Triumphant Brisbane City coach Nick Stiles has argued for the future of the under-threat National Rugby Championship after his outfit claimed the inaugural title.
Although crowds and television ratings suggested only moderate success, Stiles said the new third-tier competition would only improve with continued Australian Rugby Union backing and had numerous benefits.
The former Wallabies prop and Queensland Reds assistant coach does not want to see Brisbane – 37-26 winners over Perth Spirit in Saturday night’s decider – go down in history with the 2007 Melbourne Rebels.
The Rebels were inaugural winners of the Australian Rugby Championship but that attempt at a third-tier competition lasted only one season before being scrapped by former ARU boss John O’Neill due to its high costs.
The ARU would not have lifted the nine-team NRC off the ground this season if not for Fox Sports but the cable television sports broadcasters, who televised one game per week plus finals, are considering their future involvement.
Stiles said there were many benefits of the NRC for the cash-strapped code, shown by the development of rising stars, continued action for Super Rugby players and the opportunity for Wallabies to return from injuries.
“This competition will only get better each year,” he said.
“We’ve seen so much benefit for Reds players, Wallabies players working their way back from injuries and club players coming up into the competition and being exposed to rugby of a high standard.
“And that’s the only way we’re going to get stronger.
“That’s how Australian rugby as a whole is going to improve.”
Stiles tipped a flow-on affect for Super Rugby’s Queensland Reds from City’s success – which came largely through the efforts of Reds back-rowers Jake Schatz, Liam Gill and Curtis Browning.
Captain David McDuling, Papua New Guinea-born prop Pettowa Paraka and winger Chris Kuridrani were also stand-outs for Brisbane who finished third at the end of the regular season before upsetting NSW Country in their Gosford semi-final.
Unbeaten minor premiers Melbourne Rising and Perth had been tipped to thrive due to the large stocks of Super Rugby talent at their disposal but neither side could win their biggest matches.
Despite exposing a number of potential stars to higher-level rugby, the NRC was also hurt by the lack of consistency from the four Sydney-based teams – none of whom were directly affiliated with the NSW Waratahs.
Notably, the Sydney University-dominated Stars lost their first seven matches before a final-round victory.