How much is too much: Australia’s 275 day professional rugby season
By Sam Ryan
After showing significant signs of improvement in recent months, the Wallabies saved one of their worst performances of the year until last and were beaten comfortably by an impressive Scotland side in Edinburgh over the weekend.
Australia were far from their best and struggled, particularly after Sekope Kepu received a red card for a shoulder charge just minutes before halftime.
But more than anything, they looked tired.
And to be honest, they probably have every right to be.
In 2017, Australia’s professional rugby season spanned 275 days – just over 75% of the year.
Super Rugby began on the final week in February and Australia played their last Test on the final weekend of November.
All up, we asked our players to turn up and perform at their best in 15 Super Rugby matches, three Tests in June, six Rugby Championship matches, another game against the All Blacks, a run around against the Barbarians, Japan, then three Tests in the UK.
That’s 30 matches over a nine month season, on five different continents and in eight different time zones on opposite sides of the world.
Plus a month or two of preseason, running up hills in the Australian sun.
No wonder a player like Sean McMahon doesn’t think his body will last past 30.
I understand these guys are professional footballers and most of us would give just about anything for a chance to wear a gold jersey, but surely we’re not getting the best out of our players when we’re sending them out to play just about anytime anyone asks.
Did we really need the Barbarians game or the match against Japan this year?
Obviously, a lot of this is driven by the ARU’s need to create revenue. We need to host matches against top tier nations and the only way they’ll travel to Australia, is if we return the favour during their spring.
But at what point are we diluting the product? The Wallabies played in front of a number of half filled stadiums this year and Super Rugby crowds were at an all time low.
Maybe less could be more.
Particularly when you consider the ARU’s number one priority at the moment is to rebuild the game on the back of the Wallabies success leading into and during the 2019 World Cup.
If that’s the case, then 30 games and a 275 day season is too much, regardless of who you are.