There is support for grassroots rugby coming from the Australian Rugby Union (ARU), and there will be more on the way.
That’s the message ARU chief executive officer Bill Pulver delivered at Orange Emus on Friday afternoon, he was on hand as the guest speaker at the club’s annual long lunch.
He didn’t shy away from the tough questions either, mostly revolved around the perceived lack of funding and support for regional areas which, of course, Emus and Central West Rugby Union fall into.
“There is money coming to grassroots rugby,” Pulver said.
“We’ll invest three million dollars this year, it goes from the ARU to the state unions, then they distribute. We’re sort of three steps removed, but ultimately we are providing funding.
“I do think it’s a real problem (though), three million into grassroots is not enough and that’s just the direct funding into the states, we put in the range of seven, eight million dollars in total but that still isn’t enough.”
Pulver and the others in charge at the ARU have copped plenty of criticism recently regarding the issue, along with the controversy surrounding the cutting of one of Australia’s five Super Rugby franchises.
That, though, is one thing which could heavily impact the allocation of funding for grassroots areas.
“It’s interesting, because we’re getting a lot of flak from the idea of cutting a Super Rugby team and I get that,” Pulver said.
There is money coming to grassroots rugby.ARU CEO Bill Pulver
“I feel like I’m a parent paddling down a river with my five children in the boat, and I’m about to throw one out so the other four can survive.
“That’s not a lot of fun, to be honest, but it is specifically designed to free up funds so we can accommodate a better investment in grassroots rugby.
“We invest 30 million a year (into Super Rugby) … we’ve decided to take a bit of that and put it back into the community game.”
There has been suggestions from plenty that seeing the NSW Waratahs bring some Super Rugby fixtures to the bush would be one way to support regional areas.
However, that presents significant challenges, which is part of the reason the National Rugby Championship (NRC) was established.
“I think it would be beneficial if they could get some games in key regional areas, but I acknowledge that’s not an easy thing to do … the Waratahs only have eight home games,” Pulver explained.
“Country areas in NSW and Qeensland combined make up 50 per cent of the Australian rugby playing population, so when we launched the NRC we made the NSW and Queensland Country teams available for that reason.
“I was here in Orange [when the NSW Country Eagles played Melbourne], it was a fabulous day, so we’re definitely trying to get elite rugby into the country areas.”
Pulver lauded the Central West region as well.
“Central West (Rugby Union) is doing some terrific things to grow the game,” he said.
You are growing the junior base, running women’s teams and have a successful men’s competition, there’s some great work.”
Pulver took questions from the bumper crowd at Emus at Friday’s long lunch, which kicks off the club’s extended 70th anniversary celebrations this year.
“The fun part of my job is when I get out to real rugby clubs and Orange is a fabulous rugby city, with a long rugby history,” he said.