In Friday’s edition of the Australian newspaper Wayne Smith wrote an excellent piece on how the ARU are making life more than a little difficult for the new Super 15 franchise the Melbourne Rebels.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks being the fact that they could not sign a player until June 01 of this year; since changed to March 15. However the current Super Franchises can in the meantime re-sign their players. As Mr Smith states of the 30 players in the squads at those existing clubs 27 resigned at the Reds, 23 at the Brumbies 22 at the Waratahs and 19 at the Force. This means that new coach Rod MacQueen is going to have to be very persuasive.
It also raises the question as to whether the ARU should have had a transfer window like football in which clubs can talk to players out of contract at the end of the season, and sign them up for the next. With a new franchise coming in and for the good of Australian Rugby surely this would have been a sensible option?
While on the subject of the 15th license, it would have been nice to see dispensation being made to assist players from the Island nations on improving, by allowing them to sign for the new franchise, without having to turn their backs on their homeland and pledge their allegiance to Australia.
After all when Super Rugby increased from 10 to 12 and 12 to 14 the Island nations were promised inclusion in the competition. Most rugby fans will be well aware that individually, Samoa, Tonga, and Fiji do not have the money to fund a team of their own, so they would have to be integrated into the competition via New Zealand or Australia. The problem is these nations do not want to see their island neighbours improve any more as it could affect the balance of power on the park, as Fiji showed at the last World Cup.
It is time for Rugby to set aside petty differences and look at what is best for the good of the game as a whole be that in Australia and globally. If the product is better people will pay to watch it. If it stagnates they will leave you with empty seats.