Grassroots rugby is solution to game’s woes in Australia
RUGBY Union editor at The Australian, Wayne Smith, pinpointed what he believed was the “real problem” with rugby union in his Weekend Australian column on Saturday, and what needs to change to save the game in this country.
But outspoken Gympie rugby club president Jason McPherson is not convinced.
Titled “The Ugly Truth About Rugby’s Insidious decline”, Mr Smith said the problem with rugby in Australia was the game itself; it is a code drowning in its own rules, he said.
“The laws, and their application, are killing rugby,” he said.
“There is no other way of explaining the problem.
“A simple example: the first scrum of the first World Cup final in 1987 between the All Blacks and France was completed in 15 seconds. That’s 15 seconds from whistle blast for a knock-on to the ball coming into David Kirk’s hands to clear from the scrumbase. Today it takes 46 seconds just to set up for the scrum (an increase of 411 per cent from 1987) while overall it has gone from an average of 23 seconds to complete a scrum to the current figure of 71 seconds (a 209 per cent increase).
“At present, there are 199 infringements in the game — itself a ridiculous number — with 149 of them punishable by a full penalty. Is it any wonder the game if becoming filled with shots at penalty goal or, much more likely these days, by kicking to the corner to set up the play for a driving maul?”
Gympie Hammers Rugby Union Club president Jason McPherson says rugby is not just about winning the World Cup.
“When people say there is a problem it’s normally because something isn’t going their way,” he said.
“For me rugby isn’t about just who wins the World Cup. I don’t worry about how the Wallabies are going, I worry about our club improving and getting kids having fun and maybe one day we will have a Wallaby from Gympie.
“We have at times produced the best rugby players in history.
“And it’s fact that the team with the best 9/10 combination is key to success but only if the forward pack is dominate.
“It’s a lot of 1 per cent steps to be that good every week.
“The Wallabies beat the All Blacks only months before the World Cup in a dominant game in Perth. We were at 100 per cent and no one could have beat us that day, not even the Boks.
“So, before we look at why we are not winning as much, we need to consider the quality of the rugby teams we are playing against.
“At the moment the World Cup winners the Springboks have it all.
“I believe ARU should be able to pick the Australian players who play in Europe on contract as at the moment the likes of Liam Gill is being over looked when he clearly is the most dominant flanker from Australia. He could turn a game on its head and maybe just maybe be the difference.
“But we can’t select these players in the current plan.
“Players can get bigger money playing in Europe than at home in the current climate.
“So there’s a lot to consider. The game has started to get back to grass roots and get more people playing from a younger age.
“Our numbers are growing in rugby and think we need to be patient, get our back yard right first and we will become dominant or at least a bigger chance.
“It will be with the most passionate team with skill, not with the highest paid team with skill.”
More of the column from Wayne Smith, as it appeared in The Weekend Australian: