Trans-Tasman ‘bubble’ may give look at Super future
Prolonged travel restrictions may perversely create a dream scenario for Australian rugby to trial a purely trans-Tasman Super Rugby and Test-driven climb out of the 2020 health crisis.
Those eager Aussie voices who have always championed a competition for Australian and New Zealand teams only have always conveniently ignored that the Kiwis have no reason to want to play us non-stop.
A season of lopsided matches whets nobody's appetite in NZ, although the terrific wins by the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels on Kiwi soil in February and Queensland's seven-try cliffhanger against the Crusaders in Christchurch, reflected a growing competitiveness.
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The Kiwis would never willingly jettison their South African rugby allies in SANZAAR but a trans-Tasman travel "bubble" is one of the first borders likely to be relaxed worldwide and may be the only rugby option later in the year.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle said on Tuesday that brainstorming competition structures for rugby's resumption was the priority now pay cuts were resolved, from players to staff to her own 65 per cent chop.
"Travel for sporting teams may not be the norm that we know it," Castle said of the post-COVID-19 future.
The Kiwis and South Africans may have signed broadcast deals for 2021 but there's no guarantee of Super Rugby going ahead with its revised 14-team round-robin, with no Sunwolves.
"If governments don't let us travel and they don't open borders to international travel to allow teams to come in, we might not have any choice but to review what the structures look like at the back end of this year and potentially what we could deliver into 2021," Castle said.
"So, it won't be driven by what SANZAAR want to do, it'll be driven ultimately by what governments allow and which countries open up their borders at what times."
Clashes against Kiwi Super Rugby sides and playing the three Bledisloe Cup Tests scheduled this year, starting with August 8 in Melbourne, would give rugby a pulse.
"That's certainly one of the models," Castle said. "We remain in consistent discussions with NZ because obviously, that makes a lot of sense.
"The indications we're getting with government agencies is that the sequence of opening up (borders) is likely to be domestic first, then into trans-Tasman, then into Asia-Pacific, so we have different scenarios to look at."
The under-siege RA boss said "I'm absolutely determined to see that through" when asked whether she was the person to find a long-term sustainable position for the code.
Castle said the reality of "reduced revenues" post-COVID-19 meant "some difficult conversations ahead" and a flattening of future player deals.
"We will honour the contracts that are in place as they stand at the moment and that is the agreement we have with RUPA (but) I don't think there is a player or a player agent that works in rugby across the world who thinks that all contracts, particularly long-term contracts, will necessarily be delivered at the values they were delivered previously," she said.
Castle said RA was working with auditors so the unsigned 2019 accounts, with the ugly Israel Folau-fuelled $9.4 million loss, can be submitted to show "the 2020 going concern position" in the next few weeks.
Castle delivered a blunt "no" when asked if there was any advantage to going into voluntary administration.
She believed "significant tenders" to broadcast rugby were in the offing before the shut down and suggested that May or June for "picking up conversations" with a possible suitor.
Originally published as Trans-Tasman 'bubble' may give look at Super future