Marinos spoke of the importance of growing the game from the bottom up and conceded the code was well in the shadows of the NRL and AFL but said the quickest way to flip the narrative was for the Wallabies to return to their former glory.
It has been 20 years since the Wallabies set the world on fire and a common theme in Marinos’ first press conference was the “inextricable” link between Wallaby success and the overall health of the game in Australia.
“You can’t be successful off the field if you’re not successful on the field,” Marinos said. “That’s our biggest challenge; to improve our high performance and get a competitive and winning team. It makes the rest of the business a lot easier to manage and drive commercial value throughout.”
As for Rennie, whose first year in charge yielded one win, three draws and two losses, Marinos has put faith in the Wallabies coach.
“That’s certainly not my role or style to stick my nose in and tell him what to do,” Marinos said. “I will be there more as a sounding board to bounce any ideas he has. I fully respect he’s got a role and a job to do and I’m going to performance manage him against that to make sure he delivers against the standards we’ve set. At the end of the day, we’re all part of the same team and if he wins on the field, we will off the field and vice versa.
“You can go back right from the 1991 [World Cup] winning team to the present day – if you haven’t got a strong spine, it makes it very difficult. If you look at the Wallaby team now, they’re still developing the spine. Once they’ve got that, I think the rest is going to slot into play.
“When they have got success there is an influx of players wanting to play and be part of the setup. You put the dial back to the early 1990s and early 2000s when the Australian teams were really dominant, the talent that was coming through the Aussie schoolboy system, they were all staying in the system, they weren’t moving across into rugby league and we had a number of prominent league players coming across and wanting to play rugby. It’s about getting the local product right. Players want to play where they are going to get trophies and be seen on the biggest stage in rugby.”
High on the Marinos 2021 agenda is ensuring Super Rugby AU goes ahead, strengthening international relations – particularly with New Zealand – broadening rugby’s supporter base and re-engaging with the grassroots.
As it turns out, Marinos coaches his son’s junior rugby team in the Shire and might be spotted running the lines in weekends ahead.
“I got my accreditation from RA, so I’m now an official touch judge,” Marinos said.
As for talk of the British and Irish Lions series in South Africa being moved to Australia, reports from the UK overnight suggest there has been a lukewarm response from administrators. UK sources say the preferred option is for matches to be played in South Africa behind closed doors.
McLennan has opened the door for matches to be played here, with the pitch being that revenue will still go to South Africa and the Lions, with Australia picking up costs.
Marinos is unsure if a proposal would be agreed to by those in the north but said he thought the idea had merit.
“When it comes to the Lions, our main priority is to get our French tour underway and complete that tour,” Marinos said. “If we can provide a safe haven or an environment where the British and Irish Lions tour can continue, why wouldn’t we? It’s so important for the global rugby economy and community that we have international rugby played with as little disruption as we could get throughout this year.
“The guys from the north are certainly desperate to have a Lions tour. They have done a hell of a lot of planning in getting themselves to this point. My chairman’s extension of the rugby friendship to the British and Irish Lions and South Africans is exactly that to say if we can help in any way, we certainly will.”
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Tom Decent is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald