Mortlock warns powerbrokers about agendas
December 12, 2013
Melbourne Rebels' Stirling Mortlock rallies his side, Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels, Super Rugby, Canberra Stadium, Canberra, Australia, June 10, 2011
Stirling Mortlock believes the national championship is vital to the development of Australian rugby © Getty Images

Australian rugby powerbrokers must put agendas aside to ensure the success of the National Rugby Championship, Stirling Mortlock says.

Australia has staged several second- and third-tier competitions in various formats since the 1960s, most recently the Australian Rugby Championship that survived just one season, in 2007, but Australian Rugby Union (ARU) chief executive Bill Pulver insists steps have been put in place to ensure the national championship announced on Monday won't be a financial disaster when the concept is revived in 2014.

Pulver is confident Australia finally will have a domestic competition to rival the ITM Cup of New Zealand and the Currie Cup of South Africa, with a broadcasting and sponsorship deal with Fox Sports and Foxtel to cover the running costs, freeing the union of any financial burden, and Mortlock hopes for the sake of the code in Australia that he is right.

The All Blacks and the Springboks are the only national teams ranked ahead of the Wallabies, and Mortlock believes Australia must be on an even playing field with their two southern hemisphere rivals at a development level below the national team.

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"Without a doubt we've been crying out for this for a long, long time, and you'd argue that it's been too long," Mortlock said on Wednesday. "New Zealand have got the ITM Cup, South Africa have got the Currie Cup. We don't have any equivalent.

"This will give us that tier competition that we've been after, and it will be a great opportunity to get a bridge between club and provincial rugby, which is what we so desperately need. It's so important for us to have, and the political powers that be need to understand how important it is for Australian rugby to grow and to put agendas aside to make this work."

The ARU is yet to finalise the mechanics of the competition, but the championship will run from August until November with eight to 10 teams. All Super Rugby players not involved with the Wallabies will be required to play.

"The how is still to be nutted out, and the devil is always in the detail," Mortlock said. "But it's nice that it looks as though it's going to be funded, and it's going to be on TV as well. So there's a lot of positive foundations, but there's still a lot of things that need to be agreed to and I'm not privy to those at this stage. But first and foremost, I think it's a fantastic result for Australian rugby in general."


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