I have come up with my own idea of a replacement for the current club set-up in the southern hemisphere, but it is based mainly around New Zealand and Australia. I think it is unfeasible in the long-term to continually try and create competitions which include teams from countries which have a massive geographical separation. Incidentally, long-distance travel and time away from home are one of the key contributing factors in SH players going up north. Bearing this in mind, I think it is imperative that we in the SH create regional tournaments rather than the current trans-continental hotchpotch. I've come up with a tournament which would cater to the Australian and New Zealand market. The aim of this tournament is to shorten and simplify the domestic season, create room for a larger off-season, and to stem the tide of players leaving to the Northern Hemisphere. The tournament I propose is based on two successful models: the NRL in Australia and the NFL in America. With the NRL we can see that a trans-tasman sports competition can run effectively financially as well as in terms of popularity. The NRL has 16 teams and plays to a very high standard. The NFL is the most popular sports competition in the USA, with very large crowds and a massive off-season. It comprises of 32 teams in a 20 week competition. Based on these models, I suggest creating a 16 round, 20 team trans-tasman competition, comprising of 12 NZ teams and 8 Australian teams. This competition would run from March to July and would replace the Super 14 and also the Air New Zealand Cup. Each team would have a 2-3 million dollar salary cap. NZ, Australian and PI players are considered as 'domestic players' and are free to play for any team, while still being eligible for international selection. Also, each team is allowed a maximum of 5 'foreign' players in their squad. Based on the NFL model, the 20 teams would be divided into 5 divisions comprised of 4 teams each. Teams would play their divisional rivals twice, amounting to 6 games, and would then play a further 10 games against teams from other divisions. This system would help create divisional 'rivalry' games, as well as breaking up the monotony of playing the same teams over and over again, as in a season any one team would only ever play 13 of their 20 opponents (excluding playoffs). The top team from each division would automatically qualify for the quarter-finals, with the next 3 places decided by 6 teams playing a 'wild card' round. Divisions: Australia 1: Sydney team 1 Sydney team 2 Newcastle/Central Coast Canberra Australia 2: Brisbane Gold Coast Perth Melbourne NZ North: Northern (North Harbour, Northland) Auckland (Auckland) Counties (Counties Manukau, Thames Valley) Bay of Plenty (BOP) NZ Central: Taranaki (Taranaki, Wanganui) Waikato (Waikato, King Country) Hawkes Bay (Hawkes Bay, East Coast, Poverty Bay) Wellington (Wellington, Horewhenua-Kapiti) NZ South: Manawatu (Manawatu, Wairarapa-Bush) Tasman (Tasman, West Coast, Buller) Canterbury (Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, South Canterbury) Southern (Otago, Southland, North Otago) Obviously, such a tournament would necessitate the removal of the Air NZ Cup and any potential for an ARC. This might upset some people, what with amalgamation and removing an iconic tournament etc. However, as the NRL has shown, amalgamation has been necessary and has also been successful. The positives of replacing the current systems with the proposed one will, in my opinion, outweigh the negatives. Firstly, it will reduce the power of the "big five" unions in New Zealand (Auckland, Waikato, Wellington, Canterbury, Otago). By putting all the NZ unions on a level playing field with identical funding from the NZRU, the major unions will be unable to poach players from the provincial unions as they have done in the past, allowing for smaller unions to develop their homegrown players and compete at the same level as the bigger unions. Secondly, it will help improve the depth of Australian rugby. Having 8 teams will expose more players to top level rugby, while at the same time, provide better competition against the NRL, AFL and A-League, due to the higher level of Australian involvement in the competition. Also, if the competition is successful in Australia, there is always the possibility of expanding to create a third Australian division. Thirdly, it will help crowd numbers watching the game. By having only 1 provincial rugby competition instead of 2 will be better for the fans, and will provide each union with just 8 home regular season games. This will help crowd numbers and will avoid rugby 'overload'. Fourthly, it will help stem the tide of players leaving for the Northern Hemisphere. Money aside, players leave because of travel issues, monotonous competitions (eg Super 14), and having to play for both Super 14 and provincial teams. With this competition, travel will not be a factor, there will be a far more diverse competition structure, with some teams not playing each other for possible 1 or 2 years, and there will only be one set of players and coaches to play for. Furthermore, players from NZ would be able to play for an Australian team, and vice versa, without becoming ineligible for international selection. Fifthly, it has the potential to help promote development of the game internationally. By allowing PI players to play as domestic players, it will help develop them as rugby players, without the Pacific Island unions having to pay for it, as they simply do not have the resources to do so. Also, by allowing up to five foreign players into each squad, players from developing rugby nations (eg Japan, USA, Canada) could have exposure to top-level rugby, something that would be beneficial to their international teams. Lastly, It will solve the problem of the rugby off-season and international window. The tournament will last about four and a half months, nominally from March to July. This leaves room for an international window from August to October. This leaves a full four month off-season for players to recover, recondition and refresh themselves before the start of the next season. Its no coincidence that NFL players are so well conditioned when they have about 6 months of offseason/preseason. Your thoughts?