Australian Rugby Championship
Founded2007
Abolished2007; 17 years ago (2007)
RegionAustralia
Number of teams8
Related competitions
Last championsCentral Coast Rays (2007)
Television broadcastersABC

The Australian Rugby Championship, often abbreviated to the ARC and also known as the Mazda Australian Rugby Championship for sponsorship purposes, was a domestic professional men's rugby union football competition in Australia, which ran for only one season in 2007. It was the predecessor to the also now-defunct National Rugby Championship. The competition, similar to New Zealand's ITM Cup and South Africa's Currie Cup, aimed to bridge the gap between existing club rugby and the international Super Rugby competition then known as Super 14. The ARC involved eight teams: three from New South Wales, two from Queensland, and one each from the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Western Australia.

From its inception the ARC divided many in Australian rugby, with arguments over the structure and format of the competition, and concerns that the creation of arbitrary state-based teams would undermine the strong club competitions in Sydney and Brisbane. On 18 December 2007, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) announced that the ARC would be shut down due to heavy financial losses: the ARC lost A$4.7 million during the 2007 season, with projected losses of $3.3 million for 2008.[1]

On 10 December 2013, Bill Pulver, the CEO of the Australian Rugby Union, announced a new competition along similar lines, the National Rugby Championship, to include 8 to 10 teams in "major population centres".[2]

History

The official announcement on the agreement to create a national rugby competition in Australia was made in mid-2006, following a 70-person three-day summit in Sydney that agreed to an eight team competition.[3] However, the competition was not without its share of controversy, with some of the strong state-level clubs being against the formation of a new level of competition, claiming it could harm club and grassroots rugby.[4] In September, an ARU board meeting, after hearing these concerns, officially approved the new competition.[5]

A month later, the competition kicked off, however the Queensland teams performed poorly as the East Coast Aces and Ballymore Tornadoes finished last and second last respectively.

The Perth Spirit performed the best out of the regular rounds winning six out of eight games, but due to bonus points finished third on the ladder behind the Central Coast Rays and minor premiers the Western Sydney Rams.

After the top four teams took part in the semi-finals, the Melbourne Rebels and Central Coast Rays would compete in the first and last ARC Grand Final: the Rays defeated the Rebels 20–12 to win the premiership.

After a review of the ARC was undertaken following the 2007 season, it was found that it had run $1.3 million over budget and had lost $4.7 million for the 2007 season, with forecast losses for a 2008 season coming to a further $3.3 million. The ARU, concluding that a cumulative loss of $8 million over two years would be fiscal irresponsiblity and that it was likely there would be further heavy future losses beyond 2008, immediately decided to shut down the competition.[1]

Final

Details for the only season held:

Year Final Losing semi-finalists
Winner Score Runner-up Venue City 1st 2nd
2007 Central Coast Rays 20–12 Melbourne Rebels Bluetongue Stadium Gosford, NSW Perth Spirit WS Rams

Format

Competition

The competition ran for eight weeks, with finals being competed over an additional two weeks - each side played eight games, with the top four teams qualifying for the semi-finals where the winners move into the final.[6] The competition kicked off in August, after the Super 14 and the March to July club competitions finished, and avoiding a clash with Australian under-19 and under-21 duties and the Pacific Nations Cup (in which Australia A played).[6] In total, 35 matches were played in the ARC over 10 weeks from 11 August and 14 October, with games played on Fridays and Sundays. It was originally planned that games would not be played at 'traditional' times for rugby matches, but this decision was changed when the ABC insisted that its televised games be played on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The inaugural final was played between the Central Coast Rays and the Melbourne Rebels in Gosford.[6]

Players

The timeframe of the season ensured the availability of Super 14 players (excluding Wallabies). There was no draft, and players were free to choose their team, although there was a salary cap in place.[4] Players came from local competitions (which includes Super 14 players). Each Super 14 franchise was aligned with the respective teams, except for Melbourne, as Victoria had no Super rugby team at the time.

It was planned that although 35 footballers will be on international duty for the Wallabies, over 90 Super 14 players would go into the ARC, leaving the way for over 120 footballers to step up from first grade club competitions.[7]

It was also planned that each team would have one "marquee" footballer not be subject to financial restrictions of the player contracting protocol.[8] The player could be either foreign or a non-contracted domestic footballer, and if a team signed an Australian as their marquee footballer, they would still be able to sign up a foreign footballer, though they would have to fit within the contract restrictions.

Rules

The ARU announced in June 2007 that the inaugural championship would adopt the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs), which were initially trialled at South Africa's Stellenbosch University and which aim to bring more free-flowing play into the game.[9] The laws were implemented in both the Sydney and Brisbane club competitions and were well received.[9]

Referees

The referees supplied for the tournament predominantly come from the Australian Rugby Union Panels.

Referees for the tournament included: Matt Goddard, James Leckie, James Scholtens, George Ayoub, Daniel Cheever, Brett Bowden, Andrew Lindsay and Geoff Acton.

Stuart Dickinson and Paul Marks did not referee in the tournament, as they refereed at the 2007 Rugby World Cup in France.

Media coverage

The Championship was broadcast on free-to-air television during its only season. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) secured the rights to exclusively televise the competition from 2007 through to 2009 by agreeing to accept a substantial fee from the ARU in order to cover the matches.[10]

The fact that the sport's governing organisation had to pay a television station to broadcast the Championship arguably left worrying implications for a code that was struggling to attract mainstream interest in Australia. The ABC committed to broadcast 19 matches during the season on ABC1 and ABC2: two matches from each round, the semi-finals and the final.[11]

The previous time the ABC had covered elite-level rugby was for the 1991 Rugby World Cup (which Australia won).

Regular season 2007

The eight teams played four home games and four away games each during the preliminary competition rounds, consisting of a single round-robin with each team playing each other once plus an additional return match for the "derby" fixture played in the first round (these fixtures were matches between the closest neighbouring teams in most cases). The top four teams at the end of the preliminary competition rounds qualified for the title play-offs with semi-finals and finals.

Standings

2007 Australian Rugby Championship
Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TB LB Pts
1 Western Sydney Rams 8 5 0 3 239 149 +90 5 2 27
2 Central Coast Rays 8 5 0 3 268 159 +109 5 1 26
3 Perth Spirit 8 6 0 2 210 138 +72 1 0 25
4 Melbourne Rebels 8 5 0 3 170 206 −36 4 0 24
5 Sydney Fleet 8 4 0 4 212 244 −32 3 1 20
6 Canberra Vikings 8 3 0 5 217 191 +26 4 3 19
7 Ballymore Tornadoes 8 2 0 6 180 229 −49 1 2 11
8 East Coast Aces 8 2 0 6 163 343 −180 3 0 11
Updated: 30 September 2007

Source: rugbyarchive.net
 • Teams 1 to 4 (Green background) at the end of the preliminary competition rounds qualify for the Title play-offs.

Four points for a win, two for a draw.
One bonus point for four tries or more (TB) and one bonus point for losing by seven or fewer (LB).
If teams are level on points in the standings at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
 • Difference between points for and against
 • Total number of points for
 • Number of matches won
 • Aggregate number of points scored in matches between tied teams

Competition rounds

Round 1

10 August 2007 Sydney Fleet 25–19 Central Coast Rays North Sydney Oval  
19:00 AEST Report[13] Attendance: 3,547
Referee: Matt Goddard[12]


10 August 2007 Perth Spirit 21–13 Western Sydney Rams Members Equity Stadium  
19:00 AWST Report[14] Attendance: 3,643
Referee: James Leckie


11 August 2007 Canberra Vikings 27–32 Melbourne Rebels Manuka Oval  
14.30 AEST Report[15] Attendance: 4,355
Referee: Brett Bowden[12]


12 August 2007 East Coast Aces 27–21 Ballymore Tornadoes Gold Coast Stadium  
16:00 AEST Report[16] Attendance: 2,490
Referee: Geoff Acton

Round 2

17 August 2007 Perth Spirit 8–17 Canberra Vikings Members Equity Stadium  
19.00 AWST Report[18] Attendance: 5,111
Referee: Andrew Lindsay[17]


18 August 2007 Central Coast Rays 30–39 Western Sydney Rams Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium  
15.00 AEST Report[19] Attendance: 3,201
Referee: Daniel Cheever[17]


18 August 2007 Melbourne Rebels 34–24 East Coast Aces Olympic Park Stadium  
19.30 AEST Report[20] Attendance: 4,875
Referee: James Scholtens[17]


19 August 2007 Ballymore Tornadoes 26–20 Sydney Fleet Ballymore Stadium  
16.00 AEST Report[21] Attendance: 3,389
Referee: Ian Smith[17]

Round 3

25 August 2007 Sydney Fleet 35–25 Perth Spirit North Sydney Oval  
15:10 AEST Report[22] Attendance: 2,306
Referee: Daniel Cheever


26 August 2007 Canberra Vikings 53–8 Ballymore Tornadoes Manuka Oval  
14:30 AEST Report[24] Attendance: 3,682
Referee: Julian Pritchard[23]


26 August 2007 East Coast Aces 15–44 Central Coast Rays Gold Coast Stadium  
16:00 AEST Report[25] Attendance: 1,010
Referee: Simon Moore


26 August 2007 Western Sydney Rams 31–10 Melbourne Rebels Parramatta Stadium  
16:00 AEST Report[26] Attendance: 2,016
Referee: Nathan Pearce

Round 4

31 August 2007 Melbourne Rebels 39–20 Sydney Fleet Olympic Park Stadium  
19:30 AEST Report[27] Attendance: 3,286
Referee: James Leckie


1 September 2007 Western Sydney Rams 25–7 Ballymore Tornadoes Parramatta Stadium  
15:00 AEST Report[28] Attendance: 1,601
Referee: Ian Smith


2 September 2007 Central Coast Rays 19–31 Perth Spirit Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium  
16:00 AEST Report[29] Attendance: 2,013
Referee: Matt Goddard


2 September 2007 East Coast Aces 35–34 Canberra Vikings Gold Coast Stadium  
16:00 AEST Report[31] Attendance: 784
Referee: Simon Moore[30]

Round 5

7 September 2007 Central Coast Rays 29–10 Ballymore Tornadoes Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium  
19.30 AEST Report[32] Attendance: 2,421
Referee: Daniel Cheever


8 September 2007 Perth Spirit 24–3 Melbourne Rebels Members Equity Stadium  
13.00 AWST Report[33] Attendance: 3,712
Referee: Matt Goddard


9 September 2007 Canberra Vikings 56–29 Sydney Fleet Canberra Stadium  
14.30 AWST Report[34] Attendance: 2,017
Referee: Julian Pritchard


9 September 2007 East Coast Aces 20–44 Western Sydney Rams Gold Coast Stadium  
16.00 AEST Report[35] Referee: Brett Bowden

Round 6

15 September 2007 Perth Spirit 60–15 East Coast Aces Members Equity Stadium  
13.00 AWST Report[36] Attendance: 3,117
Referee: Julian Pritchard


15 September 2007 Sydney Fleet 24–17 Western Sydney Rams North Sydney Oval  
15.00 AEST Report[37] Attendance: 3,241
Referee: Nathan Pearce


16 September 2007 Canberra Vikings 13–17 Central Coast Rays Manuka Oval  
14.30 AEST Report[39] Attendance: 3,714
Referee: Brett Bowden[38]


16 September 2007 Ballymore Tornadoes 25–34 Melbourne Rebels Ballymore Stadium  
16.00 AEST Report[40] Attendance: 1,478
Referee: James Scholtens[38]

Round 7

22 September 2007 Melbourne Rebels 7–55 Central Coast Rays Olympic Park Stadium  
15.00 AEST Report[42] Referee: Julian Pritchard[41]


22 September 2007 Western Sydney Rams 51–17 Canberra Vikings Parramatta Stadium  
19.30 AEST Report[43] Attendance: 2,139
Referee: James Leckie


23 September 2007 Ballymore Tornadoes 17–21 Perth Spirit Ballymore Stadium  
16.00 AEST Report[44] Referee: Brett Bowden


23 September 2007 Sydney Fleet 40–7 East Coast Aces North Sydney Oval  
16.00 AEST Report[45] Attendance: 1,536
Referee: James Scholtens

Round 8

29 September 2007 Ballymore Tornadoes 66–20 East Coast Aces Ballymore Stadium  
15.00 AEST Report[47] Referee: Simon Moore[46]


29 September 2007 Western Sydney Rams 19–20 Perth Spirit Parramatta Stadium  
19.30 AEST Report[48] Attendance: 1,612
Referee: Matt Goddard[46]


30 September 2007 Central Coast Rays 55–19 Sydney Fleet Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium  
16.00 AEST Report[49] Attendance: 1,658
Referee: Nathan Pearce[46]


30 September 2007 Melbourne Rebels 11–0 Canberra Vikings Olympic Park Stadium  
16.00 AEST Report[50] Attendance: 1,753
Referee: James Leckie[46]

Title play-offs 2007

The top four sides in the regular season advanced to the knock-out stage of semi-finals and final to decide the Australian Rugby Championship title.

Semi-finals

6 October 2007 Central Coast Rays 27–19 Perth Spirit Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium  
15:10 AEST Try: Peter Hewat 41' c
Ben Jacobs 60' c
Sam Norton-Knight 72' c
Con: Peter Hewat (3/3) 42', 61', 73'
Pen: Peter Hewat (2/2) 68', 80'
Report 1[51]
Report 2[52]
Try: Sitaleki Timani 24' c
Con: Luke McLean (1/1) 25'
Pen: Scott Daruda (1/1) 7'
Luke McLean (3/4) 20', 26', 50'
Attendance: 1,818
Referee: James Leckie


7 October 2007 Western Sydney Rams 3–23 Melbourne Rebels Parramatta Stadium  
16:10 AEST Pen: Ben Martin (1/1) 38' Report 1[53]
Report 2[54]
Try: Richard Stanford 11' c
James Lew 20' m
Digby Ioane 47' m
Con: Jack Farrer (1/3) 12'
Pen: Jack Farrer (2/2) 24', 57'
Attendance: 1,512
Referee: Nathan Pearce

Grand Final

13 October 2007 Central Coast Rays 20–12 Melbourne Rebels Bluetongue Central Coast Stadium  
15:00 AEST Try: Beau Robinson 21' c
Peter Hewat 38' c
Con: Peter Hewat (2/2) 22', 39'
Pen: Peter Hewat (2/3) 29', 68'
Cards: Andrew Smith yellow card 62' to 72'
Report[55]
Summary[56]
Try: James Hanson 9' c
David Croft 64' m
Con: Jack Farrer (1/2) 10'
Attendance: 1,189
Referee: Matt Goddard

Players 2007

Squad lists

Team squad lists for the 2007 ARC:

See also

References

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