The Waratahs and Berrick Barnes failed against the Bulls in an epic Super Rugby encounter. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

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Last week we saw two amazing matches of footy. They both went down to the wire and were won in the last seconds of the game: Collingwood v Essendon and Roosters v Dragons.

These games were played on ANZAC day and drew in large, passionate crowds. But rugby union remains silent.

People love these traditional derbies in any sport. Whether it be the ANZAC games in AFL or league or even the Boxing Day Test in cricket, these contests create excitement and hype. They are events to be marked down in the calendar.

In Winter, league, union and AFL dominate the sporting calendar, but union runs a distant third. The only time union makes an impact is during the international season when Bledisloe and Tri-Nations (now the Rugby Championship) matches are watched by large(ish) audiences.

The international aspect of union is something the other codes lack – league Test matches don’t have the same significance and international rules is more of sideshow. It is understandable that union powerbrokers focus on these international matches, but doing so they have neglected the potential in local derbies.

Although the Super competition is relatively new, rugby union is not a new sport in Australia. In all that time, traditional grudge matches – of which there are many – have been grossly underutilised.

The new format of the rugby competition has been a blessing as there is now more focus on local derbies. However to maximise this new format greater emphasis needs to be put on traditional clashes, such as Waratahs v Reds or Brumbies v Waratahs.

Australia doesn’t have a Currie Cup or an ITM Cup so all its domestic focus is on Super rugby. While it must fit in with in the wishes of SANZAR surely there is room to hold one of these clashes on a signature day in the calendar?

Perhaps an Easter Monday clash between Reds v Waratahs? The game would become a tradition in itself, putting domestic rugby back in the sporting eye.

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The Crowd Says (31)

  • May 2nd 2012 @ 5:43am
    mania said | May 2nd 2012 @ 5:43am | ! Report

    ewen – the problem is the level of skill showed at these games. the rivalry (in union) between qld and nsw is now non existent. with player depth so shallow qld and nsw swap players like marbles so the difference between the team one and another is almost unnoticeable. the fans dont want to support mediocre teams and when the players have no loyalty to a team why should the fans follow?

    • May 2nd 2012 @ 1:31pm
      Justin said | May 2nd 2012 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

      You may want to check with the players on that mania, and the fans. I think you are way off the mark.

    • May 7th 2012 @ 7:59pm
      jmacredie said | May 7th 2012 @ 7:59pm | ! Report

      There is absolutely no truth in your statement. It is made completely as an I don’t like rugby statement. There is plently of skill, rivalry, depth and passion. You show me any team today that has loyalty from players in an open professional market era. That loyalty only applies to national teams, except for when it comes to league. They swap countries whenever it suits.

  • May 2nd 2012 @ 6:27am
    Emric said | May 2nd 2012 @ 6:27am | ! Report

    There is talk of the Reds playing the Saders at suncorp.

    They think it could sell 50,000 tickets –

    I have issues with this of course
    1. I do not believe in sports being used as some sort of gladiatorial exhibition on a day reserved for the remembrance of our young men bravery
    2. The Saders are already the richest and most powerful club in New Zealand who at the moment attract all the top players they have become a sink for New Zealands rugby talent, and while this is traditional in New Zealand and the NRZU has allowed this to happen a more balanced approach is required.

    • May 2nd 2012 @ 6:37am
      mania said | May 2nd 2012 @ 6:37am | ! Report

      emric – i think you’ll find that talent is more evenly and fairly spread in nz.
      saders arent richest club/franchise.
      they arent a sink of NZ talent, that would be auckland.
      saders or more accurately canterbury rugby union predominantly develop their own talent from the age grades up. the bulk of crusaders comes from canterbury catchment area.
      “NRZU has allowed this to happen a more balanced approach is required”….so NZ teams dont win so much rugby?

      • May 3rd 2012 @ 9:34am
        Adam_JJV said | May 3rd 2012 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        Mania, You say the bulk of the crusaders players come from the cantb catchment area. Not so sure about that.
        The Whitelocks are all from Fielding, Guildford and Dagg are from the Hawkesbay, Fruen from Wellington, McCaw and Donnely both from Otago, Even Sean Maitland is from the Waikato. While I understand that these guys all play for Canterbury in the NPC they still have come from outside the Canterbury Union.

        Emric, They attract the best players because they play the best rugby. The systems they have down there are far better than anywhere else in NZ. No wonder the likes of the Whitelocks, Dagg, Guildford and fruen play their rugby there rather than the Hurricanes franchise where they were originally from.

  • Roar Guru

    May 2nd 2012 @ 7:39am
    Dasher said | May 2nd 2012 @ 7:39am | ! Report

    ANZAC Day is for remembering our armed forces and the sacrifices they make/made for our country. It’s not about NRL or AFL at all. If anything, they should televise an army vs navy {insert footy code} game.

    • May 2nd 2012 @ 9:24am
      ant said | May 2nd 2012 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      that would be awesome – the brutality of trained service personal against each other (army v Navy inter-service rival) would make any super15 or League State of Origin look like a tea party. You might even see some real heroes then…

  • May 2nd 2012 @ 7:59am
    Football United said | May 2nd 2012 @ 7:59am | ! Report

    this is the problem with franchises, no real rivalries or derbies like with clubs. Stade Francais vs Racing Metro, Saracens vs Harlequins games like these get massive interest and turnouts. at least the franchises in ireland have actual reason to dislike each other, we have nothing in comparison. It’s for this reason new teams in growth areas like south Auckland, West Sydney or another Brisbane team should be looked at rather than just dot on the map expansion to really get the punters interested.

    • May 2nd 2012 @ 8:59am
      nickoldschool said | May 2nd 2012 @ 8:59am | ! Report

      Yep, agree with you F.U. Franchises, distances, new teams popping out of nowhere. Its hard to sell a WF v Tahs as a derby.

  • Roar Rookie

    May 2nd 2012 @ 8:17am
    warrenj said | May 2nd 2012 @ 8:17am | ! Report

    This situation of non-rivalry can go back to the lack of grassroots rivalry and traditional ‘enemies’. I can only speak from a South African perspective, so I apologise to the ITM Cup and Australian domestic rugby if facts don’t line up.
    The Currie Cup in South Africa is a traditional slog fest between the different provinces of South Africa. Only in the last 16 years or so, it has taken a back seat to the Super Rugby series (be it Super 12, 14 or 15). These rivalries in the Currie Cup were established long before teams were professional and passion and dedication were forged in players wanting to play for a team not for money, but rather for pride. This mentality comes from school and university/college rivalries. South Africa has some traditional rugby schools/colleges such as TUKS, Greys, Stellenbosch, etc. and these establishments have forged grudges over time. Even at school level, South Africa have an annual schools competition called Craven Week, again forging grudges. These grudges and traditions filter up into the professional echelons of rugby creating old enemies like Northern Transvaal (now Blue Bulls) vs. Transvaal (now Golden Lions), Western Province (still WP or Stormers in Super Rugby) vs. Natal (now The Sharks) or Eastern Province (now Southern Kings)
    There aren’t traditional days that teams play, but when they play, crowds flock to the stadiums, especially if there is pride or trophies at stake and the media has done their part to build up the match. Very rarely there is a blow out, so spectators are in for a good match.

    The problem that I’ve seen in Australia, is that there is no traditional enemies, be it universities, clubs or schools. Rugby Union has generally been played in private schools with the majority of public schools play AFL. Since the number of clubs and schools that play AFL outnumber the schools/clubs that play Union, no enemies are forged. Australia’s attempt at making a domestic competition has been half-arsed in the past and the window of opportunity has passed as the professional era dictates what is viable or not. To establish grudge matches, Australian rugby needs to focus at grassroots and create school matches or university matches that excite the crowds. Make competitions that don’t require a professional aspect as all players are still amateurs, and involve local media to hype up the matches. Trying to hold a match on a traditional day is too difficult, so rather focus on team rivalries and eventually the day won’t matter.

    I spoke of tradition earlier and it seems that Australia lack the tradition of rugby grudges at school/uni/club level while the international tradition thrives (Bledisloe being the cream of the crop).

    • May 2nd 2012 @ 8:25am
      mania said | May 2nd 2012 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      warrenj – fully agree with u and thanx for showing and explaining a facet of saffa rugby. it shows in the local derby’s how passionate saffa’s are of their provinces as they smash each other much harder than they do non SA teams.
      the downside of this passion though imho is that when a coach is selected he also has the rivalry in the back of his mind and it seems to affect his selections.
      meyer i’m hoping will see past that provincialism but i’m not convinced as he’s trying to bring back his bulls players matfield and fourieDP.
      whats your take on meyer? is he the one to wake the sleeping giant and properly unite SA rugby?

      • Roar Rookie

        May 2nd 2012 @ 4:45pm
        warrenj said | May 2nd 2012 @ 4:45pm | ! Report

        I think that we can all agree that Meyer is a much better coach than PdV. There have been some issues that if you have a coach from a particular province, he may favour players from his province, but this hasn’t really been the case.
        Yes, Meyer may select players from The Bulls, but look at the performance of the Bulls. They are a strong team, but Meyer will also look to other provinces for the best players. Coaches of his calibre are more professional than that. They have built a team around themselves so that they can bounce ideas off his chosen command to get the best result. He has Rassie Erasmus as his technical/performance advisor, who is a Western Province boy, he is looking at captains from Western Province, Cheetahs and Sharks as his leadership group and he is looking at the Currie Cup teams for specialised players. He my have hired skills coaches from The Bulls, but that is due to the fact that he knows these guys and they are on the same page as he is, instead of trying to hire an unknown and working out the kinks before game time.
        Meyer may be the answer to South African rugby and may take the team to the top once again, but it’s not a surety. He did forge The Bulls into a championship franchise and may do the same at the international level, but a great Super Rugby coach doesn’t always translate into a great international coach, most recently Robbie Deans.

        Springbok Rugby also have the proud tradition of using local coaches and don’t always hire head coaches from other countries, so most of the time, the coaching ideas are localised and reflect a Super Rugby teams’ game plan or something similar, which may be interpreted as favourtism towards a particular team.

  • May 2nd 2012 @ 8:38am
    Harry said | May 2nd 2012 @ 8:38am | ! Report

    Queensalnd v New South Wales at rugby is always a strong rivalry and grudge match. Far stronger and more meaningful to more people than St George v Easts in league, I assure you.

    Like a few of the posters above, I’m a bit uneasy about sports marketing and Anzac Day. It is a day to remember the bravery and sacrifice of young people in wars, and the horror of wars, rather than a “spectator experience”. And yes I know both league and rules pay great homage and are genuinely respectful to the Anzac tradition, and thats to their credit. However neither can deny it is also a major commercial event. Just listen to Eddie get all uptight the moment someone suggests two other AFL teams play on Anzac Day.

    Look the Rebels vs Cheetahs (was a great game actually) or Force v Canes doesn’t exactly stir the emotions of too many people, with absolutely zero heritage to them and little meaning for the overall competition. But then I’d suggest, if you want mediocrity and lack of passion, try getting excited about some mid or late season AFL or NRL games among the bottom half of the table -very dull.

    And to all those who question Super Rugby’s passion and excitement, I’d suggest you tune into the Reds v Saders game this weekend in Christchurch.

    • Roar Guru

      May 2nd 2012 @ 9:07am
      Redb said | May 2nd 2012 @ 9:07am | ! Report

      Harry,

      I can only speak as an Essendon fan who has been lucky enough to attend 5 ANZAC day games. Essendon and Collingwood planned this day with the RSL in 1995. It well maybe a commerical success but these clubs would attract big crowds regardless.

      I can tell you the reluctance by Eddie or any Essendon or Collingwood fan is not out of worry over commercial loss but the loss of not being part of such a humbling occasion. It is selfish I know, we just simply do not want to give it up for anyone.

      Those who knock it dont know what they are talking about. Many fans are close to tears in silence as the Last Post plays, the message is so poignant for new and old generations – Lest We Forget – you could never reach people in a history class the same way.

      There are thousands of kids who are silent being taught respect, so silent you can hear the flags flapping amongst 87,000 in one place.

      • May 2nd 2012 @ 9:57am
        Harry said | May 2nd 2012 @ 9:57am | ! Report

        Yes I respect that and freely admit, the commemorations of ANzac Day are very well done and great effort is made to be respectful. I’m not knocking what happens – what I am observing is that its not Collingwood and Essendon’s Anzac Day, or St George or the Roosters Anzac Day. I’m just uncomfortable as to how these clubs “own” Anzac Day, as I am about Victoria Bitter’s promotions and campaigns, no matter how sensitively done.
        I get where your coming from however, and its a purely personal view, I’d like to see the Anzac Day fixture rotated between the AFL and NRL clubs.

      • May 2nd 2012 @ 4:17pm
        AndyS said | May 2nd 2012 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

        Red, I’d find that easier to believe if all the proceeds were donated to Legacy…

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