MISPLACED PRIORITIES: Ipswich Rangers president Rohan McPhail believes rugby union has become a corporate game which has ignored the everyday supporter.
MISPLACED PRIORITIES: Ipswich Rangers president Rohan McPhail believes rugby union has become a corporate game which has ignored the everyday supporter.

Rugby must get back to grassroots

IPSWICH Rangers president Rohan McPhail thinks Rugby Australia must shift its focus back to community rugby in the wake of Raelene Castle's departure from the CEO role.

McPhail said the code had neglected the grassroots for too long and coronavirus had presented an opportunity to reset expectations.

"Rugby has been top heavy and self-indulgent," he said.

"They have been looking after themselves at the top. The game lost its focus on community rugby 10 years ago They need to turn the pyramid upside down, so the money funnels downwards. All they have left now is community and Premier Rugby. They will be lucky to get a couple of Tests in at the end of the year. The best hope to watch a game of rugby this year is at premier and community level. The premier clubs may yet have their wings clipped if they can't have crowds of more than 500 people but that won't impact us because we don't get 500, so community rugby could be the big winner out of all of this."

After the mess Castle left at the Canterbury Bulldogs and her efforts with Rugby Australia, McPhail is admittedly not her greatest supporter.

He does, however, question the timing of her sacking.

"The government's cheque book is open but we have no one to talk to the government (on the game's behalf)," he said.

"We are a rudderless ship in the most tumultuous of waters. The timing was poor. Did she have to go - she probably did but the timing was atrocious. She could have got a few TV deals done in the next few months before knifing her. There is nobody fighting for the game of rugby. I think egos were a big part of it and it just shows where the game is at. This was a good opportunity to reset where rugby was in this country and the game could have really benefited."

Issues facing Rugby Australia are being felt around the globe. While junior numbers here are to fall by 3.5 per cent in this most extraordinary of years, New Zealand is expecting to see a marked participation downturn of 25 per cent.

McPhail said there was no doubt this year's figures would be skewed significantly but they were still cause for concern because there was a risk the kids would not come back.

He said rugby appeared to be on the nose world wide and had not been managed well at a global level.

"It's become a corporate sport rather than one for everyday punters," he said.

"We need to get back to grassroots rugby."