Veenstra says Country side in NRC unlikely

CENTRAL West Rugby Union chief executive officer Peter Veenstra admits basing a National Rugby Championship (NRC) franchise in Country NSW would pose both players and administrators with a huge task.

Designed to excite fans and provide a bridge from club rugby into Super Rugby and the Wallabies system, a regenerated form of the 2007-run Australian Rugby Championship is being flagged as a major vote of confidence in rugby Australia wide.

But basing a team west of the mountains in 2014 is little more than a dream, literally.

“It’s big dollars. And that sort of money isn’t even a dream for country rugby,” Veenstra said.

“There has been no discussion with Country Rugby Union from the ARU, with regard to a country-based team.”

The competition is planning on having between eight and 10 sides, with as many as three based out of the Sydney metropolitan basin and further franchises set to call Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and the ACT home.

Running from August until November, the championship’s success also hinges on both Sydney and Brisbane club rugby premierships working their draw to finish in time.

That’s a feat Veenstra says is yet to be achieved.

A commission is looking for expressions of interest from budding areas or clubs by January 13, 2014.

Successful teams are expected to be announced by the end of February next year.

They’ll be selected based on a number of criteria including financial performance, professional team staffing structure and environment, a commitment to player development, venue facilities, links to Super Rugby clubs and current or potential fan base

Veenstra believes a Country team would garner huge support and the facilities, namely Mudgee’s Glen Willow, would rival any used by the team’s city-based cousins.

But dollars, and lots of them, will be the biggest hurdle.

“You’re looking at a very expensive exercise,” he said.

“You’re talking, these are semi-professional teams. A person would have to be released from work from August until November. 

“That in itself would prove to be significant. A significant number of country origin players already play in Sydney clubs because they realise they want to go to that next level. They’ve got to be down there to be seen.

“It would certainly gain some tribal support from country people,” he added.

“But you have to think carefully where you’d base that team. The other teams would obviously have to travel out, there’s significant cost in that. We’ve certainly got the facilities to handle this, and Glen Willow springs to mind straight away.”

Contracted Super Rugby players and those knocking on the door of Super Rugby will be spread between the selected franchises.

Despite a team unlikely to be based near the Central West, another franchise bringing a home game to the region was still a possibility.

“Absolutely, I think the ARU and NSW Rugby Union and the franchises realise you’ve got to get out into regional areas and the Waratahs’ first trial game next year will be in Albury. Which is the heart of AFL,” Veenstra added.

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