National Rugby Championship Q&A with Ben Whitaker - Part 1

  
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12/16/2013
By ARU Media Unit



Following the announcement of the launch of the National Rugby Championship in 2014, Australian Rugby Union’s General Manager Development Pathways, Ben Whitaker takes time to answer some frequently asked questions about the series.

In Part 1, Ben discusses the team selection process, how the competition will be run and in what ways the tournament will transition Rugby participants into elite competitors.   

1. How are you going to pick the teams?

A tender process will follow the current Expression of Interest stage from which teams will be selected against detailed criteria. Tender information will be ready for distribution to interested genuine groups in early January 2014 and we expect to announce the successful teams by the end of next February.

2. Are the teams going to be new teams and do you get selected from club completion to go into these new teams? Or are they established premier teams already?

The teams will be decided via a tender process that is open to existing clubs and groups and new syndicates and partnerships. All will be strongly considered. Players will graduate through their respective and important club competitions and Super Rugby to gain selection in teams for the NRC.

3. You are talking about maybe having a country team, would this be NSW or QLD country? Or a combined team?

The Expression of Interest process is open to all groups and partnerships. We have had some interest from regional areas already and we believe regional interest would need to be strongly considered because of the Rugby heartland they represent. Both regional NSW and QLD have strong Rugby ties and history.

4. Will there be a conscious effort to ensure the participation of ‘less resourced’ clubs from areas outside of the traditionally strong Rugby areas (Syd Uni, UQ) but with decent population numbers Are there plans to see any regional teams (e.g Newcastle) or other cities such as Adelaide in the NRC?

The Expression of Interest process is open to all groups and partnerships. We have had some interest from regional areas and States that don’t have a Super Rugby team already and we believe this interest would need to be strongly considered because of the Rugby heartland and development potential they represent.

5. Would existing clubs be able to lodge multiple EOI's? For example, one as a stand-alone and one as part of a merged entity, like the Sydney Fleet in 2007?

The Expression of Interest process is open to all clubs, groups and partnerships. We have had interest from interested parties open to both stand alone and partnership opportunities.

6. What makes this comp different to the ARC?

The talent development objectives for players, coaches and match officials are very similar to those that led the development and execution of the ARC – that is, the best players versus the best players available nationally. The construction of the competition is different in the development and selection of competing teams via a tender process and the subsequent level of investment required. The National Rugby Championship will be self-funded, while the ARC cost Australian Rugby around $5 million in its first season, which made it financially unsustainable. We are looking at a long-term financially sustainable model, which will mean significantly reduced spending on things like player payments and marketing compared to the ARC.

7. Will the proposed clubs chosen to participate be stand alone? Or act as 'feeder clubs' with links/support etc. to existing Super franchises?

The model will provide links between competing NRC teams and Super Rugby clubs – especially as many Super Rugby contracted players will play in the NRC. Players, coaches and match officials will be exposed to an effective pathway through Premier Club Rugby, NRC and Super Rugby onto the Wallabies.

8. Who will ‘control’ the teams, and do players get paid?

The NRC will have a governance (license) structure that includes the ARU, State Unions and NRC clubs. We are working on the NRC player payment policy with key stakeholders at the moment and how these relate and work within our current Super Rugby and club rugby payment systems.

9. Is the intention to not only develop players but also the supporter base? Will matches be taken to suburban grounds with cheap admission, good food and cold beer?

Fan engagement is an important element of the new competition model. However, we recognise the time and work required to build supporter knowledge and attachment to potentially ‘new’ teams that result in genuine support. Similarly where, when and how the matches are played will be critical to providing access and high level interest for fans.

10. Where can I go for more information or to download an EOI form?

Additional information and the EOI application can be sourced at rugby.com.au, or follow the ARU on twitter to stay up to date with all the latest National Rugby Championship news @ARU_Community.