Let’s talk about Braith Anasta, and his lovely wife, Jodi Gordon! What she’s saying, and wearing, which openings they’ve been attending, and just what’s going on in their personal lives. Or perhaps, I could contrive to write a sports story that would justify appearing beneath the greatest headline of all time: HEADLESS BODY, IN TOPLESS BAR.
Sorry, sorry, I am still trying to get used to this tabloid, um, compact, format. I will work on it. In the meantime, it’s time we rugby people faced a few sobering facts. On Thursday, the NRL season opens with a likely sold-out match between Souths and the Roosters – about 40,000 at Allianz Stadium.
Next week the local derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium is sold out – about 25,000 fans.
When the Swans play GWS at the Olympic stadium at the end of the month for the opening round, they’re expecting at least 50,000.
And then there are the Waratahs. Their first home match of the season against the Rebels last week, in an entertaining match, drew 11,003 – the last three being two men and a dog.
As host Barrie Cassidy commented on the ABC Offsiders program, that was about as many as turn up for an AFL trial game in Wangaratta. What is going on? And how long can it go on?
Why has rugby fallen away to that dangerous level whereby it’s a wonder the NSWRU can pay the electricity bills? How has it come to this, when only a few years ago the norm was to get 30,000 to 35,000 at the SFS, and occasionally crack 40,000 for a huge match?
Part of the answer is that it has been singularly grim times of late for Waratah supporters, as the team has shown promising moments of potential only, in what have generally been long seasons of disappointment and dull rugby. Inevitably, some fans have drifted.
My bugbear has been endless collapsed scrums and penalty goal attempts from 50 metres out – at a time when what we most want to see is action, and the very running rugby that has for so long been the tradition of the Waratahs.
The irony is that this season, so far, the Tahs really have had a go, have shown spirit to move it, and resolution to overcome when the chips are down. I grant you there is no particular sign of chemistry yet, but they are least obviously improved in their approach since Michael Cheika took over coach, and Dave Dennis as captain. And yet they’re still only pulling 11,000 for a home game!
Which brings us to the second part of the reason things are grim. All of soccer, the AFL and rugby league have improved as spectacles in this town over the past few years, even as their followings have widened. The turnstiles out Western Sydney Wanderers way have been a revelation.
The competition for spectators has never been fiercer, and rugby has suffered for it.
The way forward? The rugby-heads who run the show are discussing that as we speak. As the Super Rugby format becomes ever more international in the years to come, there is great reason for optimism that it can all be turned around with rugby’s major point of difference to the AFL and rugby league, particularly – being a part of a genuinely global game – being on show, week after week.
But in the meantime, it is time for the True Believers to rally who we can, and see if we can save the furniture. The next home game is next Friday night, at the SFS, against the Cheetahs. Be there.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.