The Brumbies are pushing for a six-team finals series from next season as a “middle-ground” preliminary move towards Super rugby expansion.
Jim Morton writes for the AAP that Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan revealed the Australian Rugby Union was supportive of their proposal for two more teams being rewarded with play-off places.
The Super 14′s top-four finals system makes the world’s biggest provincial competition the most cut-throat tournament of any professional sport involving teams from Australia.
Whereas the AFL and NRL reward half of their 16 teams with an eight-team finals cut-off, and the NBL are even more generous with eight in their 13-club league, the current Super 14 structure sees 28 per cent of teams given a play-off position.
A model hasn’t been locked in as part of the proposal, blocked last year due to the tight broadcast schedule, but Fagan would prefer to see all six teams play off on the first week of finals.
That would see the two lowest-ranked losers knocked out and the rest seeded to play off 1 v 4 and 2 v 3, as the current system works.
ARU chief executive John O’Neill is keen to expand the Super 14 season for more product when the broadcast deal comes up for negotiation from next year.
He also wants a six-team finals format as part of a 22-week competition, which should allow at least three more home-games for the each team.
New Zealand and South African reactions to O’Neill’s revitalisation plans have been cool to say the least but Fagan believes there should be more support for just one extra week added to the Super rugby calendar for 2009.
Even if O’Neill wins the day with his plans, an expanded Super rugby competition wouldn’t kick-off until 2010 or more likely 2011.
“I know that John O’Neill from the ARU perspective is talking to SANZAR about all those possibilities at the moment with a particular push of expanding the Super 14 competition overall,” Fagan said.
“But if that’s going to become a 2010 or 2011 potential start point, there’s some things we should do in the mean time to freshen up the competition and ensure we can maintain some interest and it would only add an extra week in the calender which we should manage.
“And in the event that’s not on the cards a middle-ground of expanding (for 2009) is a six-team finals series.”
The Brumbies’ frustrating record over the past two seasons, where they have finished fifth and sixth and have both times secured more wins than teams in the top four, is only part of their willingness to force a change.
The short competition and it’s intensity can make for skewed results, particularly when travel to and from South Africa and New Zealand is factored in.
A top-six would also generate extra interest for the middle-of-the-road teams, as it is in the AFL and NRL, as well as more gate and broadcast revenue.
“A top six in a 14-team competition is appropriate,” Fagan said. “It would allow an evening out of some factors that can influence such a short competition.
“I think you would concede that any of those top six teams could win the competition. It would allow another week of finals football to maintain interest and you could arguably see finals in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand on the same weekend.”Tweet