The Australian Super Rugby conference is an abomination. And who is to blame? The Australian Rugby Union.
After four rounds, the Australian teams are already also-rans, holding down seventh spot (Brumbies), 11th (Reds), 13th (Force), 16th (Waratahs) and stone motherless last (Rebels).
They are all performing like the walking dead. Thirty, repeat thirty knock-ons on Saturday night was the result of the Brumbies and Waratahs carrying on as if they were participating in one of those 1930s Depression dance marathons. This is after the Tahs told us the big positive of their dreadful South African trip was that they trained really, really well. Who are they trying to kid?
You have the Rebels forgetting that games are 80 minutes, not 70 minutes long. As for the Reds, their only threatening moment against the Lions was when Quade Cooper was quite rightly sent from the field for a lazy and dumb swinging arm tackle. Thankfully for everyone, the ponderous Force had the bye.
Luckily for Australia one team must eventually qualify for the finals- even though not one of them deserve that luxury.
Then again you can understand why the Australian teams lack on-field direction- because off-field they are getting absolutely nothing in terms of leadership from those who allegedly run the game in this country.
The behaviour of the Australian Rugby Union- particularly its board of directors- in recent times has been reprehensible. For the sake of the game, several board members must move on. And we are talking big names. They have not been proper servants of Australian rugby.
They have especially let down those they are supposed to represent- the five Australian provinces. It must always be remembered it was the ARU, not the provinces, that voted for this 18-team Super Rugby shambles.
It's the ARU, in a desperate dash for cash, that has allowed to product to be diluted- not the provinces. The ARU, through its representatives on the SANZAAR board, are the misguided mob that has been instrumental in cutting back the number of meaningful home games- the lifeblood of the Australian provinces. Never forget that the ARU agreed to these stupid changes. They have allowed a cut in the number of Australian derbies- which is what the punters want to see most.
The provinces are the financial victims, and they should point the blame directly at the national body, from their ineffective chief executive Bill Pulver down. Dreadful decisions by the ARU has led to this. Former board members, such as past chairman Michael Hawker, are also to blame for a myriad of blunders, including allowing the once strong Australian delegation to be dictated by everyone else- in particular New Zealand and South Africa as well as several European nations.
Through their constant bluffing and poor administration, the ARU have treated the provinces with sheer contempt, while the rest of the Australian rugby community are at last discovering that a prime reason why the local game is in enormous trouble is because those in charge have lost their way.
So now we have three Australian provinces- Rebels, Brumbies and Force- for good reason deeply worried about whether they survive. Provincial players and officials have absolutely no idea what is going to happen. And then they are told by the ARU to put contract negotiations on hold while they dither about. How dare they!
Isn't it the ARU's role to do everything they can to protect them? Clearly not, because all they are getting from the ARU, who are the weaklings in the SANZAAR partnership arrangement, is wishy washy, garbled messages. Then there's the endless babble about how the ARU are waiting for South Africa and New Zealand to get back to them. It could be weeks, months, years, decades... who knows, just don't pester the ARU okay. Certainly don't speculate. The ARU don't like to be disturbed. They prefer to hide away, do nothing, while attempting to gag everyone else.
In the middle of this almighty mess, we receive a media release stating how the five Australian provincial chief executive officers "will respect the request from SANZAAR and the ARU not to comment on the ongoing discussions in relation the future of Super Rugby competition."
"Given that so many people's livelihoods could potentially be at stake, the CEOs are respecting the ongoing process that SANZAAR are going through and that speculation of a future format does not help any team. The focus now for all teams is the 2017 Super Rugby season, about winning games and delivering great events for all fans," the media release went.
This would rank as one of the most pathetic, puerile rugby media releases of recent times. Respecting the ongoing process. Rubbish, as there are so many people's livelihoods at stake the provincial CEO's should be hammering away on the ARU's front door in Crows Nest, demanding to know what exactly is going on.
Winning games. Delivering great events. How can they do that, when the ARU is giving them absolutely nothing and are contemplating bringing out the chopping block?
The ARU is also suddenly discovering they haven't as many friends in the media as they once thought.
The ARU love to isolate those- including myself- who have been constant critics of their endless bungling, playing the us versus them card, by giving preferential treatment to those in the media who kowtow to them. I have been publicly arguing for years and years that this expanded Super Rugby format is a dud. So, don't blame me.
Thankfully some of the long-time ARU media acolytes have at last seen the light and begun to jab away at them- with the complaints now coming from a far broader spectrum. And so it should be because the ARU is sending the game right down the drain. Just ask those at the grassroots level.
It's not only the Super Rugby tournament that requires dramatic upheaval. So too the ARU. This rot must stop. A new ARU board would be a great first step.