Wallabies identity being lost to supporters and grassroots rugby alike


Multiple reports this month has seen Wallabies distancing and being distanced from Super Franchises and grassroots clubs alike. From Super Rugby sides being blamed for player fitness coming into Wallaby camp, Brendon Cannon's calls for professional players to be more or consistently involved in club game and Dean Mumm, president of RUPA, calling for changes to competition structure and costs before reducing playing pool and rugby interest of an entire Australian state (VIC or WA STILL to be confirmed), system centralization is a hot topic mixed within all these areas. However, is centralization with current lack of coordination and communication the issues OR is Australian Rugby suffering from lack of identity and integrity from bottom to top? Where have these issues of identity arisen from? Previous research places meaning and purpose in the very heart of identity (McAdams, 1985). Acknowledging and integrating goals, roles, needs, skills and inclinations into suitable working scenarios shall help create an evolving narrative for who we are and who we want to be as a collective unit; in this case, as the Australian rugby community.

The ARU released their strategic plan quite a few months ago now, covering strategies and plans from 2016-2020, taking of areas of "making rugby a game for all", "ignite Australia's passion for the game", "building sustainable elite success" and "create excellence in how the game is run".  With increased participation in 7's and Women's game,  development of age grade game for sustainable success with passion pouring from all corners, albeit regarding Wallaby demise in recent tests, many aspects are being worked on yet excellence in how the game is run is certainly an area needing addressing.

Brendon Cannon came out and made a great statement, which would allow all players, administrators and supporters alike remember one of their desires listed in the strategic document; everything we are involved in is to "increase emphasis on grassroots and club rugby" to ultimately assist "success for the Wallabies, seen as most important outcome".

Sew the same “Australian Rugby” badge on every single rugby jersey in the country. Boys and girls. From under 6s to the Wallabies to the Australian women’s sevens team. How powerful would that be? We are all in this together, no matter your age, gender or ability. We are one community.

Kids would love the fact they have the same thing on their jersey that Israel Folau or Charlotte Caslick does. Up goes a poster and there you have a rugby kid locked in for life.

One community. Identity. Integrity. From bottom to top.

Attending the Australian Rugby National Coaching Conference in Brisbane last week, Mick Byrne talked regarding skill acquisition and how currently we are "coaching the game, not coaching the players". While he was discussing this at an elite level, he echoed this was being done at clubs and schools across the country also. The skills we are instilling in our players is as a result of behaviors and experiences from club and school coaching, including their attitudes and aptitudes to change. Therefore, if we want our Wallabies to play "entertaining and exciting brand of rugby", a goal outlined by supporters in the ARU document, the responsibility starts at our thriving grassroots working with our senior players and coaching group as a community of practice, who share concerns and passion for player development, learning how to do it better as they interact regularly and upskilling these players with meaning and purpose of generating more and better Wallabies in future.

All involved parties having harmonious passion towards rugby should be positive and result in understanding of importance of the game's development while not over whelming each other’s identity. An equally or unequally obsessive passion towards the sport can show positive signs for direct commitment to development of rugby union yet shall result in externally regulated motivations taking control. High quality relationships, which are optimized by harmonious passion, should result in higher subjective well-being within involved stakeholders within the rugby community. Therefore, whilst frustrations with ARU and Wallabies recent performances have been displayed, previous research and the plan drafted by the Australian Rugby Union has offered the rugby community some building blocks of specific goals which we need to integrate roles, needs and skills into situations which shall help identify who we are and who we want to be as a community.

One community. Identity. Integrity. From bottom to top.