There seems to be some strange belief in New Zealand and Europe that Australia is ripe for the expansion of the game. Currently Rugby is the fourth football code in this country with AFL miles ahead of the other codes, wendy ball doing all the right things to overtake League (only strong in NSW and QLD), and Rugby coming in last. This based on Nielson polling of crowds and player numbers, do a google it's not pleasant reading. Domestic rugby in Australia is at the club level with the ABC covering the premier competition dependant on state. Super 14 is restricted to pay television provider Fox with no free to air coverage. Internationals are on channel 7 and Fox but only really make an impact with tests involving either New Zealand or the Lions according to televison rating data. Actually anyone who tuned into the tests pre T3 could be excused for thinking they were mid week games, that's how poor attendance was. The ARU at least tried to do something with the national ARC but once again didn't listen to the grass roots with regions that have zero involvement in the "major", term used loosely, domestic competitions not being awarded franchises. As it turned out just as well as John O'Neil canned the whole thing on the grounds that it didn't generate rivers of gold in year one, could also be because he had zero involvement in setting it up. Which brings us to of course to the fifth S15 franchise O'Neil is insanely believing will be successful down in AFL stronghold Melbourne. Four other bids got the arse from the ARU, which was once again seen as doing nothing for the stronger rugby regions, the Central Coast didn't bother this time round and is pushing hard for an NRL franchise instead note the fall off in player numbers for rugby on the coast. The Melbourne Storm are flying the NRL flag down in Melbourne to a reported, News Ltd, lose of over $2 million per year, how exactly does O'Neil believe rugby will fare any better? Don't get me started on the lack of quality players, the weakening of the competition, or the looming iceberg of the conference system. Currently a number of Australia Franchises are enjoying ex-pat kiwis and saffas turning up to see their home teams play, put a conference system in place that takes out the foreign teams for the major part of the competition and I can predict with confidence a huge fall off in crowd numbers with the Force in particular in big trouble. Sorry I have no interest in watching the Flowers play either the Brumbies or any other Aussie franchise. WHere is O'Neil and the ARU's plan to revitalise the game in this country? With falling player numbers, television figures at an all time low, how long before major sponsors start looking at other sports not hampered by pay television deals. How exactly is the new Melbourne franchise going to get sponsorship with the cream of the AFL clubs already entranced and pointing to big crowd numbers? For the regions and districts where is our slice of the pie in terms of major domestic sporting events, and how long before support simply disappears as the ARU continues to pander to the big cities. The warning signs should be flashing for the ARU with both the NRL and AFL looking to expand in the coming year or so with new franchises in the regions. The NRL are fielding some serious proposals from the Central Coast, stadium already built with the Mariners flourishing there, the Gold Coast, and another Brisbane based team. Not up on the AFL proposals at the moment, looks like they have finally worked out a Western Sydney AFL franchise simply isn't going to work, would be as insane as putting a rugby franchise down in Melbourne (looking at you NRL), but believe a couple of Queensland regional consortiums have proposals on the table. While the NRL and the AFL pour money into the grass roots teams and support the regions, the ARU appear to be re-arranging the deckchairs once again. And what's that looming over the horizon, an expanded "A" league did I hear someone say, yes wendy ball has picked itself up off the carpet and is the new growth sport in this country with a 12 team league now on the table. Without free to air coverage the once successful NBL has simply imploded in recent years, RIP The Sydney Kings (three times champions), is rugby headed in the same direction?