Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne speaks to the media in Sydney.
Rugby Australia chairman Cameron Clyne speaks to the media in Sydney.

‘Incredibly difficult’: Rugby Australia’s $3.8m loss

RUGBY Australia has announced an operational deficit of $3.8m for 2017, a divisive year which chairman Cameron Clyne acknowledged as "incredibly difficult" for the game.

RA revealed the 2017 results after its annual general meeting in Sydney on Monday.

The organisation actually recorded a surplus of $17.8m in 2017 but $21.6m was gifted as government funding for the plush new RA head offices at Moore Park.

In a media release, RA said its books took a hit on multiple fronts, including poor ticket sales for Tests as well as other "one off costs" relating to its controversial decision to cut the Force from Super Rugby.

The organisation acknowledged its move to cull the Force "greatly impacted the overall public sentiment around rugby" but said the benefits were yet to come.

"It was made to secure the game's immediate financial health and to allow the organisation to direct more meaningful investment to community rugby, which is a priority for RA in 2018."

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Clyne, who oversaw the cull process in conjunction with former chief executive Bill Pulver, elaborated further.

"2017 was an incredibly difficult year for Australian rugby," Clyne said.

"The difficult decision to remove a Super Rugby team was made with the game's best interests at heart, but it resulted in a great deal of hardship.

"Ultimately, we believe the decision will strengthen our code in the long term.

"We want to be able to invest more significantly in community rugby, something we have often been unable to do confidently over the past five years.

"We also want to improve our performances at the highest levels of the game and we will continue to invest in our new collaborative high performance model."

RA also reflected on some positives, including the impressive growth of sevens and women's rugby.

Female participation climbed by 53 per cent in club XVs and 47 per cent in sevens while RA has also launched the University Sevens and Super W competitions.

Indigenous participation rose by 134 per cent, owing largely to the success of the 'Deadly' sevens program in schools.

RA's primary schools program 'Game On' provided 56,374 students with an introduction to rugby, with 68 per cent of participants from government schools and 40 per cent female.

Other initiatives included the national 'blue card' trial to improve concussion management and the establishment of a national high performance panel helmed by RA vice chairman Brett Robinson.

Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle speaks next to Cameron Clyne.
Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle speaks next to Cameron Clyne.

Pulver has been replaced as chief executive by former Bulldogs NRL and Netball New Zealand boss Raelene Castle.

"Despite the significant challenges of the past year, there were some great highlights including huge participation growth in women's rugby and indigenous rugby, and the inaugural Aon Uni 7s and advent of the Buildcorp Super W competitions to bolster our female pathways," Clyne said.

"At the community level we have also made great advancements in improving the safety of our game, which is crucial to continue to attract young boys and girls into the sport.

"I also want to thank our outgoing board directors and former Rugby Australia CEO Bill Pulver for their outstanding service to Australian rugby."