Nine teams. Four states and one territory. Eighteen venues. A free-flowing, tough, attractive game that will connect with the heartland of Australian Rugby. This is the Buildcorp National Rugby Championship.
This is Australian Rugby Unleashed.
The 2014 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship season was officially launched at Coogee Oval in Sydney today (13 August) attended by players and Head Coaches of the nine competing sides – Brisbane City, Queensland Country, Macquarie University North Harbour Rays, Sydney Stars, Greater Sydney Rams, NSW Country Eagles, University of Canberra Vikings, Melbourne Rising and Perth Spirit.
Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver and Buildcorp Managing Director Tony Sukkar were also present.
The inaugural Buildcorp NRC will run for 11 weeks, kicking off with the season-opener next Thursday, 21 August when Brisbane City takes on the Sydney Stars in a classic Queensland-NSW cross-border clash at Ballymore in Brisbane.
Today’s official launch coincides with the announcement of the law variation and interpretation changes that will be implemented in the inaugural season of the Buildcorp NRC.
Earlier this year, Rugby fans were asked to suggest law variations that could be trialled in the first year of the Buildcorp NRC, a process which saw a staggering 600+ suggestions come in from right across Australia.
These suggestions were reviewed and shortlisted by a panel of Australia’s leading Rugby minds, including former Wallabies coach Bob Dwyer, former international Rugby referee Wayne Erickson, former Wallaby and current FOX SPORTS commentator Rod Kafer and Qantas Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.
In determining which law variation and interpretation changes should be considered for inclusion in the Buildcorp NRC, the ARU took into account votes from more than 6,000 fans, the opinions of key stakeholders such as the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) and feedback from online forums such as The Roar and Green and Gold Rugby.
Overwhelmingly, the most popular suggestion was a change to the points system.
The Buildcorp NRC will implement a points system that reduces points for penalty goals and drop goals to two and increases the points for a conversion goal to three, while tries will continue to be worth five points. This law variation has been approved by the International Rugby Board.
Other popular law interpretation and competition changes that will be trialled are:
· Being able to kick to touch and continue with a line out if a team is awarded a penalty after time has expired.
· Time limits for scrum formation and kicks at goal.
· Instead of four-try bonus point system, the winning team is awarded a bonus point for finishing three or more tries ahead of their opponents.
A host of other law interpretation changes will be trialled in the 2014 Buildcorp NRC, all of which have the underlying aim of enhancing exciting play and reducing stoppages, while maintaining the fabric of the game (see attached factsheet for more detail).
Bill Pulver said he was keen to see the Buildcorp NRC deliver a brand of Rugby that is exciting to play and entertaining to watch.
“While maintaining the integrity of the game, we want to see a more creative style of Rugby being played where risk and attack are rewarded.”
“We also want to see more continuous play and less time wasted.
“Involving fans in this process has been a terrific way to re-energise the passionate Rugby fan base and ensure the Buildcorp NRC has the interests of Rugby supporters at its core.”
The Buildcorp NRC is also an important strategic development for the growth of Rugby in Australia – helping to develop elite players, coaches and match officials.
“The competition represents the missing link in the development pathway towards Super Rugby, and ultimately Wallaby selection,” Mr Pulver said.
“With almost 300 Rugby players involved, including current and former Wallabies, Super Rugby players and emerging talent from Club Rugby, the Buildcorp NRC presents a real opportunity for young Rugby players to move up through the ranks.
“I’m sure every fan of Rugby in Australia will be keen to watch high-quality Rugby in what has previously been a dormant period of the year on the domestic scene.
“All fit Super Rugby players not in Ewen McKenzie’s Qantas Wallabies squad will play in the Buildcorp NRC, giving fans a wonderful opportunity to see some of Australia’s best players at their local grounds.
“I encourage all fans throughout the country to get on board with a team and show your support by attending games throughout the season.”
Buildcorp Managing Director Tony Sukkar said the partnership was a fantastic opportunity for Buildcorp, as the competition takes the company’s long-term sponsorship of grass roots rugby to a national scale.
“We are proud to be supporting this important new tier of Australian Rugby and look forward to watching the next generation of Super Rugby and Wallaby players emerge over the course of the competition.”
The opening round will see Brisbane City host the Sydney Stars (Thursday 21 August); Perth Spirit will make the trip east to take on the University of Canberra Vikings (Saturday 23 August); NSW Country Eagles will host the Greater Sydney Rams (Saturday 23 August); and Melbourne Rising will play the Macquarie University North Harbour Rays at AAMI Park (Sunday 24 August).
Fans of Rugby in regional NSW will see their heroes in action in round four, with the NSW Country Eagles entertaining Brisbane City at Oakes Oval in Lismore (Sunday 14 September). A week later, the NSW Country Eagles will host Melbourne Rising at Wade Park in Orange (Saturday 20 September).
Perth Spirit will be taking one of their home fixtures interstate when they play the Greater Sydney Rams in South Australia at Adelaide Airport Stadium (Saturday 6 September).
Queensland Country, meanwhile, will take their fixtures right across the State. Steve Meehan’s side plays NSW Country Eagles at Bond University on the Gold Coast (Saturday 30 August) and will play Sydney Stars at Mike Carney Toyota Park in Townsville (Saturday 11 October).
Tickets and membership packages are now available from each of the individual NRC teams’ websites. For links to each of the team websites – visit rugby.com.au/NRC.
FOX SPORTS is the exclusive broadcaster of the Buildcorp NRC and will deliver live coverage of one match from each round of the competition in a dedicated Thursday night timeslot at 7.30pm. The NRC ‘Match of the Round’ will be followed by FOX SPORTS Rugby entertainment show Rugby HQ at 9.30pm.
All NRC teams will be broadcast across the first five weeks of the Buildcorp NRC (either home or away). FOX SPORTS today confirmed the broadcast matches for rounds six to eight, which will see Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra host broadcast matches in the second half of the competition.
The full draw is available at www.rugby.com.au/nrc.