Melburnians ‘Super’ confident for Super15




Rival Melbourne Super Rugby interests are confident they can work together to mount a unified bid, which Australian Rugby Union boss John O’Neill says must be “drop dead gorgeous” to secure the competition’s 15th licence.

The ARU board on Tuesday endorsed Melbourne as Australia’s only contender for the new team in the 2011 Super 15 competition.

However, the ARU decided to ask the three parties from Victoria to join forces in a bid to maximise Australia’s prospects of securing the 15th licence.

Melbourne got the nod ahead of other bids from Western Sydney, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, while NSW Country withdrew from the process last week.

Disappointed Gold Coast bid chief Terry Jackman described the expression of interest process as a “charade” while the Western Sydney team was “particularly disappointed” by the decision, according to ARU deputy chief executive Matt Carroll, who broke the news to all of the applicants on Wednesday morning.

ARU managing director and chief executive officer O’Neill told reporters on Wednesday that, while each of the three Victorian parties had “a lot going for them … together they were irresistible”.

A South African Rugby Union backed side, the Southern Kings, is considered the most serious threat to Melbourne’s Super 15 bid for the licence, while the New Zealand Rugby Union will on Thursday decide whether to endorse a bid from Taranaki.

The call on who wins the Super 15 licence will be made by the SANZAR executive committee on October 31, most likely in Tokyo, with the decision needing to be unanimous.

“That’s why we have to make this Melbourne bid absolutely drop dead gorgeous,” O’Neill said.

The three interested Melbourne parties are the Victorian Rugby Union, the VicSuper 15 group headed by legendary former Wallabies flyhalf Mark Ella, and the Belgravia Group, which is associated with the Melbourne Victory A-League franchise.

Asked if he thought the three Victorian parties could work together, O’Neill said: “We will soon find out.”

His deputy, Carroll, said the ARU would meet with them all next week.

Victorian Rugby Union chief executive Gary Gray described the announcement of Melbourne’s Super 15 endorsement by the ARU as “great news” and was optimistic it could work with the other parties.

“We have already had intensive discussions with Melbourne Victory and we have spoken with Mark (Ella),” Gray told AAP.

“The VRU has always had an open mind and open shoulders about welcoming anyone about joining us at the table.”

Both Gray and Ella (pictured) had no doubt their groups could work together despite the presence in the VicSuper 15 team of three former VRU members.

“It won’t be a problem, at the end of the day we are all working for the same cause and that’s to get the team in Melbourne and that’s our main thoughts at the moment,” Ella said.

“I’m sure for the sake of the game we could all work together.

“We’re happy to work with these guys and we always plan to work with them to ensure we can get on with this.”

O’Neill and Carroll stressed the three Victorian Super 15 bid teams each had different strengths.

“The VRU bring the community, Belgravia bring expertise in running a franchise and the VicSuper 15 bring a sound business plan,” Carroll said.

O’Neill said Australia’s bid for the licence needed to be “absolutely robust, absolutely foolproof”.

He said it was a big step up for the VRU to go from running a community based operation of about 12,000 players to running a franchise with annual turnover of $6-8 million dollars.

He offered some hope to Gold Coast and Western Sydney, saying both were perfectly positioned if the Australian conference in the Super Rugby competition expanded to six or seven teams.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.