Aussies find the 'missing link'
Aussies find the 'missing link'SHARE
Australian Rugby Union (ARU) CEO Bill Pulver believes that the new National Rugby Championships (NRC) will provide the 'missing link' in Australian rugby.
The nine-round championship, plus two weeks of finals, will feature all non-Test-playing Super Rugby players plus club players in a 10-team competition which Pulver believes has the potential to be a major developmental boost for the sport in Australia.
"I believe we now have a comprehensive development pathway probably for the first time in Australian rugby," Pulver said.
"And the NRC really was the missing link in elite level of the game to really build a bridge between club rugby and Super Rugby," he said.
As part of a deliberate strategy to re-engage with passionate supporters in regional Australia, the teams representing Queensland Country and NSW Country will play the majority of their home matches at a variety of regional centres.
NSW Country Eagles will play in Dubbo, Orange and Lismore, while Queensland Country will play home games on the Gold Coast, in Townsville and Brisbane.
The competition starts on August 21 and the first round will also see Melbourne Rising take on North Harbour Rays at AAMI Park in Melbourne; Perth Spirit up against the Canberra Vikings at Viking Park, Canberra; and the NSW Country Eagles hosting the Greater Sydney Rams at Coogee Oval.
Other draw highlights include curtain-raisers to Wallabies Tests on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane. Queensland Country will host the North Harbour Rays on Saturday, September 13 on the Gold Coast (Round Four) ahead of the Test between Australia and Argentina; and Brisbane City will host University of Canberra Vikings at Suncorp Stadium prior to the final Bledisloe Cup Test on Saturday, October 18.
South Australian Rugby fans will also get a taste of NRC action, with a round-three match between Perth Spirit and Greater Sydney Rams to be played at Adelaide Airport Stadium on Saturday 6 September.
Pulver said that gaining support for these new teams will be vital for the future strength of Australian rugby and pointed to South Africa and New Zealand as examples of top domestic competitions.
"If you look in South Africa and New Zealand, their Currie Cup and their ITM Cup are arguably some of the most well supported, from a fan perspective, competitions that they have," Pulver said.
"There's good reason for that. They truly are national competitions. It will take time to build up a tribal level of support, but we believe it will come," he said.
Fans have also been asked to suggest law variations that can be trialled in the inaugural year of the NRC.
Drawing from more than 600 suggestions, a shortlist of new law variations which focus on enhancing exciting, attacking play are currently being considered, with the final changes to be announced in the coming weeks.