The Australian Rugby Union announced on Friday that they were incompetent jerkfaces who should be removed from their jobs (admittedly, they’ve made this announcement many times of late). In a related move, they also announced their intention to remove the Western Force from Super Rugby.
The ARU has been debating whether to remove the Force or the Melbourne Rebels for the past several months; in fact, the debate has raged since the ARU announced a decision would be forthcoming in 48-72 hours, three months ago or so. Meanwhile, both the Force and Rebels have been undertaking whatever legal and other maneuvers they could dream up in an effort to stave off elimination. The Force have enlisted the help of a billionaire, while the Rebels sold their license for $1.
In terms of the merits of the ARU’s decision between the Force and Rebels, the ARU geniuses will undoubtedly offer some half-baked business excuse for the decision. Whatever reason they offer, it should properly be labeled stupid and shortsighted. The Force are the sole and only rugby union anchor in Western Australia. They were also a team on the rise, probably even the most promising of the five Aussie Super Rugby teams in 2017. Actually, the Force stood as a shining example to the other Aussie teams as to how to develop a competitive side. The positive momentum had the residents of Perth buying in (in some cases, literally). The ARU took all of this positive momentum and flushed it down the toilet in favor of the absolute mess known as the Rebels. Melbourne’s best player just left the ARU for Japan. The Rebels’ 2017 season was downright embarrassing. The fans in Melbourne are staying away in droves. Exactly what hope is there, either in terms of on-field performance or management, to suggest the Rebels will either perform well on the pitch or in the boardroom anytime in the future?
There isn’t any such hope. It doesn’t exist. It’s pretty hard as this point to assail any Western Australian who chooses to abandon union and the Wallabies now. A nonsensical decision to take away their top club has been levied.
Incidentally, notwithstanding all talk from Australia to the contrary, they didn’t need to cut a team at all. They need to manage better, pure and simple. Assuming you have competent management, sports become cyclical. Rather than giving up, the proper answer to the current Australian rugby doldrums is to develop more players and teams, not give up and walk away from a team. Things can change quickly in sport, positively or negatively. Just three years ago, the Waratahs won Super Rugby, and now they stink out loud. The opposite trajectory can happen too if you manage correctly.
So maybe if we’re looking for some way to find acceptance of the ARU’s decision, maybe we should view it like this – as an admission that they’re dumb. Really dumb. Incapable of competing dumb. They have concluded they can’t wrap their heads around developing enough players for five teams because they’re incapable. I guess.
Finally, take note that Friday’s decision will not be the end of this process, but rather only the next step. The Force (and their billionaire helper) have pledged to take the matter as far as the Australian legal process will allow. So, in true Super Rugby fashion, we’ll have no certainty as to conference alignment or fixtures for 2018 until the last possible second.