Sydney Rugby Union (SRU) president David Begg thinks strong club rugby sustains the Wallabies production line, but on the eve of the Shute Shield season he admits it’s just one part of the pathway.
There was plenty of discussion about the ARU’s contribution to grassroots rugby in 2016, with a host of high-profile former players criticising the governing body for its lack of funding to clubs.
Begg said the Shute Shield played a major part in the talent pathway but admitted it was just one part of that.
“I don’t think high levels of rugby can survive without Sydney and Brisbane club rugby,” he said.
“They create most of the Wallabies, or help create most of the Wallabies, but we shouldn’t overestimate it.
“We’re one part in the overall tapestry of Australian rugby. All of the levels are important but one thing I do know about passion and tribalism, I know ours is pretty strong, so that’s one of the strengths of our competition.”
This is the first year of the three-year deal that the Sydney Rugby Union has been able to fund the broadcast without ARU or NSWRU help, with corporate sponsorship enough.
Begg said it was a crucial step for the competition, which will be broadcast into NSW, Queensland and New Zealand this season.
“We feel like we’ve come out of having to wear nappies now and we’re now real people, on our own, standing on our own two feet,” he said
“I think that’s testament to how great our competition is that there are corporate partners that want to play a part in the Shute Shield.
Warringah and Norths will be the first game televised this season, on Saturday at 3pm AEDT and Norths vice-captain Hugh Sinclair said they were champing at the bit for their first match up as defending champions since 1976.
“Our defence was solid last year, we were happy with that but a lot of teams saw us play last year, so we have to change a few things up,’ he said.
“We’ve got a few new personnel so people will get used to that. A lot of those new personnel haven’t won the comp, so for them it’s not going back to back, it’s just a new season.
“We’re up for the challenge.”
Intrust Super Shute Shield round one
Warringah vs Norths - LIVE on 7TWO from 3pm AEDT.
Penrith vs Gordon
Randwick vs West Harbour
Southern Districts vs Manly
Sydney University vs Eastern Suburbs
Parramatta vs Eastwood