ARC de Failure

By STEVE SPINKS BEN JOHNSTON'S foray into professional rugby union was brief.

The former Alstonville fullback played for the Canberra Vikings in the Australian Rugby Championships (ARC) last season which was scrapped by the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) due to financial constraints yesterday.

The ARC was certainly no triumph with it recording a $4.7 million loss for the ARU.

It was more like an ARC 'de failure' considering the forecasts for next year's championships suggested a further $3.3 million loss.

Johnston was not surprised the tournament was scrapped but he said as a result he could be forced to look overseas to fulfil his dream of being a professional.

"It was a good standard (the ARC) and a good stepping stone from club to Super 14 (rugby)," the 20-year-old said.

"I don't think it was really run that well, but it was definitely a step up from club rugby and the training was a lot more professional especially in the match preparation."

Johnston is entering into his third year in Canberra and is part of the Brumbies' second team, named the Runners.

However, after missing out on a contracted spot the young fullback knows it's unlikely he'll play for the Brumbies next season.

"At this stage I'd say no but you never know if there will be injuries," Johnston said.

"I just have to play well for my club (the Royals). "I guess I'm also looking at heading overseas. My coach knows plenty of people in the UK (United Kingdom) and he said just to let him know when I'm ready to go.

"It would be disappointing to have to go because I was hoping to play in the Super 14 when I came down here and I've given it everything.

"But someone has to miss out." Another former Alstonville player Ben Coridas will also miss out.

Coridas was starring for the Western Sydney Rams as a flanker before he injured his knee and had to undergo a reconstruction.

However, the former Australian Schoolboy is part of the NSW Waratahs Academy. No surprise

The decision by the ARU board to scrap the ARC comes as no surprise.

New chief executive John O'Neill was never a fan of the competition that was set up under previous boss Garry Flowers.

In a media release yesterday, the ARU said that the ARC had achieved many of the player development goals including quality rugby for players, coaches and referees and an excellent opportunity to identify and trial talented players in higher level competition.

The ARU emphasised while the ARC would not continue in 2008, the ARU board remained committed to improving the talent pathways for players and coaches, and expanding the game nationally.

While the format of the ARC has proven to be flawed, the concept of an affordable high quality rugby competition remains a key strategy for Australian Rugby, the ARU said.

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