The Brumbies and Waratahs made their return to training this week. The Rebels will make theirs on May 18th. The Reds timeline to return to training is uncertain until the Queensland Government clears them. The Western Force have not yet returned training. Although, it seems that to date the Force has not received a formal invitation to participate in a new domestic competition. Additionally, it’s been reported that the Sunwolves may be included in a reformed competition. However, this seems unlikely given a former Sunwolves player has told the Cover that his contract has been paid out and along with the rest of the playing group has been released from the team.
So, all this begs the question, what are they training for?
Don’t get me wrong I am incredibly excited to have Rugby back in my life. It feels like an eternity since I sat and watched the Brumbies Women play against the Reds. Which was followed by the Men laying down the hurt on the Waratahs. In reality, it’s been exactly 8 weeks. But, so much has changed in those 8 weeks. As yet, we (the public) still don’t have an understanding of what this new competition looks like. All we know is that Rugby Australia is hopeful of a 4 July kickoff. But we still have more questions than answers. Who will be participating? Where will the games be played? Will it be televised (presumably yes)? When are the games being played? And so on.
New Zealand has already launched its version of a new competition “Super Rugby Aotearoa“. It has a 13 June kick-off date and will take place over 10 weeks. Two games will be played each weekend. One on Saturdays at 5.05 pm and one on Sundays at 3.05 pm. Games will be played in closed stadiums until the NZ Government deems it safe for grouds to return. Additionally, the Mitre 10 Cup (or NPC for the purists) will begin in September about 3 weeks after “Super Rugby Aotearoa” concludes. A source at the Wellington Hurricanes reveals that their playing group will return to training on May 18th.
Now it’s been revealed that the Australian Super Rugby sides want to participate in a televised Rugby Combine. The basic concept is that players will compete in a series of fitness, strength and skill tests and accumulate points for each test. Kind of like a hybrid between the CrossFit games and the NFL draft combine. While I’m supportive of this as a concept. Do you think maybe we could focus on securing a new competition before we start throwing around new concepts? I agree that we need to make the game more entertaining and look at other ways to engage fans. But without a new competition to play in developing a concept like the Rugby Combine just seems a bit pointless.
Last week I wrote a column outlining what a new competition could look like. Somewhat surprisingly, I received a number of emails, text messages and direct messages in support of this concept. All from the rusted-on rugby tragics, I thought would be resistant to change in the game. Robert Mills founder and CEO of the Gemba Group came out recently with a similar concept. However, given the short time frame, it would be impossible to pull this off for 2020. But implementing this for 2021 is still not out of the question.
New Zealand has placed the first domino for this style of Super Rugby competition. How Australia responds in the coming weeks will ultimately set the game up for success or failure. Let’s hope we get this one right.
But until then, can someone remind me what they’re training for?