Has The ARU Shot Itself In The Foot?

Like in the old western movie classics, when there is a confrontation on the scale of that now gripping Super Rugby in Australia, someone ends up bloodied and face down in the dirt.

Last Sunday afternoon, it looked like that someone would be the Western Force.

But in the intervening couple of days, a strange thing has happened. Suddenly, the winds are a changing.

The ARU loaded the gun – and then attempted to pull the trigger. But has Australian rugby’s governing body gone and shot itself in the foot?

Since announcing the decision to cull either the Western Force or the Rebels from Super Rugby, the tide of public sentiment has turned on the ARU. Big time.

Witness the brutal fashion in which ARU chairman Cameron Clyne was roasted by Alan Jones on Sydney radio station 2GB yesterday. For Clyne and ARU CEO Bill Pulver, things are getting ugly. And that poses the following question: Will the Board of the ARU, and not the Force, end up being the first casualty of the Australia’s Super Rugby imbroglio?

As Alice in Wonderland once remarked, things are getting curiouser and curiouser.

What’s more, astute observers (apologies to the forwards) might well have detected the none-too-subtle undertone to Jones’ grilling of Clyne, which threatens to undermine the ARU’s rationale for culling either the Force or the Rebels in the first place.

Clyne, you might have noticed, has used financial sustainability (or the lack thereof) as a key reason for reducing the number of Australian Super Rugby teams from five to four. Yesterday, Jones turned the spotlight back on the ARU’s finances.

That issue boils down to something like this: Perhaps it is actually all the big bucks spent on corporate head office expenses by the ARU in Sydney that has curtailed the financial support for grassroots rugby in Australia, rather than one too many Super Rugby teams? Expect to hear a lot more on that issue as things heat up….

Finally, on a more positive note, there is something else in the air since Sunday’s ARU bombshell. Perth rugby supporters are putting aside their tribal club allegiances and uniting in their support for a common cause – to preserve the Super Rugby pathway we have in Perth for our kids.

All of us – from Lord “Goff” McClelland at Mandurah, Tu Watene at the Roo Dogs, Phil Tioke out at ARKS (love the new clubrooms bro), Mike Allen at Paly (current Guinness Book of Records holder for the biggest tongue in rugby), big Dave Keating at Joondalup, the ever-efficient Charlotte Pene at Rockingham, Andy “the Godfather” Todd at Kalamunda, Graham Parkinson at Baysie, Rory Thomson at Soaks, Rangi at Wests (having returned from his sabbatical), Lee Ward at North Coast, Ron “Whale” Willoughby from the legendary Messengers Marauders, Grace McFillin at Neddies, David “Chalky” Cleary at Southern Lions, Bruce Hartley at Uni and Jacko Cotter at Cottesloe – are singing from the same song sheet again. And that, as the legendary Hulkster would say, is a thing of immense beauty.