Rugby Australia takes operational control of Waratahs in launch of nationwide strategic reset
Rugby Australia and the NSW Rugby Union have taken a significant step in the strategic overhaul of Australian rugby, marking the first state member union to formally endorse RA’s nationwide alignment plan.
The agreement, effective from January 1, entails the transfer of operational control for the Waratahs’ professional entities to Rugby Australia, to centralise professional rugby within Australia. This includes the high-performance operations, assets, liabilities and commercial arrangements of the Waratahs.
All existing Waratahs staff will retain their current positions.
While Rugby Australia assumes responsibility for the professional aspects, the NSW Rugby Union will continue to oversee the community game and spearhead programs aimed at growing participation and engagement with the sport throughout the state. A collaborative effort between the Waratahs, NSW Rugby and Rugby Australia is envisioned.
This strategic move will integrate and align the Waratahs’ professional operations—encompassing high-performance elements like players, coaches and support staff, as well as commercial facets such as sponsorship, marketing, membership and ticketing—with Rugby Australia’s high-performance and commercial operations. The governance of the Waratahs will be entrusted to a separate board, featuring representatives nominated by both NSW Rugby and Rugby Australia.
Paul Doorn, Chief of NSW Rugby, emphasised the need for meaningful reform, expressing concerns about the sustainability of the current federated model for professional rugby in Australia.
“We are committed to the removal of the inherent conflicts and self-interest that have constrained meaningful progress in the past, and we are committed to the alignment of the high-performance and commercial operations between our club and Rugby Australia,” Doorn said.
“We are not content to sit on the sidelines any longer on this much needed reform, and I hope all Super Rugby clubs will follow our lead as we push forward on an aligned Australian Rugby ecosystem.”
RA CEO Phil Waugh – a 79 Test Wallaby who played 136 Super Rugby matches for the Waratahs – echoed the sentiment, stressing the importance of a unified system for the future of Australian rugby.
“We have a plan that we are working on to unite the game – it will take the whole game to rebuild a system that delivers success on and off the field,” Waugh stressed.
“There may be different models across different clubs, however the Waratahs have been very clear that they see great benefits in aligning their commercial operations with RA’s, as we look to achieve maximum commercial return and efficiency for the game.”
The ultimate goal is to establish a business model that brings greater commercial success to all stakeholders in the game, with a strong belief that a fully aligned approach will deliver lasting success for Australian Super Rugby clubs and national teams. The move is positioned as an active and collaborative step toward reform within Australian Rugby’s widely acknowledged broken ecosystem.