‘Ardie Savea to the Tahs’, and Aussies should ‘win a few games’: Chair’s bizarre fix for Super Rugby bin fire


At a time when there are serious questions over the relevance of Super Rugby Pacific to Australian fans, the competition’s Kiwi chairman has come up with a genius idea to fix the problem: “win a few games.”

Super Rugby Pacific board chairman Kevin Malloy appeared on the Rugby Direct Podcast this week and outlined discussions around next season with 11 teams, where and when the Super Round might be held, and a pie in the sky view on Aussie clubs enlisting star names from New Zealand.

The Roar’s piece last weekend – asking what the point of the competition was when Australian teams can’t win it and Kiwi fans don’t bother watching games involving Aussie sides – resonated with many fans and brought predictable responses from Kiwi scribes happy with the status quo.

Malloy was asked about that view during his podcast appearance – and had little in the way of answers to fix the current malaise.

He expressed sympathy for the Australian clubs – which are now one fewer than a year ago with the Rebels chopped from the competition by Rugby Australia.

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“It’s a tough environment for them over there at the moment. With Stan, their broadcaster, it’s a limited streaming channel. So it’s really hard to get much visibility,” Malloy said.

“I know in terms of marketing budgets, they’re completely dwarfed by the NRL and AFL. So it’s really tough to get any traction.

“I think what’s going to be really important for them in the next little while is the Australian team starts to perform and win a few games and that people start to actually fall back in love with rugby again.

“The audience is there and the passion is there. But at the moment, it’s with the lack of success and some of the other sort of issues that have gone on in rugby in Australia. I know it’s hard to get traction.”

(L-R) Rugby Australia CEO Phil Waugh, New Zealand Rugby CEO Mark Robinson and Super Rugby Pacific Chair Kevin Malloy at the 2024 Season Launch on February 14, 2024. (Photo by Dave Rowland/Getty Images for Rugby Australia)

If the strategy of “winning a few games” doesn’t help – and hopefully the Aussie teams give it a real crack next year – Malloy has another cunning plan straight out of the Hamish McLennan playbook. One that’s even less likely to happen.

“I’ll give you a personal view,” he said. “I think it’s a good discussion point for us to have around the table.

“Richie Mo’unga, right? Andrew Forrest at the Force could probably write as big a cheque as the guys have written in Japan.

“And if he was allowed to stay – and that was still within the Super Rugby ecosystem, he was still eligible for the All Blacks – how good would that be for the competition?

“Ardie Savea goes to the Waratahs. That would help the competition and the crowd as well.

Ardie Savea. (Photo by Justin Setterfield – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

“Take some of these really good players and allow them to move within the ecosystem of Super Rugby, even if it was just an arrangement with the top 15, 20 players.

“So you’re not necessarily impacting the high performance development of younger players coming through, but once you’ve reached that superstar status, you know, you could start ranking these players and there’s a cost for them and they can move around the competition.

“And again, purely from a competition perspective, how cool would that be?”

Cash-strapped Australian clubs paying to keep Kiwis in contention for the All Blacks. That’s genius!

Meanwhile, Malloy acknowledged one flaw this year would be looked at for next and raised the possibility of Super Round being shifted to ANZAC Day with a series of trans Tasman matches.

The NRL and AFL nailed ANZAC Day commemoration this year while Super Rugby had no matches on the Thursday or Sunday.

“We just gave Anzac Day away this season,” said Malloy.

“What do we do around Anzac Day to actually make that something that’s far more attractive in the context of the whole competition as well?

“Do we have Super Round over Anzac weekend, right, and then turn it into a real New Zealand versus Aussie [occasion] and take maximum advantage of the ability for people to travel as well with that extra day.

 (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

“It’s all those sort of things that we’re looking at right now, because it’s a fairly hot time for us in terms of the next couple of weeks getting the draw right.

“We’re a reasonable way down the line with those discussions, because it’s a critical part of the draw.”

Malloy ruled out New Zealand hosting the event because their cities would not pay for it to be held there.

He said Perth had “put their hand up” as potential host and also talked up Gold Coast as an option.

“Easy travel, a great little stadium. So it’s very much what’s in the mix for us as well.
We’re certainly looking at that,” Malloy said.

Also under discussion is whether to opt for a six or seven team finals next season – the fewer games for six is seen as an issue for the bottom line of clubs – and wherea 12th team should be drawn from.

Malloy stressed the board were powerless to make decisions on the competition rules – that’s left to the relevant national boards.

But they are involved in working out a better path forward for an ailing competition – while a new Super Rugby Commission will launch under CEO Jack Mesley – an Australian coming from the A-Leagues.

Malloy said Mesley would start on July 22 after a 12 week notice period.

“He will be 100 per cent focused on this competition, living and breathing it,” said Malloy.

“At the moment, it’s fine that we’ve got this governance board in place, but as a governance board, we can only do so much.

“There’s a lot of things, a lot of great ideas, that need to be implemented that you need a team to go ahead and do.

“Jack was an outstanding candidate. He’s got a really strong background in marketing. The A-League experience is good because he’s had to learn to scrap and fight there as well.

“And he’s going to have to scrap and fight, especially in that Australian environment.

“We’re going to have somebody living and breathing what’s good for the competition, 24 hours, seven days a week. That’s perfect.”

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