Melbourne — Reviving the Wallabies’ fortunes is the biggest challenge for Rugby Australia as it looks to survive in the nation’s cut-throat sports market, new CEO Andy Marinos said.

Marinos took over on Monday from interim CEO Rob Clarke, who leaves after negotiating a new broadcast deal and overseeing deep cuts to player salaries and staff in a bid to keep the game afloat as the Covid-19 pandemic hammered finances.

In coach Dave Rennie’s first year in charge, the Wallabies lost an 18th successive Bledisloe Cup series to New Zealand in 2020 and finished bottom of a Tri-Nations tournament behind the All Blacks and Argentina.

Former Wales international Marinos said the Wallabies and Australia’s other national teams had to deliver better results if Rugby Australia were to achieve success away from the field.

“You can’t be successful off the field if you’re not successful on the field,” Zimbabwe-born Marinos told reporters on Monday in his first media conference as CEO. “So that’s our biggest challenge. To improve our high performance and get a more competitive and winning team.

“That makes the rest of the business a lot easier to manage and drive commercial value. We’re wanting to get out and grow the game in the community. Well, people need heroes.”

The Wallabies, ranked sixth in the world, hope to welcome France in a midyear Test series but Rugby Australia has also offered to host the British and Irish Lions tour of SA, which is under threat because of the pandemic.

Marinos backed Rugby Australia chair Hamish McLennan’s “extension of the rugby friendship” to the Lions and SA. “When it comes to the Lions, our main priority is to get our French tour under way,” he said. “If through that process we can provide a safe haven, or an environment where the British and Irish Lions tour can continue, why wouldn’t we?”

Prior to joining Rugby Australia, Marinos was CEO of Sanzaar, the southern hemisphere alliance that organises the Rugby Championship and Super Rugby.

The 2020 Super Rugby season was abandoned because of Covid-19 and SA declined to join New Zealand and Argentina in Australia for the Rugby Championship, which was hastily rebranded a “Tri-Nations” competition. Pundits have queried SA’s commitment to Sanzaar but Marinos dismissed the concerns.

“The reason why Australia, New Zealand and SA have been so dominant and so successful at the World Cups has been predicated on the fact that they are playing in a competition like Super Rugby and certainly the Tri-Nations against each other,” he said.


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