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Disgruntled supporters applauded the NSW Waratahs for holding a fan forum at the Sydney Football Stadium on Thursday night. Then, in a venomous and sustained attack, those same 120 diehard fans spent more than an hour condemning the Waratahs for playing drab rugby, lacking adventure and spontaneity and hiding behind statistics.
“Lies, damned lies, and statistics,” one fan said, shooting down Chris Hickey after the NSW coach delivered a power point presentation highlighting that the Waratahs stood sixth on the table, had the fourth-best attack and second-best defence.
“There is an absence of accountability and no evidence of pride,” another said.
“You guys are in the entertainment business and you have a responsibility to entertain.
“I’ve been to all of the great grounds around the world and this is without a shadow of a doubt the most boring ground I’ve been to.
“It is an insult to the crowd … the culture of the club is wrong … fast ball out wide please … stop kicking …”
On and on it went, with some rowdy fans even rising to their feet to vent their anger and cutting off embattled Waratahs chief executive Jason Allen.
Undoubtedly, though, the fans’ greatest beef was the Waratahs continually booting the leather off the football.
Ironically, it was injured winger Drew Mitchell – the `Tahs’ best performer this season before badly dislocating his ankle against Queensland last month – who found himself in the firing line.
Mitchell, along with captain Phil Waugh, coach Chris Hickey, assistants Scott Bowen and Michael Foley and manager Chris Webb were the team representatives who fronted up to fans’ grilling.
Mitchell managed to appease the angry mob only briefly.
“We’re definitely guilty of kicking where there’s more of an opportunity to run,” the Wallabies star said.
“I get frustrated at times as well because I think sometimes we kick it when we should be running.”
Despite the barrage of criticism, Waugh said the forum had been a worthwhile exercise.
“If you’re a fan or supporter, you want to be in touch with the team and have an impact and opening the doors like we did tonight gives the fans the opportunity to do that,” he said.
“I hope their voice has been heard. We’ll take it on board and try to entertain them and keep them supporting.
“Perception’s a big thing. The passion is really good to see.”
Waugh insisted the Waratahs were endeavouring to play an exciting brand of rugby but were letting themselves down with poor execution.
“The frustration comes from fans when you train all week and then go out on Saturday night and not perform and not execute the skill you’ve been practising all week,” he said.
“So that’s the biggest thing for us moving forward and there’ll certainly be times to run the ball and the game will open up when we do that.
“At the same time, it’s a contest and you’ve always got a team up against you with 15 guys who are just as desperate to win as you are.
“That’s the important part of this and the more people understand this, the better.”