Email reveals Super15 fight in Melbourne

The Australian Rugby Union are investigating allegations that the Victorian Rugby Union would not be granted a licence for the 15th team when Super Rugby is expanded to a Super 15 in 2011 while Gary Gray remains VRU president.

The allegation is that Australian Rugby Union officials would refuse to ratify a Victorian Rugby Union bid for a Super 15 expansion licence while Gary Gray remains VRU president and will be investigated by ARU chairman Peter McGrath (pictured).

The investigation follows the wide circulation in Victorian rugby circles of an email written by Moorabbin Rugby Club president Steve Curnow in which he claims “members of the ARU” indicated to him they regarded Gray as a liability to any VRU involvement in a future Melbourne Super 15 franchise.

“At a recent meeting in ACT where I spoke with members of the ARU and others, it was made very clear to me that Victoria has a ‘snowflakes (sic) chance in hell’ of the ARU ratifying a VRU bid for a Super XV franchise licence while Gary Gray is the President of Victorian Rugby,” Curnow wrote in the email.

“We have become the laughing stock of Australian rugby and considered in the same vein as Tasmania and South Australia.”

Curnow has confirmed to The Australian that he made those comments but refused to identify which ARU officials he was quoting.

VRU president Gray says that he and just about everyone else involved in Victorian rugby were aware of the contents of Curnow’s email.

“In fact, they resulted in a special meeting of the Victorian club presidents last Friday night at which I received an overwhelming (18-0 with one abstention) vote of support, as did the VRU board, for our strategy in winning a Super 15 franchise,” Gray said.

If Curnow’s claim turns out to be true it will not be the first time that Gray has come in for criticism from the national body.

When the Australian Rugby Championship was dropped after its first running as costs were so high fingers were pointed at the Melbourne Rebels team, which ran up the heaviest bills and Gray got most of the criticism.

The Australian asked Gray whether ARU heavyweights were attempting to destabilise his position and he said, “That’s a question for Steve Curnow.”

“But the matter has been referred to the ARU chairman who is investigating Curnow’s allegations.”

Gray who is spearheading Victoria’s campaign for a team in the expanded 2011 Super 15 competition, deplored the fact that Melbourne’s new bid had degenerated into a no-holds-barred political contest.

“This sort of crap does no good service to the Victorian rugby community, to Curnow or his club or to Melbourne’s fantastic prospects to be the home of the next team in the expanded Super rugby competition.”

Curnow however said that he was not opposed to Melbourne hosting a Super 15 team, merely to the fact that Gray was pursuing that objective to the detriment of the Victorian community rugby.

“I’m being portrayed as the anti-Christ but the fact is any expansion Super Rugby team will take away from the community game,” Curnow said.

“Clubs will suffer as will the junior game. And if the Super 15 franchise goes to a private equity group, they’re not going to be interested in pouring money into community rugby.

“There needs to be some guarantee that community rugby does not suffer as a result of Melbourne having a Super Rugby team

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