Why the Waratahs need to win the west
Will the Waratahs be a bogey team? (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
There is no doubt that the east of Sydney is rugby’s heartland. However, the Waratahs need to do more to win the west.
While the NRL will always be the dominant force, union has a similar, but more tactical style of game that could roll off the back of the popularity of Western Sydney NRL clubs.
With the expansion of both the A-League and AFL into the western Sydney market, the ARU needs to be proactive in marketing to the west.
The Waratahs currently have 13 players in the Wallabies train-on squad. Yet the popularity of the Waratahs is still low, imagine if another club had that many Wallabies players, the grounds would be packed. Imagine if an NRL club had that many Kangaroos.
To their credit, the Waratahs also play a few games from ANZ Stadium, which is great for the people of the west. However, the game needs more marketing, through more media sources than just pay TV.
This brings me to the next point, free-to-air TV deals. Please get rugby on the box! The 5:30pm matches from New Zealand are a great option for broadcasters as they fit in before NRL matches. They need to be on free-to-air as many from the west can ill afford payed TV.
The NRL has two games on a Friday night, the Sydney game at 7:30pm, with a second at 9:30pm. This is usually a Brisbane game that no one in NSW wants to watch. Why can’t a rugby replay be put in this time slot, or even better played on the GEM or GO! channels simultaneously with the 7:30pm coverage?
Anything to promote the game to the masses and the west.
Furthermore, let’s go back to the grassroots. When parents were asked why they had chosen to register their child in AFL as opposed to NRL, the most popular answer was safety, as the big hits are seen constantly in the NRL games and therefore imitated on the weekend fields as children try to emulate their favourite players.
In rugby union high shots are shown a yellow card with a penalty and sometimes suspension. Included in this group of illegal tackles are shoulder charges and tip tackles. All are dealt with harshly as to prevent serious injuries and to protect all those who play the game. The ARU should be promoting these safety factors for kids to parents (especially mums) and families as a step to increase participation in the game of rugby.
Lastly I’d like to touch on the fact that the registration fees for the most popular sport in the west, soccer are too high. My local club, in Baulkham Hills, cost $270 this year, compared to $170 for the Hills Rugby Club. These price differences are significant and should be promoted as a part of a strategy to entice kids in the western Sydney community to play or at least support the Waratahs and Wallabies.
The Waratahs have a unique opportunity to entice the whole of NSW into their following. Hopefully people from the West can become not only Waratahs fans but also rugby lovers.
Come on Waratahs, win the west!
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