An addition to the Giteau Law changes that could help Wallabies success
By Sam Ryan
Rugby Australia is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Wallabies eligibility in an increasingly global rugby market.
I agree that we need as many good players in Australia as possible to boost the game domestically and win games at Super Rugby level.
But I also want to watch the Wallabies win Test matches and be competitive on the International stage.
Put simply, winning games is the key to getting bums on seats, eyes on TVs and eventually more kids on rugby fields.
And that’s going to be increasingly difficult to do if we keep losing hundreds, and it’s easily hundreds, of Australian rugby players still in their prime to clubs and competitions overseas.
I think it’s time for Rugby Australia to start actively partnering with a select few clubs in key competitions around the world.
If the money was there, it would make sense to buy a small stake in a Japanese team, or a club in Europe and stand to profit from any growth in those competitions.
But considering the state of RA’s financials, a partnership in exchange for IP, playing talent and coaching expertise might be the next best thing.
Australian players and coaches are scattered everywhere throughout competitions in Japan, the UK, Europe and now even America.
If Rugby Australia formed an official partnership with a club in one of these competitions, they could place Australian players and coaches strategically around the world and keep them somewhat within the Australian rugby infrastructure, without footing the entire bill.
Japan and the US are the two big opportunities. Their competitions have plenty of cash and resources but lack the rugby IP and the infrastructure of the more established rugby nations.
On the other hand, Rugby Australia has limited cash, but lots of IP and a stack of ambitious players and coaches with their passports ready to go in their top pockets.
This could work at the top and bottom of the professional rugby cycle.
Instead of losing Samu Kerevi to a Japanese club that turns its phone off every time a World Rugby Test window approaches, he could instead play at a Japanese club, ideally under an Australian coach with significant Australian influence.
These partner or feeder clubs could also be used to place younger, development players that aren’t quite ready for Super Rugby.
This would free up the salary cap of Australian Rugby franchises to sign players with full grown moustaches that are physically ready to play the Crusaders on a rainy night in Christchurch.
Some or all Australian players at RA partner clubs could also be exempt from the Giteau laws and be eligible to return to play for the Wallabies come Test time. While the majority of their salary would still be paid overseas.
It’s not a perfect plan and it still leads to young Australian players playing elsewhere. But at least we’d have some contact and control over our own.
I think Rugby Australia needs to embrace the international nature of our game and build a presence overseas for the good of rugby in Australia.