Paul Cully: Don't even think about axing the ACT Brumbies from Super Rugby

The Brumbies, who have won two Super Rugby titles, celebrate after their 2004 final victory over the Crusaders.

The Brumbies, who have won two Super Rugby titles, celebrate after their 2004 final victory over the Crusaders.

OPINION: What I know is that the SANZAAR parties did come away from their meeting in London last week with an agreed model for Super Rugby.

What I strongly believe, just short of official confirmation, is that that model includes the cutting of one Australian franchise.

What I hope is that any proposed cut categorically excludes the ACT Brumbies.

Let's be clear: relocation to Melbourne, one of the rumours of the week, would be extinction by any other name.

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You cannot have the Brumbies without Canberra or the wider ACT. The club is a reflection of the community around it. And you cannot understand the importance of sporting club side like the Brumbies unless you have lived in a town deemed unfashionable by the rest of the country. It becomes part of the fabric of that town.

Jake White got it, no matter what you thought of him as a coach. He got the fact that special teams were often formed in smaller communities where the bonds between the players could be tighter.

He tapped into that with instant effect. To this day the only reason he didn't win the Super Rugby competition in 2013 is Aaron Cruden, and a desperate covering tackle he made on Clyde Rathbone in the final in Hamilton.

Of course, the bonds between the Brumbies and Canberra have been tested over the past five years.

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Boardroom theatrics have not helped that, nor perhaps has the style of play they have employed at times.

They have become too beige for my own personal liking, too dependent on a pattern of play that I didn't even think was serving them well when they got to the pointy end of the competition or opposed to New Zealand teams that had their own bar raised by the Chiefs.

But I always respected them. I always felt they stood for something. They're a family. They're Christian Lealiifano's family. They had an identity about them.

And they represented something I feel is unique to Australian rugby: they innovate and pull tighter together out of necessity.

Even their dreaded lineout maul tactic is part of that. They identified a tactic that was exceptionally well-suited to their profile of player and boy, did they perfect it. Repetition. Accuracy. Professionalism. Intelligence.

Oh, and by the way, here's list of teams that have had their pants pulled down in Canberra over the past five years. The Blues, the Chiefs, the Hurricanes, the Highlanders and mob called the British and Irish Lions.

I have steered clear of Brumbies history. I could have talked endlessly about the Finegans (now there was a player), the Roffs, the Gregans and Larkhams and Giffins (hugely underrated) and all those blokes but the world is moving so quickly these days that it seems like pointless nostalgia.

But what I will say is that although that golden era has passed the importance of having a team in Canberra has not.

Talk to me about the importance of Melbourne as a advertising market and my blood runs cold.

The Rebels look lost down there, and it's not entirely their own fault. 

I lived in Melbourne for six months and can hand on heart say that its fanaticism for AFL outstrips the importance of Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow (and without the sectarianism) and indeed the place modern New Zealand holds for the All Blacks.

All the Rebels can ever hope for there is carving out a niche.

But players don't spill blood for a niche. Players don't fill with pride to wear the jersey of a niche.

This may all be for nought. The South Africans may scupper the plan to cut teams or the ARU may have no intention to touch the Brumbies.

Still, the current silence unsettles me. Process is being followed but I urge strongly: don't let it lead to Canberra.   

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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