Open letter to the Waratahs: end of a membership era

Bay35Pablo Roar Guru

By Bay35Pablo, Bay35Pablo is a Roar Guru

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    Waratahs player Berrick Barnes braces as he hits the line. (AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy)

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    I first gained an appreciation for rugby in 1991, staying up late in my HSC year for some unknown reason to watch the 1991 World Cup final against England (and managing to fall asleep for the second half).

    I had vague memories of David Campese and the Lions tour of 1989, and my high school played CHS rugby, but I had no reason to really become a rugby fan.

    My awareness slowly grew over the next few years, to the point I attended State of the Union against ACT at Concord (I think) in 1994, and Western Province in the Super 10 in 1995.

    I remember being part of a crowd of about 12,500 for the Western Province game, and thinking “this is a pretty good crowd for a state union game”.

    I was hooked. I managed to con three mates into season passes for the 1996 inaugural Super 12 season.

    Two of us renewed in 1997. 1998 saw me backpacking and no season pass, then starting work in 1999 (and which saw me finally play rugby for the mighty MacUni Beacons in subbies), and I saw infrequent NSW games over the years until 2002, where a bunch of mates and I watched every game.

    Sick of fighting for tickets in decent seats (these were the glory days of near sell-outs – oh how times have changed), and the carrot of guaranteed tickets to the semi if we signed up for season passes the next year, seven of us took season passes in 2003.

    The first game and we found our new seats. Bay 35, halfway line, three rows back. We joked we’d hand the seats down to our grandkids they were that good. Well within heckling distance.

    Over the years we were yellow carded by the ref, fired up Wendell enough to score a try for the Reds, had Joe Rokococko in stitches, and generally had a good time.

    The initial years saw the same faces around us and renewing. One of the best moments was when the family behind us brought along a cup cake with candle in it, because they had heard a couple of boys were having their birthday the game before.

    Unfortunately, those faces have disappeared as, year after year, disappointment got the better of them, and their support faded.

    My group of mates changed slightly, being as many as eight and as few as six with some blokes not renewing then coming back (one in protest at Wendell being signed, others because they went overseas).

    But with this season, three of the six marked our 10th consecutive season in the same seats, cheering on the Tahs.

    2013 won’t see us in those same seats. The end of an era.

    Maybe not for the Tahs, but certainly for my mates and I (and the poor lot that copped an ear bashing around us for the last 10 years).

    We ended 2012 wondering why we were paying top dollar for what, certainly, were among the best seats in the house, but when we could pay $20 each to get in, stand in the north end bar, and probably wander down and sit in our same seats anyway.

    We just couldn’t justify the money anymore, especially with crowds down to 1995 Super 10 levels (oh how far we’ve come, hey Tahs?). Part of the reason we had originally signed up being to secure good seats – signing up just wasn’t necessary anymore.

    We’ll be there for as many games as we can in 2013, and I’ve signed up for a Supporter Membership to get the merchandise and options of tickets next year, but the Tahs just lost several thousand dollars in my group.

    We aren’t the first over the last few years, and we won’t be the only ones not renewing in 2013.

    Why? My mates and I are about as rusted on as Tahs supporters can be. We’ve travelled to away games, deck ourselves out in new merchandise regularly, and support our team like crazy.

    But even we had to draw the line. Why would we pay more than we have to, to watch insipid rugby which no one else is?

    Oh, we’ll cheer on, heckle opponents and support the team, even with a team that seems to have lost all sense of how to play entertaining or running rugby, and be losing its way.

    But we won’t subsidise it. They’re not a charity, even if they don’t seem to operate like a business.

    So Tahs, here’s the line in the sand. Even the hard core rusted-on supporters are starting to drop off.

    Time to engage in some serious navel gazing, and work out what the hell you are doing. Because rugby in the state of NSW needs you lot to sort yourselves out, and quick smart.

    No quick fixes. No Link, Sonny Bill Williams, Blake trifecta wacky plans. No more backroom politics.

    Make us want to come back. Make us have to re-sign as season members and be kicking the door in.

    I want to. Can you make me? Jury’s out. Better not take too long.

    In a postscript, when I called the generic Super Rugby memberships phone line, administered by the ARU I suspect, my downgrade from Platinum double pass to single Supporter Membership wasn’t even questioned.

    Nobody asked “Why you leaving after 10 years?”

    Nobody asked “Any reason for not renewing?”

    Nice to feel valued. Perhaps he already knew the answers. But if no-one has suggested he even ask the question, that says a lot.

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    The Crowd Says (63)

    • Roar Pro

      September 5th 2012 @ 8:27am
      Grimmace said | September 5th 2012 @ 8:27am | ! Report

      Its been a while Pablo. Unfortunately so many too true sentiments. If they’re not anwering to guys like yourself, who are the NSWRU/Waratahs (or whatever they are now) answerable to? As Jenez alluded to yesterday, they need to develop talent, not poach form elsewhere. But it hasn’t worked yet, so the current setup will more than likely keep going with it.

      The whole NSWRU needs tearing down and rebuilding, with a mindset that NSW doesn’t just stand for Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong.

    • September 5th 2012 @ 8:34am
      Christo the Daddyo said | September 5th 2012 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      It seems the ARU needs to step in and do to NSW what they did to QLD.

      • Roar Guru

        September 5th 2012 @ 1:02pm
        Dasher said | September 5th 2012 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        Hearing this story sounds like my friends and my memberships with the Reds in the mid-2000s. Steadily the members around me vanished and only the masochistic die-hards stuck around. Then in 2009, amongst the many other disappointments, the final straw was Barnes leaving to the Tahs. The board all fell on their swords and there was a massive cleanout. The incoming staff arbitrarily appraised all the contracted players and effectively got rid of the underperforming ones and moved on. The same is waaay overdue at the Tahs (and perhaps ARU).

        • Roar Guru

          September 5th 2012 @ 1:22pm
          Bay35Pablo said | September 5th 2012 @ 1:22pm | ! Report

          “The board all fell on their swords …”

          I’m not holding my breath on that one. Those buggers are in tighter than an Alabamy tic!!!!

          • September 5th 2012 @ 1:33pm
            Jimbo Jones said | September 5th 2012 @ 1:33pm | ! Report

            If it bleeds, we can kill it

            • September 5th 2012 @ 3:33pm
              Denby said | September 5th 2012 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

              Jimbo….I like where you are going with that. The board / admin / players / coaches need an independent review and cleanout. It is possible

    • September 5th 2012 @ 9:05am
      jameswm said | September 5th 2012 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      Hey Pablo.

      I could be one of those people who used to sit around you. We were season members around 2002-2005, and we used to sit 4-6 rows back from the front, not on the half-way, but about on the northern 10m line. We had the same seats for 3-4 seasons.

      There used to be a very merry group of about 8 guys who’d sit in a row in front of us, all with Tahs jerseys and their nicknames on their backs. I used to go with my wife and (then) young son, who would have been around 2-5 in those years. You guys (if it’s you) even used to have a rumble with him occasionally, and we all had a great time. I’d pack “apple juice” in his reversible plastic cup – the security guards that checked your bags fortunately never smelt it. And I was as loud as you guys!

      Was that you?

      • Roar Guru

        September 5th 2012 @ 10:58am
        Bay35Pablo said | September 5th 2012 @ 10:58am | ! Report

        Nah, not us, just our dopplegangers. We never went the nicknames on the back of the jerseys. Plus we were funnier. Halfway line for the last 10 years. We’d stay in the Bundy Bar if our tickets were 10m line …. 🙂

        But we did have to tip a whole bunch of Bundy & Cokes into Coke cups for a Wallabies Test about 2001 when they sold us dry seats without telling us. Security said complain to Ticketeck. Great reply to 6 blokes standing there each with a tray of rumbos 3 minutes before kick off …. The boys still give me heaps for that given I bought the tickets. Ticketeck’s stuff up, not mine. What madman buys dry tickets, to the rugby?!?!?!

        I’m not renaming myself Bay23Pablo ….. Perhaps “The Artist Formerly Known as Bay35Pablo” …… 🙂

    • September 5th 2012 @ 9:15am
      kiwi said | September 5th 2012 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Nice read Pablo.

      Not a whinge, but genuine feeling from a genuine fan.

    • September 5th 2012 @ 9:21am
      Bay35Fitzy said | September 5th 2012 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      I thought you were pretty kind Pablo. Waratah HQ / NSWRU needs to understand that, even for their most ardent supporters, there needs to something that is worth watching, that will drag us off our couches, away from engagement parties, happy to miss birthdays or even a night at the pub, and definitely avoid dinner with the misses (no matter how much grief we’ll get) and that’s not to mention AFL, league, and all the other entertainment options we have available to us. This year, they weren’t providing that. It showed in how much the slightest alternative was viewed as being better than a night in the cold at the SFS (don’t get me started on Homebush) watching rugby’s ugly sister – and this was after the hard earned cash had already been parted with for the ticket. I’ll miss those seats and I’ll miss blocking out the calendar as soon as the fixture list is published. But I won’t miss being depressed at how little I was getting for my $50 a game. What I’ll miss most I’m already missing – Quality, Entertaining Rugby!

    • September 5th 2012 @ 9:36am
      Marc Johno said | September 5th 2012 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      Same here, played rugby for 20 years, watched the Waratahs passionately for 35 years (both from the age of 8) and this year, only went to the Brumbies game in Canberra as we couldn’t bring ourselves to the give money to the muppets at Moore Park……….Someone will wake up when they get 5,000 to a match against the Cheetahs………private equity readers, I am available to be CEO if you buy the License off the NSWRU – first order of business will to sack everyone and start again.

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