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Raelene Castle shares plan to revive Australian rugby

Raelene Castle shares plan to revive Australian rugby
May 20, 2018

Rugby Australia Chief Executive Raelene Castle has outline her vision for the future of the game outlining what she sees as the “challenges facing the game that need to be addressed, structures that need reshaping and hard decisions that need to be made” for the game.

Writing in The Australian this week, Castle, who has been in her role for four months, outlined how she has engaged with the rugby community covering a diverse range of topics from community rugby to professional rugby to shape her plan.

She explains “what I have learnt is that Australian rugby has strong foundations, however, not all elements within the game are working in unison and our organisations are not aligned as effectively as they could be in their thinking or delivery.

“The positive, though, is that the sport is driven by passionate rugby people all over Australia, including players, officials, volunteers, administrators, former players, coaches and fans who all want to see rugby thrive.

“They recognise that there are challenges facing the game that need to be addressed, structures that need reshaping and hard decisions that need to be made if we are to see success at every level of the game.

“From those many discussions there have been two major recurring themes - Super Rugby team performance and grassroots rugby.”

The rugby landscape
“The reality of the current rugby environment is that our performances in Super Rugby are not at the level we expect or need them to be. This narrative dominates the media, public and loungeroom conversation and overshadows some of the positive things that are happening in the game.

"I will get to these soon, because it is important for rugby fans to know that the game is progressing despite some of the results at the top level.

“The Super Rugby competition has some obvious challenges, which are felt more in our country when our teams aren’t winning. From an on-field point of view, Rugby Australia and the four Super Rugby organisations are working extremely hard to generate more consistent performances from all our professional teams through a renewed, collaborative approach to administration, coaching, and player development.

“From a playing and coaching perspective, there is an agreed focus on player fitness and skill development and our Wallabies coaching staff are supporting this across all the Super Rugby teams. There has been some early progress, however we know this work needs to convert quickly into winning teams across the board and we are confident that it will.

“From an off-field perspective, the future of the Super Rugby competition is currently under review through the SANZAAR partnership and there is a lot of work being done to ensure that the structure that is signed off for beyond 2020 gives the competition the best opportunity to be successful in the future and importantly, from an Australian Rugby point of view, can deliver what we need as a commercial and fan proposition in our unique sporting environment.

“Elsewhere, the success and growth of the men’s and women’s sevens programs has been a hugely positive influence on the rugby landscape with men’s sevens participation in rugby clubs growing by 21% and women’s participation growing by 47% over the past year. These new participants to the game are finding an alternative route to engage with rugby rather than through the traditional XVs channels, and the community clubs that are running sevens competitions are experiencing the benefits.

“For rugby to remain relevant in a congested sporting market, it is important there are multiple ways that people can engage with the game and there are participation options for new entrants picking up a rugby ball for the first time.

“Where we are targeting these new entrants is public schools, where our Get Into Rugby (formerly Game On) program has seen more than 70,000 kids experience rugby for the first time since the beginning of 2017, including no less than 5000 indigenous children. Significantly, 68% of these students have been from government schools, and 40% are girls.

“Get Into Rugby is an inclusive, fun skills program introducing children to the base skills of the game and all participants start by playing our non-contact version, Touch 7s.

“Our plans are to build and expand this program to develop and foster relationships between schools and our rugby clubs.

“To support this, we are investing further in growing our development workforce to connect these school participants with clubs. Rugby is facing aggressive competition in this area from other footy codes, so it is important that our product is appealing and the message to students about our game is a positive one. One of those important messages is around the safety of our game.

“Rugby was the first sport in Australia to launch a size and age dispensation program for contact rugby that addresses the challenges of variable size and age in relation to safety.

“This policy was applied nationally this year to ensure players in the under-8 to under-13 age levels are playing against other children of similar size and physical maturity, through mandatory assessment of players to determine their appropriate age grade. This essentially allows for players that are too big or too small for their age level to play up or down a grade.

“This, combined with the national roll out of the blue card system to recognise and remove players showing signs of concussion on field, reassures parents that rugby is doing all it can to ensure their child’s safety.

“While we are excited about the expansion of rugby into non-traditional schools, we are not ignoring our traditional schools and competitions. Rugby Australia has developed a national schools strategy to improve areas of safety, growth, competition structures, governance, and resourcing.

“This work is being led by former Wallaby and Rugby Australia Board Director Paul McLean and we look forward to keeping the rugby community informed on its progress in such a vital area for our game.

“The challenge of keeping our most talented schoolboy players in the game is not a new phenomenon but is an area of focus given the increased pressure from well-resourced rival codes.

“We are reviewing our contracting system specifically to address this issue and will announce some changes in this area shortly, all designed to ensure our top-priority talent remain in our game after school and have opportunities to experience off-field development and on-field success.

“There is a clear pathway for boys from junior clubs and schools through to the Wallabies and the same can now be said for the women’s game with the advent of the Uni 7s Series and Super W completing the development pathway for women’s Sevens and the Wallaroos (XVs).”

Priorities
“Our priorities for the immediate future include, first and foremost, strengthening the partnership between our national, state and territory organisations to create greater alignment on strategy and the delivery of community and professional rugby programs, with a focus on building winning teams.

"The Super Rugby competition review is another area of immediate focus. This work will continue at Rugby Australia, and with SANZAAR, ahead of the commencement of the broadcast negotiations towards the end of the year.

“We will work to maximise our opportunities to bring new revenue into the game to deliver greater investment into the community game.

“We will drive participation by ramping up our efforts to expand the Get Into Rugby program in schools, with a strategic focus on government schools, and foster relationships between Get Into Rugby schools and their local junior clubs. We will also double the number of participants across the country playing our non-contact product, Foxtel Touch 7s this year.

“We are taking advantage of the global strength of rugby through a new international strategy to capitalise on the fact that our national teams spend more time out of Australia, playing in our major trade and export hubs.

“We will bid aggressively to win the rights to host the 2021 Women’s World Cup and 2027 Rugby World Cup. Securing these pinnacle events will drive participation, engage new fans and importantly, create new revenue for our game.

“And we will work harder at developing and keeping our most talented players through the implementation of the national schools strategy and new contracting initiatives.

“The challenges rugby faces are well documented and widely debated but I believe there is much to be positive about and many of the building blocks are in place to take these challenges head on.” 

9th April 2018 - RUGBY AUSTRALIA IMPACTED BY WESTERN FORCE AXEING AND DECLINING TEST CROWDS

16th January 2018 - HISTORY MAKING RAELENE CASTLE LOOKS FOR STABILITY IN NEW RUGBY AUSTRALIA ROLE 

12th December 2017 - RUGBY AUSTRALIA REVEALS SIGNIFICANT RISE IN SCHOOL PARTICIPATION PROGRAM

8th December 2017 - WESTERN FORCE RUGBY UNION BRAND TO RETURN IN 2018 

15th November 2017 - RUGBY AUSTRALIA MADE DECISION TO AXE WESTERN FORCE MONTHS BEFORE FINANCES EXAMINED

28th October 2017 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY UNION REBRANDS AS RUGBY AUSTRALIA 

27th October 2017 - AUSTRALIAN RUGBY AND SPORTS SCIENCE BASE OPENS IN SYDNEY’S MOORE PARK 

21st July 2017 - NSW GOVERNMENT RELEASES ‘COMMERCIALITY FRAMEWORK’ FOR STADIA

4th May 2017 - ALLIANZ STADIUM GROUND STAFF TO WORK AROUND THE CLOCK TO PREPARE SURFACE FOR A-LEAGUE GRAND FINAL 

3rd May 2017 - MASTER PLAN FOR SYDNEY’S MOORE PARK PROPOSES ENHANCED CONSERVATION AND NEW SPORT FACILITIES 

12th May 2016 - PARTNERSHIP TO DELIVER COMMUNITY, EDUCATION AND SPORTING HUB IN SYDNEY’S MOORE PARK

14th April 2016 - SYDNEY’S STADIUM DEBATE OVER AS NSW GOVERNMENT COMMITS $1.6 BILLION TO REFURBISHMENTS

13th April 2016 - NEW FIVE-YEAR ARU STRATEGIC PLAN AIMS TO BROADEN PLAYER BASE

16th March 2015 - SCG TRUST AND UTS PARTNER TO CREATE SPORTS CENTRAL CAMPUS  


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