within Australian Rugby, subsequently generating more fans of the sport
  • Improves the commercial performance of Super Rugby Clubs
  • Streamlines the governance of professional Rugby.

Under the plan RA and its Member Unions around the country will work together to drive a stronger connection with the Community to create a thriving, sustainable, fun and inclusive game at the grassroots level.

The reset at the professional level will also incorporate a national contracting model ahead of the 2025 season – a project that RA, Super Rugby Clubs and RUPA have been developing over the last two years, and which will see an increase in overall investment in players to support retention and recruitment.

Rugby Australia CEO, Phil Waugh believes now is the ideal time for a strategic transformation of Australian Rugby, with an upcoming capital raise, the 2025 Lions Tour and two Rugby World Cups in 2027 and 2029 providing an ideal platform to recharge and refocus Rugby in this country.

“Together, we need to change our collective approach to ensure that Rugby in Australia can prosper, on and off the field – from the heartbeat of our game at the grassroots right through to our Wallabies, Wallaroos and Sevens teams.

“We firmly believe that strategic structural change is required if we are to deliver success for the game in the future – particularly with the pipeline of major Rugby events happening in our backyard through to 2032.

“This is a significant project and needs to be done through a spirit of partnership across Australian Rugby, motivated by the collective desire to ensure we are winning on the field and ensuring that we are sustainable and able to grow off it.

“The implementation of this model cannot be a one-size-fits-all model, and needs to reflect the specifics of each Super Rugby Club, Member Union and their markets.

“It will take time to successfully deliver this project, however we intend to formally commence work on rolling it out over the coming weeks, with a plan to methodically work through the process with our many stakeholders.”

“With the many exciting events on the horizon for Australian Rugby, it is important that we take this opportunity to really set up our system, and our Clubs to be more successful, and drive the game forward at all levels.”

NSW Waratahs Chairman, Tony Crawford: “The reset of professional Rugby in this country is long overdue. We are committed to RA’s new strategic direction which will give the Waratahs an even better opportunity to develop, attract and retain the rich seam of talent that we have, and to grow our game from grass roots, at every level. We look forward to working with Rugby Australia to return Rugby in NSW and Australia to its position as a powerhouse of the sport.”

ACT Brumbies Chairman, Matthew Nobbs: “The Brumbies will explore the process of helping shape the structure and direction of rugby in Australia. This club has a proud history of innovation and success in Australian rugby and we see this as an opportunity to drive rugby forward in the ACT and Southern NSW.”

Melbourne Rebels Chairman, Paul Docherty: “The Melbourne Rebels are strong supporters of the right structural change to enhance the professional game, while ensuring we retain our national footprint and a greater inclusion and pathway from community through HP and into our National teams. It is a positive move that SR Clubs and Member Unions are working through this together, and shows an intent to get our game back to the top where it belongs.”

Queensland Reds Chairman, Brett Clark: “The QLD Reds will be behind measures that will lead to more successful Super Rugby clubs and Australian sides on and off the field. There is a lot of detail to work through, and we are supportive to start on what the model will look like in Queensland and how we can contribute to ensure sustained success on-field at all levels.”

Western Force Chairman, Anthony Flannery: “Rugby is healthy and growing in Western Australia and has much to offer Australian rugby. We believe the changes that RA is proposing will allow all clubs and RA to work together to develop a high performance program that ensures a successful future for the sport in Australia – something all rugby fans in the country can be proud of and want to be part of. What that looks like in each province could be different, and we have plenty to work through as a group – however, it is an exciting opportunity for the game ahead of some major milestones that we have coming up.”

Rugby Union Players Association Chairman, Campbell Fisher: “As a playing group, anything that develops better players and playing conditions must be welcomed – and that is the stated intent of Rugby Australia’s strategy here, so we are supportive, and we will be keen participants in this process. The governing body has reiterated its commitment to five professional clubs and increased investment in Women’s Rugby, however with a more focused development system and greater clarity on the future contracting of players – steps that we endorse as a group, and which we believe will have a positive effect right across the game.”

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