Rugby union has been the focus of off-field controversies over the past few months but Brumbies coach Dan McKellar believes there is a solution to the problem.
Fans are divided and disillusioned with the sport as Rugby Australia has dealt with the controversy of Israel Folau social media posts, causing the governing body to tear up his $4 million contract.
McKellar believes the game can recuperate with the help of positive talk and matches being broadcasted to every TV across the nation for free.
“We need to get the sport on free-to-air,” McKellar said on Wednesday afternoon (22 May). “Whoever is doing the next television deal, make sure that happens so that all the kids have access to see the best players running around.
“We have got to make sure every little boy and girl in the country has access to them and aspires to play rugby union and has the choice.
“At the moment we’re sort of hidden away. FOX is tremendous in their support of the game but I think free-to-air would certainly be a real positive change.”
In the meantime, McKellar said his side will focus on playing attractive rugby to bring fans back to GIO Stadium. The Brumbies have won their past five games at home and will get a chance to extend that record when they play the Bulls at GIO Stadium tonight (24 May).
“All we can do is get our preparation right and perform well on weekends and put on a good product for our fans, sponsors and stakeholders then hopefully they’ll come back and drag a few more people along,” he said.
“People will come back, we just need to keep going on the path we are on. People love the game, it’s the people that are sort of 50-50 that sit on the fence. At the moment they’re on the other side of the fence and we have to bring them back.”
The Brumbies came under criticism for their game style by former Brumbies and Wallabies lock Justin Harrison, who accused the Brumbies of playing “pedestrian” rugby. McKellar said it is time the rugby community banded together and stopped “bashing” the sport.
“Let’s just talk positively about the game. We’ve got rugby union people that are bashing rugby union, why are we doing that?” McKellar said.
“We are starting to see the benefits of four teams and two Australian sides might sneak into the finals. We’ve got a World Cup this year in Japan and the Wallabies have proven in the past that they perform well at World Cups.
“Let’s start talking about the good things and the footy instead of worrying about beating ourselves up all the time.”
Brumbies vs Bulls
7:45 pm, Friday 24 May
Buy tickets here.
Brumbies: 1. Scott Sio, 2. Folau Faingaa, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 4. Rory Arnold, 5. Sam Carter, 6. Tom Cusack, 7. Jahrome Brown, 8. Pete Samu, 9. Joe Powell, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Toni Pulu, 12. Irae Simone, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 14. Henry Speight, 15. Tom Banks. Reserves: 16. Connal McInerney, 17. James Slipper, 18. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Darcy Swain, 20. Murray Douglas, 21. Rob Valetini, 22. Ryan Lonergan 23. Tom Wright.