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ARU's National Rugby Championship opener to split Bledisloe Cup Tests

THE BREAKDOWN

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The Australian Rugby Union is shrugging off criticism of the National Rugby Championship and is planning an opening-round match between the Sydney Stars and Brisbane City at Ballymore on the Thursday night before the second Bledisloe Cup Test. 

With just seven weeks to go until the first game is broadcast live on Fox Sports on August 21, the ARU is also on the verge of locking in a $350,000 per year naming rights sponsorship deal with Sydney construction company Buildcorp. 

Buildcorp, founded by husband-and-wife team Tony and Josephine Sukkar, is club premiers Sydney University's major sponsor.

Eyes on the prize: Israel Folau.

Eyes on the prize: Israel Folau. Photo: Getty Images

Securing the privately owned firm's support for what is believed to be a three-year deal fulfils a crucial ARU requirement that the competition "wash its own face", along with a $2 million broadcasting deal and strict self-funding conditions on the nine participating teams. 

The exciting stuff is still to come, including rule changes and the announcement of the draw which, The Breakdown understands, will give each team exposure in the coveted live spot on Fox Sports within the first five rounds. 

But in the midst of sustained criticism by Eastwood president Brett Papworth, and persistent murmurs the competition is being pushed too far too soon, a firm sponsorship arrangement for the competition is a welcome development. 

Pride (in the name of rugby): Israel Folau with Sydney Convicts’ Brennan Bastyovansky, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Macquarie Uni’s Donovan Baker.

Pride (in the name of rugby): Israel Folau with Sydney Convicts’ Brennan Bastyovansky, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Macquarie Uni’s Donovan Baker. Photo: Ryan Stuart

As is news that the four teams involved in the Greater Sydney Rams – West Harbour, Parramatta, Penrith and Southern Districts – have signed a memorandum of understanding and secured a consortium of up to six investors prepared to put up the $300,000 needed to run the team. 

It means the nine teams involved in the long-awaited professional third tier are locked and loaded and ready for kick off. 

The Breakdown has also learned the weekly broadcast game will start at 7.30pm on Fox Sports 2, running out of an ITM Cup game out of New Zealand and into the broadcaster's rugby panel show Rugby HQ, which will move to a 9.30pm live slot.

The first match, between the Stars and Brisbane City, will be sandwiched between the two biggest Test matches of the international season, five days after the first Bledisloe Cup clash in Sydney and three days before the second, potentially deciding Test in Auckland.

Papworth, a long-time critic of the NRC, said he was "astounded" other Sydney clubs had jumped on board the competition when there was "not one thing" in it for them except for financial stress. 

NSW Rugby Union chairman Nick Farr-Jones acknowledged the concerns of Eastwood, who are supplying players and first-grade coach John Manenti to the Rams but who have withdrawn from any formal participation in the consortium.

"There's an argument to say it is being rushed, there's an argument to say that it's putting pressure on clubs to find the finances, but I fully support [ARU chief] Bill Pulver's need to go to the SANZAR negotiating table on broadcasting rights with something less than black twos," Farr-Jones said, referring to a weak poker hand.

"That's a huge reason to support the strategy and I do for that reason."

ARU, WARATAHS MAY CO-HABIT

Bill Pulver has been vocal about the Waratahs' importance to the overall success of Australian rugby, but the relationship is set to get even cosier if ARU's plans to moveits headquarters to Moore Park go ahead.

The Breakdown understands the ARU has been checking out office space around Sydney but is keen to move into some spare square metreage in the Waratahs building in the Allianz Stadium-SCG precinct.

A move there from its current St Leonards headquarters would add another big brand to what is a bona fide sporting precinct as it would join the NRL, Sydney Roosters, Sydney FC, Swans, Sixers and Cricket NSW.

MALONEY STILL LIKES TAHS 

Further to news Randwick man and businessman Jon Collins has thrown his hat in the mix to run the Waratahs, the Breakdown hears mining magnate and long-time Southern Districts figure Kevin Maloney has been sniffing around the Super Rugby side as well. 

Maloney put six figures into the Waratahs via a sponsorship deal a couple of years ago and was also a well-known supporter of the Reds in their time of need, effectively sponsoring then-coach Ewen McKenzie and other staff through a deal under the auspices of his company MAC Services Group.

The Sydney-based magnate was also part of a group which made a bid for ownership of the Rebels. Maloney's group withdrew before the final hurdle and the licence eventually went to Harold Mitchell.

The Breakdown tracked down the colourful Maloney at Perth Airport while on his way to one of his group's goldmining interests. He told The Breakdown he was not formally involved with any of the bidders but was happy to help out.

"I've said to them all if you get [the licence] and want to talk to me then by all means but I'm not at the forefront of it," Maloney said. 

OUT, PROUD AND IN THE CURTAIN-RAISER 

Australian rugby will make history when the Sydney Convicts, Australia's first gay rugby team, play Macquarie University in the curtain-raiser to the Waratahs' clash with the Highlanders on Sunday afternoon. 

It will be only the second time in the world a gay team has been invited to play a curtain raiser before a professional game – we're told the first time was at a football match in France – and the first time for rugby. 

12 comments so far

  • Perhaps they should have the first game as a curtain raiser to the national chess championship, that way at least there will be more than family and friends in attendance, Doomed to fail!

    Commenter
    paps
    Date and time
    July 04, 2014, 7:23AM
    • @ paps.... "doom to fail". Are you referring to , that so called "league, mungo, game", in the internationals. What a laugh!!!!!!!!

      Commenter
      Muzzo
      Location
      Orange
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 10:39AM
    • @ paps,
      You and your fellow knuckledraggers ( names like Todd Carney, Blocker Roach, Ray ( talk up the game ) Warren, Ray Hadley and countless others are ruining your code. . You're a classic example of what's wrong with League. No wonder twice as many women attend AFL matches than Rugby League. Your code is stuck in a 1960's time warp. A game played by simpletons for simpletons. It's sad really because good people like Laurie Daley, Wayne Pearce, Peter Sterling etc don't deserve to be dragged down by people like you.

      Commenter
      Old Hickory
      Location
      Maroubra
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 7:55PM
    • @oldhickorydickorydoc, your precious response is typical of a RA RA with a chip on its shoulder because your boring kick n clap game of yawnion is dying... , one thing you are correct about though is Real Rugby (league) is simple and easy to understand, thats why it smashes yawnion for viewership and can command 1.2 Billion Dollars,
      surely you can come up with a better argument than that? oh and twicw as many woman mite attend AFL but 10 x more watch real rugby (league) than Thugby Yawnion

      Commenter
      paps
      Date and time
      July 08, 2014, 6:49AM
  • Rugby needs a presence on free to air TV. It's a pity that at least one of the weekly games of NRC can't be televised free to air. Failing that, is it possible to pick up the games on computer. I've had pay TV in the past and don't want to take out a subscription simply for the couple of games of rugby I have time to watch weekly. To popularize Rugby ( and I think the NRC should be a nice level to watch) the ARU has to lower the threshold for people to see games. There is hardly anything on FTA other than tests. It may be possible to stream games on the computer, but I haven't found out how yet. I'm happy to pay, but if this option exists, it has to be better publicized. Rugby has to be more than a boutique sport if it is to compete with the NRL for fans and players.

    Commenter
    Purdo
    Location
    Central Victoria
    Date and time
    July 04, 2014, 9:28AM
    • This in part is a reflection on the FTA channels unwillingness to grasp that they have 3 channels to fill with content, and bringing rugby to FTA does not necessitate it being on their primary channel.

      For instance, current rights holder - Ch10 - could very easily put on a Saturday arvo game on One, where you are currently getting repeats of 60's TV shows (since Lachlan Murdoch killed off One as a sports channel). There would be virtually no difference in viewer numbers between putting the game on the primary or the multi channel.

      Commenter
      ST
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 11:25AM
    • Clubrugbytv.com.au is working hard to be allowed to stream live NRC games to the internet, but it's a bit of a minefield negotiating with all the stakeholders. Hopefully, the powers that be will agree with you, Purdo, in that we MUST get the product out to the public: the more people that have access to televised content, the better.
      At the moment, clubrugbytv.com.au is allowed to live stream a limited number of Shute Shield games per season (one match per week other than the ABC match of the day).
      Our budget is very limited so marketing has been minimal, but the product is excellent - camera work, commentary, replays all first-class.
      Best of all, the website is FREE.
      Log on now to check out past games and get the word out to punters that, finally, there is an alternative.

      Commenter
      Big Dog
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 3:18PM
  • While it is great that the Convicts are getting good publicity in the lead up to the Bingham Cup in August, the match as a curtain raiser to the Waratahs is not going to be of high standard.

    The Convicts are currently last in the McLean Cup (1st grade 4th division Subbies), with just one win from 10 games this year, playing against Macquarie Uni, who have only one more win than the Convicts. The distance between the top of the table (Redfield) can be seen by that fact that Redfield put on 110 against the Convicts, and 75 against Mac Uni.

    So hopefully it is advertised fully around the Convicts, and is not seen as a reflection on Subbies rugby.

    Commenter
    ST
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 04, 2014, 9:47AM
    • This can only be good news for rugby. Gret news for the guys sitting on the cusp of Super selection and OS contracts.
      Good on Buildcorp for their continued support of the game played in heaven - should be more like them .
      And to all the naysayers - rip off the leather patches and support movig forward the game needs support - at every level

      When we win the big games - you watch the interest rise accross the code.
      You need product and this is a good product . Free to air will get on board - like they did the big bash for cricket - just needs cool head and time and to beleive ...... go tahs

      Commenter
      gman
      Location
      nsw
      Date and time
      July 04, 2014, 11:41AM
      • Go the NRC!

        Speaking of curtain raisers wouldn't it have been amazing to have the NRC opener as a curtain raiser to Bledisloe 1 in Sydney (with a 6pm kick-off)?

        That's how it used to work in the old days. Turn up half an hour early for the big match and catch the last 20 minutes of the curtain raiser which only finished 10 minutes before the main event. That model wasn't broken. Bring it back!

        The current pre-match "entertainment" and blasting rock music and fireworks is awful. It actually detracts value from the experience. I would pay extra for my ticket to have a rugby match curtain raiser and those other distractions not included.

        Just sayin'

        Commenter
        GC
        Date and time
        July 04, 2014, 4:13PM

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