VIDEO: Watch as RA's Phil Waugh explains historic reset
NEWS: Insisting it’s no takeover, Phil Waugh is confident of getting the powerhouse Brumbies on side after announcing NSW as the first state union to agree to the strategic reset of Australian rugby.
The NSW Rugby Union formally committing to Rugby Australia’s plan to align the sport across the country means the governing body will take control of the Waratahs’ professional program from January 1.
While RA will take responsibility for the Waratahs’ high-performance operations – including the playing roster – plus assets, liabilities and commercial arrangements, all NSW employees will continue in their current roles.
Waugh is optimistic “one or two” other franchises, namely the Melbourne Rebels and Western Force, will back the centralisation program in coming weeks.
He is also hopeful of talking the Brumbies around before the start of the 2024 Super Rugby season.
“We don’t see it as a takeover. We see it as an integration and partnership and alignment,” the RA supremo said on Tuesday.
“We are not content to sit on the sidelines any longer on this much-needed reform, and I hope all Super Rugby clubs will follow our lead as we push forward on an aligned Australian rugby ecosystem.”
RA’s intended overhaul comes after the Wallabies failed to progress from the group stages for the first time ever at a Rugby World Cup last month in France.
Ranked an all-time low No.10, the Wallabies’ alarming fall from grace has left the code on the nose with disillusioned fans.
“The key here is getting a more successful national team. That drives interest of those that don’t follow rugby and those that are questioning whether they want to be involved in rugby,” Waugh said.
“You look through the history of when Australia’s done well at a Wallaby level, it drives interest into the game, it drives commercial interest into the game, and it brings the game together.
“This is around getting a better high-performance outcome, as well as more laser focus on community.”
But selling their dream to the Brumbies, historically Australia’s most successful Super Rugby outfit, hasn’t been easy.
Waugh, though, has allayed relocation concerns from the Brumbies, offering the ACT-based outfit a guarantee they won’t be moved.
“The Brumbies have been with us – and dominating – since 1996,” Waugh said.
“It’s not in anyone’s interest to be trying to shift that team anywhere else, so there certainly hasn’t been that conversation anymore.”
The RA boss insists much progress has been made in talks with the Brumbies over the past month, and says his 30-year relationship with the club’s CEO Phil Thompson certainly helps.
A key plank in the centralisation process is appointing a high-performance director to oversee the coaching program.
Waugh says RA is “deep in the recruitment stage” and confident of unveiling the high-performance director before Christmas.
He wants the new Wallabies coach on deck before the start of the Super Rugby season in March.
But in light of the disastrous second tenure of Eddie Jones, RA won’t be rushing to name his successor, with former assistants Stephen Larkham and Dan McKellar still the front-runners.
“As long as we get the best possible candidate, I’m less concerned around the timeline of that,” Waugh said.
“It’s about getting the best candidate for head coach, and the best candidate for head coach also then brings a really strong assistant coaching team and structure.
“(But) whilst we do have time through to July when we play the next Test, we know that the available coaches and the best possible coaches on the market get snapped up really quickly after the World Cup.”