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Why new Rugby Australia chair Daniel Herbert needs to be quiet

By Hamish Bidwell
Newly appointed Rugby Australia Chair Daniel Herbert poses for a portrait during a press conference at GPS Rugby Club on November 20, 2023 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

I would encourage new Rugby Australia chairman Daniel Herbert to be quiet.

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Don’t air the organisation’s business in public. Don’t hire a national coach capable of going rogue. Don’t go seeking publicity and sugar-hits from raids on rugby league players.

Do the boring stuff. Grow your game, coach players to get better, support them at all times and cherish your competition and broadcast partners.

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I tend to mythologise the Wallaby teams of the last 1990s and early 2000s but, actually, for much of my life Australia has been an outstanding rugby nation.

I properly started watching test rugby in the 1980s. I well remember Australia’s series win over New Zealand in 1980, David Campese running rings around us at Athletic Park in 1982, Alan Jones coaching them to another series here in 1986, the world champion All Blacks surrendering their long unbeaten run at Athletic Park in 1990.

Their 1992 series win over the All Blacks was an absolute belter too.

Big forwards, skillful backs, there was so much to like about Wallaby rugby.

In the absence of apartheid South Africa, they were by far our greatest foes.

The Home Nations weren’t the forces they are now. France was always competitive, but there was a sense of shared endeavour in the way rugby was run in New Zealand in Australia.

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We each needed competition and each needed to grow and we largely did that together.

I won’t linger on the departure of Hamish McLennan as Rugby Australia chairman or the search to find a Wallaby coach to replace Eddie Jones.

Both men are gone and picking apart their tenures is of no benefit to anyone. We need Australia now as much as we’ve ever done.

It’s not for New Zealand to hold the whip hand in the trans-Tasman rugby relationship. It’s not for us to tell them how to run their game or even to criticise the capability of their Super Rugby clubs.

If Australia isn’t good at test and franchise level, we won’t be good either. We’re not big enough to go it alone. If there was a market for an elite domestic competition here, we’d have it by now.

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If we have designs on winning Rugby World Cups again, then we have to ensure our strongest competition comes from Australia.

It’s not a time to be at loggerheads or resorting to the foghorn diplomacy, of which McLennan was fond. We need collaboration.

So let’s have more competition and a greater sharing of ideas. Schools rugby, club rugby, provincial rugby – let’s play each other at as many levels as we’re able.

Rugby in Australia loses players to other codes in a way we don’t really have here.

Well, clear pathways to high performance – that include regular competition with your New Zealand counterparts – might keep more future Wallabies in the game.

If I was running rugby in Australia and New Zealand, I’d want a strategic partnership at all levels of our game. I’d want to attract people to rugby and work hard to keep them via a shared pathway.

The All Blacks and Wallabies will largely take care of themselves in the short term but, if we want sustained success on the world stage, we have to work together.

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Eabn 8 hours ago
Open-minded Schmidt takes hands-on approach to Australia challenge

Who cares - boring is good when it comes to Media - they don’t bug you as much. While the focus is on the resurrection of the Wallabies, don’t forget the grass roots - Any opportunity you have to visit, train or promote Rugby down here in Melbourne / Regional is pretty much imperative given the current situation with the Rebels. I’m talking about us grass roots clubs and more so, clubs in the West of Melbourne who are being absolutely smashed by Rugby League and who have been contributing directly to the game down here long before the Rebels emerged and no doubt will do so well after they may be gone. All I have heard is all about the elite level, not the grass roots level so while the talk is about “ The Wallabies” and “Super Rugby Pacific” get back to the roots of Union and include us in your plans. So Phil Waugh and those leaders within RugbyAustralia, it’s on you to ensure the bottom feeders, so to speak, are included in all the talk and the funding if you want Union to regain ground and more respect within the Union and also the broader sporting fraternity. Given you have been in Melbourne a number off times over the last month, extending the courtesy of having a meet and greet with Victorian grass root clubs eluded you for some reason. Do we count or matter in RA’s and yours bigger picture?? Ean Drummond - Club Founder/President - Wyndham City Rhinos RUFC Inc. Hoppers Crossing, Melbourne.

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