The ACT Brumbies are walking a financial tightrope but Rugby Australia chief Andy Marinos hopes the start of a new era for the code can cast away doubts about the future of Super Rugby clubs.
Marinos is committed to keeping all five of the country's Super Rugby clubs afloat in the wake of a "significant hammering" on the financial front in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rugby Australia has slashed funding for clubs by 30 per cent while ACT government grants for the Brumbies have been cut down to heap pressure on the organisation.
Super Rugby AU's reigning champions recorded a $468,484 loss in 2020 during what chief executive Phil Thomson labels "without doubt, the most challenging season in the Brumbies history".
Club staff are benefiting from the Jobkeeper allowance but the thought of that drying up in the coming months is set to place more pressure on the Brumbies.
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But Marinos hopes the game's new broadcast deal and Super Rugby's naming rights partnership with retail giant Harvey Norman can be the beginning of a brighter era as Rugby Australia looks to consolidate the future of its clubs.
"That's the hard part. The game has taken a significant hammering and we have had to go through some really hard cost consolidation," Marinos said.
"It has been a massive reset but all parties have worked well to get the game to where it is at the moment. It's just about working together and starting to build promotion and engagement and resourcing."
The five-team Super Rugby AU campaign kicked off on Friday night with a clash between traditional rivals Queensland and NSW followed by the Brumbies and Western Force.
The opening game was shown on Nine Network channel Gem to launch a fresh start on free-to-air television, while the Brumbies' clash in Perth was shown exclusively on Stan.
The Force returned to the fray last year when the coronavirus shutdown forced a strategy rethink which ultimately led to the birth of the domestic tournament.
Now Marinos is determined to retain all five clubs, shutting down whispers of mergers between the Brumbies and Rebels, adamant both have a crucial role to play in their current cities.
"It's important, especially with the structure of the competition we have now. Those traditional rivalries, we need to reinforce that," Marinos said.
"It's important we nurture the game below that so there is a natural pathway to feed into those teams.
"Australians are very tribal by nature, you always hear the catchphrase about state versus state, mate versus mate.
"For rugby that is a point of difference. You've got five states playing against each other and we can build a huge rivalry through that."