The ACT Brumbies concede a major overhaul is needed, but chief executive Phil Thomson has questioned whether Rugby Australia has the right people to make the changes required to revive the game.
Rugby Australia's centralisation push has hit major hurdles since it first announced its intentions to align high performance and commercial operations of all Super Rugby franchises.
Details, however, have been limited and the Brumbies and Queensland have led the push against the proposal after being asked to cede control of their businesses.
Tension has been running high between the Brumbies and the governing body for the past two months, but negotiations are expected to ramp up when all Rugby Australia officials return from the World Cup next week.
Thomson took a swing at Rugby Australia just days after engaging lawyers to give the governing body a notice of dispute and flag potential legal action if it was to try to terminate the Brumbies' licence.
Thomson revealed the Brumbies had put a centralisation proposal to Rugby Australia but the franchise did not get any feedback.
The vacuum of information and lack of a formal proposal other than a one-page document presented by Phil Waugh has created concerns and an element of doubt about the process.
"Something definitely has to change. Rugby Australia keep saying that, but they do not have any detail around what that change looks like other than taking control so they can make change," Thomson said.
"We need to make sure we have a high-performance plan agreed to so we can all move in the right direction. To do that, you need the right people in place at Rugby Australia with the right skill and capacity to bring people together.
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"Those people don't currently exist at Rugby Australia. That has to be a priority. Then we can work together to make sure we're all accountable.
"We need one unity of purpose for everyone. We don't have that at the moment because there's no direction at all."
The end of the World Cup will accelerate the centralisation push, but bridges will need to be mended for the Brumbies and Queensland to come to any agreement with Rugby Australia.
Rugby Australia is also dealing with the fallout of the Wallabies' poor World Cup campaign, and the constant speculation about Eddie Jones' future as coach.
All franchise have agreed to high performance alignment - including central contracting, centralised staff, centralised coaching and other elements - despite chaos in the Wallabies ranks.
For example, Rugby Australia already has 37 contracted players spread around Super Rugby teams. Less than 20 of those players were picked in the World Cup squad.
Franchises also agreed to a resting policy this year, sacrificing Super Rugby ambitions for the greater good of the Wallabies.
But centralising high performance structures won't fix the under-performing commercial side of rugby, with all but one team facing financial pressure and Rugby Australia seeking a loan to help it survive through to the British and Irish Lions series in 2025.
Despite the widening gap in philosophies, Rugby Australia and the Brumbies still hope they can find some level of agreement before the end of the year to ensure the off-field war ends before the 2024 season begins.
"It's not ideal, but we're not going to stop fighting [for our future]," Thomson said.
"We have an experienced Super Rugby department who are preparing the team for next year and so are other areas of the business.
"The communication around this [centralisation] is damaging for us and for rugby. The question around our solvency are distressing for staff because they're worried about the future.
"There are partners, sponsors and members - who have all been very supportive. We are solvent and we are doing our best to resolve this as soon as possible so we can all focus we deliver a Super Rugby season and rugby can move forward.
"We are fighting for the Brumbies to continue as they have for the last 27 years and for the game to grow."
One centralised model being floated includes keeping all Brumbies operations based in Canberra under a national approach that is run locally.
Community rugby would be split off and run by the ACT and Southern NSW Rugby Union, while a separate Brumbies entity would be created and overseen by Rugby Australia.
Rugby Australia has eased its stance on taking control of individual intellectual property rights - a key sticking point in both the ACT and Queensland - but there is still some concern around the detail of that arrangement.
Rugby Australia says it wants to collaborate and that it may have different centralised models to suit different franchise set ups, with some of the bigger changes unlikely to be implemented until next year.
Thomson said the Brumbies were still supportive of centralised high performance and was confident the parties could work together despite their differences.
"We believe if the teams are funded appropriately, we can survive and flourish as an organisation," Thomson said.
"We certainly won't be rolling over and we've shown that by our actions, which have been very time consuming and costly.
"We'd like to sit down and work with [Rugby Australia]. We have offered to in the past, but it hasn't been taken up.
"We have put a [centralised] proposal to Rugby Australia but they didn't address what we put in writing to them. Contracting players and staff for alignment, we have no issues and we would give ground on that. As long as the commercial side and community game remained as one in the same business."
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