Where’s the grudge match in rugby?
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.