It is 19 years to the day that professional rugby began in an attempt to keep rugby competitive against money being thrown at players from rugby league and we then started having Super Rugby after signing a $550 million dollar broadcasting deal. Has rugby turning professional been good for the game?
It is an interesting situation, because in the amateur days there were less games, less player movement and players were smaller and easier to relate to. Love it or hate it, but there is a part of me that loved the amateur days when the NPC featured players mainly playing for their home provinces and even NPC games drew large crowds. Rugby was the main ticket in town in those days and everyone seemed to have a connection to the players. The NPC actually drew quality players including All Blacks and there was so much depth in New Zealand rugby.
Rugby has since in many ways lost the connection to the fans with heaps of player movement and more games meaning that each game has less meaning. I loved the NPC more in the past than I do now, but it has become more of a developmental competition.
Rugby had to open the doors to professionalism at some stage, otherwise players would leave to the Australian NRL rugby league competition or other sports.
Sure, the lure of the All Blacks jersey is huge, but players would have to make a living and so it had to happen.
Professionalism has changed the game, players are better than they used to be. They are bigger, stronger and faster as they can train full time. Professionalism is needed to keep rugby players from going to other codes in order to make a living, but I must say that I used to love rugby more in the amateur days as the ITM Cup had the All Blacks playing and was of a high standard, while the All Blacks played less games so each match was more meaningful. Making money seemed like less of a priority, although this probably isn’t sustainable anymore and we probably had to move with the times.
19 Years Later, Is Professionalism in Rugby A Good Thing?