Melbourne has been selected as the new Super Franchise rugby team. Melbourne will join the 14 other teams for the 2011 competition.
Although I usually only cover world rugby at the international level (just a question of time available) I am posting this article as it is very important to rugby where I live-Tasmania. Yes little, out-of-the-way and off-the-world-rugby-track Tasmania.
Rugby in Tasmania is very much a minor football code. Aussie rules (AFL) is THE winter sport here, with the locals following their favoured AFL team with a passion and fanaticism similar to that seen in Victoria. So rugby struggles. There is a senior men's statewide competition involving 5 Hobart teams, and one each from Launceston, Devonport (my home town) and Burnie.
With the advent of Melbourne becoming the 15th Super Rugby franchise Tasmanians now have a pathway to play professional rugby. Rugby in Melbourne is a lot stronger than in Tasmania. I'd expect one or two local Melbourne players to pick up a contract with the new franchise but would not expect any Tasmanians to get the nod. Not yet.
To start with most of the Melbourne players will come from inter-state; top club players from Sydney or Brisbane not required by their local franchise. With a little more sense in what areas can be covered by Super 15 Franchises, I'd like to see the way open for Pacific Islanders to be included-players from Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands-to boost the playing strength of teams like Melbourne, who may struggle if the net is not cast wider than just Aussie rugby players.
The 2011 Super 15 competition will be run differently to what we saw in Super 12 and Super 14 tournaments. Each SANZAR nation now has five teams, or what will be called a conference. There will be a New Zealand Conference, an Australian Conference and a South Africa Conference. Each conference will play a home-away series firstly and then play eight teams from the other conferences on a home-or-away basis. This will mean a good number of local derbies to be played in Melbourne, giving us Tasmanians a chance to see some of these games, an even a chance for a game each season to be played either in Hobart or Launceston. It is certainly exciting news for the rugby locals.
So what about a name for this new franchise? You can't use 'Storm', 'Force' or 'Hurricane'.
Post some ideas here. What are your ideas?