Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Bond still strong between Robbie and Crusaders

By DAVID LONG, Sunday News
Sunday, 22 February 2009

The ties may be cut, but the bond remains as strong as ever between Robbie Deans and the Crusaders. The most successful coach in Super 14 history might have moved to the other side of the Tasman and relinquished the reins at the Crusaders to Todd Blackadder but a soft spot remains in his heart for the team.

"While I've got responsibilities here (in Australia), I wish them well," Deans told Sunday News.
"I left on good terms and I played a big role in ensuring the place would continue after I left, as I hope it does. I hope that anyone who is able to usurp them and goes beyond them has to genuinely earn that right, because the Crusaders have created something special. There are still a special group of people there who will do them (the team) proud."

Deans was in Canberra on Saturday night watching the Crusaders play the Brumbies a week after watching them on TV beat the Chiefs.
Watching the Super 14 this season has been an unusual experience for him.

"I watched more rugby last weekend than I've ever watched in a weekend and it's the first time I haven't been responsible for a team at this time of the year," he said."It was good to be able to watch with my family and enjoy it and it was nice to be able to watch rugby without anything being at stake."

Since the Wallabies' end-of-season tour last year Deans has at last been able to catch his breath and properly relocate to Sydney, moving into a rented house rather than living in a hotel.
Meanwhile, Deans has given a stark warning to New Zealand rugby to look after club rugby or risk the sport ending up like it is in Australia.

Across the ditch rugby competes with league, soccer, cricket and AFL. And Deans fears rugby in New Zealand could head down the same path.

"Both countries have to maintain that connection with the clubs and the geographical areas where players emanate from," Deans said."What New Zealand is looking at Australia to learn from is they could head very fast to being in a competitive market, as competitive as this (in Australia) if they don't cater for those core tenants. We're very aware of them and we're catering for those needs and finding the solutions. None of us can afford to be complacent and the challenges are consistent but were coming at them from different points."

Australia's third tier, the Australian Rugby Championship, only lasted one season with CEO John O'Neill scrapping it after the 2007 campaign.
Deans doesn't feel Australia is missing out by not having its own version of the Air New Zealand Cup and says when the Super rugby season is extended to six months in 2011 it will no longer be financially viable for New Zealand to have a professional NPC.

"The domestic competition has been a valuable part of New Zealand rugby and has given exposure to the next generation," Deans said."Obviously, New Zealand has got a greater history of domestic rugby (than Australia) but that has been usurped now by Super rugby. Since professionalism, both countries have tried to maintain three tiers of professionalism and it's just not sustainable.You look at the current economic climate and that's even less sustainable. The reality is you can't maintain three professional tiers of rugby, so you're going to end up with two. What that looks like, no one knows. The discussions are going on and the permutations are enormous. But we're going to get there."

"It's going to look different but it won't involve a professional NPC and a professional Super Rugby competition that goes across the year. People on both sides of the Tasman are contemplating all this now."

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