Greg Growden's early rugby Christmas wish list

Those masters of dilly-dallying, otherwise known as Australian Rugby Union officials, are really hot-footing it to find a new chief executive officer. After all, the departing boss Bill Pulver admitted a fortnight ago that he expected the ARU to name a replacement by Christmas.


That's more than three months away. So, the ARU will basically remain rudderless until the end of the year -- at a time when leadership is drastically required to repair a shattered Australian rugby landscape.

Then again, such stalling tactics are nothing new for the Australian Procrastination Union. Remember the "48-72 hours" timeline the ARU said it would require to determine whether the Melbourne Rebels or Western Force would be cut from the Super Rugby competition? That decision instead took another 123 days.

If it is going to take until December to wheel out a new CEO, then we might as well get in our Christmas Gift suggestions early -- as oodles of time is clearly required for anything to be achieved or secured at St Leonards.

So here's my rugby Christmas list.

One Wallabies Test win of note

None so far this year. It is now only eight wins and a draw from 21 Tests since the last Rugby World Cup, and Australia have sunk from second to fifth in the world rankings.

A backrow star

The discovery of a dynamic 200cm 110kg dynamo who can play either No. 8 or blindside flanker for the Wallabies to lift Australia's backrow play from its present mediocre level. Is there anybody out there?

A scrum

One Test where the Wallabies scrum actually holds up every time. I know I'm asking a lot, but it is Christmas we're talking about. The Wallabies have an off-field staff of thousands and endless weeks in training camps, so it's time for everyone to earn their keep.

A team

A Wallabies team that runs onto the field with 15 obligatory, top-notch selections and none who are only there because they're the best of a very ordinary lot.

A round of applause

Can we once head to the Wallabies coaches box during a Test and see Michael Cheika actually applaud a refereeing decision?

Speed is the essence

Please, please, please let us have one TMO decision that doesn't take as long as 48-72 hours. Really, how many times does a video referee need to watch an incident before making a decision? Compare it to rugby league and The Bunker. The NRL system is subject often to negative perceptions, particularly after the Manly and Sharks matches in the first round of the finals last weekend, but decisions usually are made within seconds. So, the game flows. Viewers stay awake, and don't switch elsewhere.

Also referees are getting gun-shy, too often going to the TMO when they can easily adjudicate on what has happened only centimetres from them. Referees should be fearless, not fearful.

A super rugby tournament

Come up with a Super Rugby format that is fair, interesting and makes one want to watch what has become an ever-deflating, ever-confusing competition. Actually, start again because Super Rugby, after 20 years, has run its race. It's time for a serious revamp. Too many teams have diluted the product -- especially as so many of the sides have passengers.

This competition had to be cut back from 18 to 15 teams ... probably fewer. The only problem this time around was the wrong Australian team was culled. No wonder there is going to be a senate inquiry.

A gardener

Those in charge provide the funds to water the grass. Water the roots. Club football to again get financial support from those at the top. Then again, considering the ARU's poor recent record, it is probably best if they stay right away. As this year's successful Shute Shield competition showed, committed volunteers with a real passion for the game do a far better job in nurturing the code than those who use it as a networking tool. But they need help. You listening, Twiggy?

A new focus

Those in charge to again realise the success of the Wallabies must be their prime focus rather than getting distracted by the soft feel-good offshoots such as Sevens football, which are interesting but not imperative. The ARU taking their eyes off the main game has led to the disintegration of the prime product. So many ills will be cured if the Wallabies start winning again. And watch the punters return to revitalise the code.

A forrest

Let Twiggy Forrest do whatever he likes to improve rugby. He at least understands the importance and free publicity that emanates from intense tribalism. If that means revamping the National Rugby Championship, all well and good because currently the tournament lacks appeal. As for a proposed Indo-Pacific breakaway competition luring a crowd; good luck!

And the most important gift of all ...


The ARU ensures it replaces Bill Pulver with a competent, diligent, forward-thinking innovator who is prepared to show his face and provide leadership in times of need.

The ARU CEO position may not be the most appealing going around at the moment, especially with the threat of senate inquiries, outrage on one side of the country, and local teams losing their way; but for someone who loves a real challenge, this position must hold some sort of masochistic appeal. Most importantly, the ARU board must choose the best person for the job, not someone who is a mate of a mate of a mate of a mate. Then, and only then, will the ARU be taken seriously.