New Brumbies chairman urges fans to 'come back to Super Rugby'

Sport. Canberra Times photo by Karleen Minney. 12th May 2016. The ACT Brumbies have announced their interim CEO, Phil Thomson.
Sport. Canberra Times photo by Karleen Minney. 12th May 2016. The ACT Brumbies have announced their interim CEO, Phil Thomson.

New ACT Brumbies chairman Phil Thomson has implored rugby supporters to re-engage with the sport, adamant the off-field dramas have been buried and Australian teams can rise from the dead.

Thomson, a former interim chief executive and Brumbies team manager, started his tenure when he was elected chairman of the ACT Rugby Union board on Wednesday night.

He replaces outgoing leader Robert Kennedy, but Thomson's rise to the role looms as a double-edged sword. The good news is the Brumbies recorded a profit this year for the first time in six seasons.

The challenging part is taking the reins at a time when Australian rugby is on its knees and trying to rebuild after a debacle in 2017.

Former Rugby Australia integrity unit manager Thomson will be a calming and respected voice, and has already set about making the Brumbies a long-term financially viable business.

Brumbies crowd numbers dropped this year to an average of 9887 per game, largely contributed to by a confusing Super Rugby draw and Australian rugby's off-field problems.

The club has slashed ticket and membership prices for next year in the hope of winning back fans in Canberra and to encourage people to reignite rugby union passion.

"I feel like we've got a good stable management at the Brumbies now, it's our job to build on that now and ensure financial sustainability moving forward," Thomson said.

"We're in a competitive marketplace in Australia. We've got to make sure we've got the public support and we're engaging the public to get them back involved in rugby.

"I think we're moving in the right direction. Certainly we're doing that in Canberra and hopefully that community engagement level works together for the good of rugby in our region."

The Brumbies were spared from the Super Rugby chopping block earlier this year and they will be the only Australian team to record a profit in an otherwise horror year.

Australian teams lost all 26 trans-Tasman derbies against New Zealand opponents and the Wallabies spluttered through the international season with only glimpses of their best.

Rugby Australia hopes axing the Western Force will strengthen the remaining four franchises by having more competition for selection rather than spreading talent too thin.

The flip side is the danger of limited rugby development in Western Australia, but Brumbies back Kyle Godwin hopes there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Godwin, a Perth junior and former Force star, said billionaire mining magnate Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest can help inspire a new generation in Super Rugby's absence.

Forrest is starting an Indo-Pacific Rugby Championship, which will include a team from Perth and others from Asia.

"It's disappointing that we lost the Western Force and for me personally, it was the opportunity that gave me my Super Rugby dream," Godwin said.

"I feel for the boys but I am sure they will get through and be better for it.

"It's going to be a challenge for those young kids that grow up in Western Australia that are aspiring to be a professional rugby player.

"Twiggy Forrest might be the great opportunity for that and to open the door for them.

"I think he might bring a nice, entertaining spin to it so who knows what's going to happen in the future."

This story New Brumbies chairman urges fans to 'come back to Super Rugby' first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.