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The Australian key to unlocking Super Rugby

Former Wallabies star Morgan Turinui says it’s time for Australian teams to step up now that Super Rugby Pacific has a new deal that secures its future until 2030.

Notwithstanding the coronavirus-induced split, New Zealand outfits have won every Super Rugby title since 2015.

The Waratahs were the last Australian squad to win, claiming the 2014 edition. Before them, the Reds won the comp in 2011.

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Off the back of the COVID-19 pandemic, Super Rugby Pacific was formed.

The inaugural season saw teams from Australia and New Zealand joined by one out of Fiji, dubbed the Drua.

Moana Pasifika, an all-comers-style New Zealand-based team, also drew players from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands.

For Turinui, the key to drawing interest is bridging the performance gap between the haves and have-nots.

“I suppose one thing that was mentioned by both CEOs was uncertainty of results,” Turinui told Wide World of Sports, referencing Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos and New Zealand Rugby chief Mark Robinson.

“It’s important Australia is seen to be very competitive as a block of five [and] the continued rise of Moana Pasifika and the Fijian Drua, which we know will continue.

“New Zealand will do what they always do, which is be hugely competitive. So the success Australian teams can have week-in, week-out and the uncertainly of results, the better it is.

“I think the Kiwi boys are probably sick of playing each other after a couple of years of doing it.

“We had a great Super Rugby AU grand final, Reds against the Brumbies in front of a packed Suncorp, so it’s there.

“If you can turn up to any game thinking ‘my team can win tonight’, that’s got to be exciting.”

Turinui said a focus has to be put on creating and promoting household names like those he played against in the throats of getting his career underway with the Waratahs.

“It’s the Super Rugby that I grew up on and it’s the Super Rugby that I played,” he said.

“I ran out and debuted, I think might have just turned 21, and you look up at a defensive line and call for the ball and the Auckland Blues around the early 2000s, and you go [Keven] Mealamu, [Kees] Meeuws, [Carlos] spencer, [Rupeni] Caucaunibuca, [Doug] Howlett. ‘Do I really want the ball?’ And then you look and you’ve got Chris Whitaker, Matt Rogers, Lote Tuqiri, and Matt Burke. That’s Super Rugby.

“The stars of the game, our young coming through trying to prove themselves. That’s still a special competition. The name Super Rugby still evokes that. It’s making sure kids turn up and watch their heroes play at the moment.”

Despite tense talks that tested relationships, Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby eventually came to an agreement.

It will mean Super Rugby Pacific remains unified for the foreseeable future.

Both parties have also settled on the revenue share until the end of the current broadcast deal which expires in 2025.

“I think it’s the solution we always knew we’d get to,” said Turinui.

Sean Maloney and Morgan Turinui bathe in a famous Wallabies comeback win and reflect on some of their favorite 2022 moments both on and off the show

“I think having some surety right until 2030 is really interesting too because it means if you’re Australia, New Zealand, you’ve gone back, you’ve assessed where you’re at with your rugby programs, you’ve assessed where you want to go, and you’ve realized that doing it together is the best solution. So that’s great. You both know that you need each other, which I think we all sort of knew that.

“Now with the surety of 2030 means you can try things, you can innovate. Like how do we fill Allianz Stadium for the Waratahs? How do we fill Eden Park for the Blues week-in, week-out? How can Super Rugby be exciting, high fan engagement? How do we bring the new generation through? Knowing that you’ve got that time means that you can concentrate on making that happen.”

In the competitive sporting landscape of Australian football codes, rugby has to fight with the NRL, AFL and soccer for market share.

Turinui maintains continuity, innovation, and communication will ultimately drive interest in the product.

“I suppose in terms of marketing the game and selling the game, doing it together makes it so much more powerful,” Turinui explained.

“And then innovation around the laws around the product itself, especially from an Australian view, even a Sydney point of view, up against so many sporting codes. How can we make rugby an attractive thing to watch as possible?

“How can we tinker with parts of the game without destroying the fabric of the game to make it more attractive to be in stadium? And then from a broadcaster point of view, how can we deliver a game? How can we go even further inside behind the veil of the game?

“I think at Stan, especially this year and talking to lots of other broadcasters around the world, even New Zealand, our access is about as good as it gets for a sport.

“The willingness of our playing group and the coaches to allow us to do that, we’re very lucky in Australia.

“It’s still continuing to push the envelope not just because we can but whatever makes it a much more engaging and interesting and entertaining piece for the viewer.”

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