Trans-Tasman marriage on the rocks?
Rugby Australia is threatening to abandon Super Rugby Pacific after 2023 as it chases a larger split of broadcast dollars from New Zealand.
RA chairman Hamish McLennan launched a grenade across the Tasman ahead of the competition’s all-Kiwi Final between the Blues and Crusaders in Auckland on Saturday.
McLennan reportedly told his Kiwi counterpart Stewart Mitchell that Australia planned to honour its 2023 commitments but would then consider its future leading up to the Rugby World Cup on home soil in 2027.
It continues a testy relationship between the Australia and New Zealand governing bodies which further soured in 2020 when NZ Rugby told RA they only wanted two Australian sides to participate in their planned next Super Rugby iteration.
McLennan’s latest comments blindsided RA Chief Executive Andy Marinos as well as the Kiwis.
A source said McLennan’s motivation was about getting a better financial deal for Australia with New Zealand refusing to renegotiate the broadcast split between the countries.
Previously all the broadcast money was split equally between all three inaugural SANZAR partners, which included South Africa, and then later Argentina.
NZ Rugby now currently collects over AU$90 million, three times the yearly cheque for RA.
The source said discussions for an even revenue share had “fallen on deaf ears”, hence McLennan’s posturing.
Wallabies legend and commentator Tim Horan felt Australia needed New Zealand and warned of walking away.
“I think we’ve got to be really careful with this,” Horan told Stan Sport.
“Hamish has just thrown a hand grenade, but we need the All Blacks. They need us as much as we need them.
“How are you going to have a competition with five Australian Super Rugby teams? You’d get sick of playing each other.”