To be or not to Wallaby? A question posed to Tier 2 by the Rennie-vation of Tier 1 rugby

In my first ever Roar article I ask if we may take what is currently good and functional about Australian rugby, and deploy it to strengthen what is still weak in our game. (Tier 2, we’re lookin’ at you).

Last week Roarer, Stu opined: “Maybe we could have an annual Wallaby ‘Probables vs Possibles’ match at $20 bucks a ticket?”

In resonance with Stu’s wish to see more of our wider Wallaby squad members strut their stuff, I responded at the time with one of my current hobby horses – the shape of an ideal Trans-Tasman Super format.

More on that below, but first, a Rennievation update:

This Test season has seen the Rennievator with sleeves rolled up to his elbows, tinkering with the ideal design of the modern marsupial mongrel (and mongrelite).

From the higher than average skull thicknesses up front, who are slightly overplaying, (as in Swints’ swinging and Philip’s ‘swimming’), all the way back to the Lazaresque ‘underplay’ of Australia’s most controversial post-Campo creative, ‘Aussie Dave’ Rennie has knit a coherent team.

And a single pattern book to for all to knit from.

Something seems simple, and right, about this development, from a viewpoint amongst a tired Wallabies supporters group, watching on from outside the renovation fence.

But this team has won three on the trot, and a game beckons tomorrow night.

Could Rennie’s ‘Dad’n’Dave’ Army mix of elder and joey macropods hop over the 15 South American carnivores looking for revenge for last week’s score, and this week’s Byron visitor logistics?

Could Latin passion stung by cruel circumstances and rotten scheduling throw out a tripping trap?

Might Skippy drop, rather than hop, on the morrow? Could any more metaphors be mangled into service?

Tomorrow night will reveal how solid the Rennievated structure is. For a long time, I have wondered what a wily NZ coach would do with our Wallaby stock. And in Dave we have an answer. And some trust (for some of us, at least).

I liked Robbie Deans. A lot. But, in hindsight, he and we were culturally naive to think that Robbie’s gentle Canterbrian style would translate to that distracted amigo-led lot of yesteryear.

But back to Dave, our Aussie Dave. He has a team- ScoJo Wisemantel, Dan Mc, Taylor (did I miss any?) in support. Together they have set a dignified direction for an Australian team. Not just a Test team. A model team for any level. A culture of ‘team’. The one with no ‘I’ (but a lot of resonant skill) in it.

We could do with a bit of that at Super level. And at NRC level (or at ‘How about we even have an NRC?’ level).

Len Ikitau of the Wallabies celebrates after scoring a try

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)


Back to Stu, and his wish for some Possible vs Probable action.

Stu is not alone in wanting to see the broader squad members perform at Tier1.5. (Not a test. Not Super). Such a talent display and distillation would be great for fans, player exposure and selector/developer IP. Agreed, Stu.

But in a crowded schedule where would such game(s) fit in?

What if such a spectacle was part of our existing schedule, and simultaneously enabled our provincial contact with New Zealand to be more competitive, marketable, and profitable?

That is, what if Australian Super players could once more, unto the breach, ‘frighten’ the five rugby factories to the east?

What if some of such games were simultaneously part of an early WB pre-test season?

Following is my draft Trans-Tasman model, modestly titled –

Another leg of rugby: The Trans-Tasman distillation

I’ve mentioned this idea on these boards before, but not as a stand-alone article.

1. Background
New Zealanders are rugby intelligent. (To those assuming that I am buying 50% of the Roar votes here, you’d be right).

NZers have for some time asked us to reduce our super team numbers.

We are “spread too thin” is one common observation. Oz rugby can’t sustain 5 Super sides, they say. (And this year’s OZ TT results beg for action).

Well we once tried to cull. We flicked the Force. But they boomeranged. And who looks silly now, after the Tahs finished last in both phases of the SR competition? Flicking doesn’t work anymore. Too many fans in inconvenient places, like Perth. Too many boomerangs.

Plus most of Oz purists believe that we need as much national footprint as we can possibly get. (Okay Aussies have big feet, but there’s still plenty of red dust unprinted). We need at least 5 pro teams hopping forward. If not more, (if not an NRC again, one day)

So how do we reconcile a “No Culling” policy at home, with

“Just Send Us Three Teams Bro” from across the ditch when it is marsupial massacre season next?

2. Foreground
Oz rugby may build a strong future, but has not yet a strong present.

Here are the distillation details-

Detail 1: Let the domestic leg of Super Rugby run with as many teams as each nation wishes. For Australia presently that would be 5. All franchises supported equally by RA.

Detail 2: When the international phase of competition arrives, NZ provides its usual five teams. Pasifika would provide two. Both these numbers are currently proposed.

But here’s the radical bit – Australia only offers 3 teams to this short phase of competition.

Detail 3: The 3 OZ teams offered to the Trans-Tasman phase of the competition, are to be made up of:

i) the SRAU winner, This year it was the Reds.

i) Possible/Probable Rep team1 Green

iii) Possible/Probable Rep team2 Gold

These two Rep teams to be formed from the best players from the four OZ wooden spooner franchises.

Eg. This season would’ve seen a TT with
1. Reds
2. Oz 1 (Brums and Rebs’best) or 2+5 ranking
3. Oz 2 (Tahs and Force’s best) or 3+4 ranking

Detail 4: These two Rep teams form an early Wallaby squad formation, to be designed and supervised by the WB coaching and development squad with assistance from Super coaches, and resourced at franchise level.

3. Potential positives:
– Increased depth in Oz TT squads

– Increased competitiveness against NZ SR excellence

– Growth in OZ elite coaching competence

– Early squad gathering and development of WB possibles for Rennie and Co., a potential boon in light of Pumas rise after the Jaguares’ cohesion over time.

– If competitiveness increases so will the engagement of fans and sponsors. This level of fun might lead to more fun ticket$?

– Retention of all SRAU franchises, before and after the TT leg of competition (ie. no more Force farces, an event decided on under external pressure)

– An increase in OZ cross-franchise cooperation and systems resonance over the broad Wallaby catchment.

4. THIS IDEA IS SHORT TERM – an experiment

This proposal is intended as a short-term development experiment to serve the code in the region. while increasing its quality.

If and when Australian Super squads increase in strength such a model would be abandoned for one more appropriate, such as a full provincial comp including all OZ franchises.

But for now, while OZ rugby rebuilds its Tier 2 competence, audience and depth, who wouldn’t love to see an increase in competitiveness in Trans-Tasman contests, while still allowing all Australian franchises to live, prosper and retain fans either side of the TT phase?

So, Roarers, I’ve set up my dartboard. I expect some darts. Shoot straight at me.

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