Has the Waratahs’ win lifted Australia’s Super Rugby blues?

Spiro Zavos Columnist

By Spiro Zavos, Spiro Zavos is a Roar Expert

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    Memo to Paul Cully: Australia’s problems with the Super Rugby concept are related to poor results by the four franchises, not the tournament itself.

    What needs to be fixed, therefore, are the results. The more matches the Australian teams win, the more competitive they become and the greater the benefits, on and off the field, the Super Rugby tournament will bestow on the local franchises.

    Let’s be blunt. The Cully Plan would relegate Australian rugby to a very minor quasi-amateur code, rather like hockey.

    The bluntness in confronting the Cully Plan memo is needed because Paul Cully, an influential rugby journalist with a column in the SMH, has called for Australia to pull out of the Super Rugby tournament.

    We are all capable of writing absolute nonsense (and readers will no doubt remind me of some of my shockers) but this Cully piece must be one of the most nonsensical rugby columns published in the last decade or so. It could only be written by someone who has no knowledge (it seems to me) of the history of the rugby game in Australia.

    Cully’s argument is that Australian viewers are not watching Super Rugby matches at the game or on TV in their homes.

    He then insists that “Australia can’t afford” to stay in SANZAAR. Rugby Australia “must regain total control of its own future even to stand a chance of getting out of this mess.”

    And how will the mess be cleaned up? Here is the Cully answer: “If Australia goes it alone, it will create winners again. In a ten-team national competition, five sets of fans get to go home every week.”

    He suggests that Channel Ten needs content and that Rugby Australia should “shut the door and not open it until we can both do something about it.”

    Whew! It’s so easy, it seems, it’s a wonder it hasn’t been done. Just put the hard word on Channel Ten about an all-Australian rugby tournament, with ten teams that don’t exist right now, and rugby in Australia will live happily ever after!

    But hold it, what is the National Rugby Championship? And why aren’t the free-to-air television stations breaking down the doors at Rugby Australia’s headquarters to get a piece of the action?

    The NRC came into existence in 2014 after the Australian Rugby Championship was abandoned after its first season in 2007 due to financial losses.

    The NRC has a five-year deal secured in 2015 until 2020. But in 2016, Rugby Australia did not renew an NRC licence for the Sydney Stars because having four teams in NSW was diluting the player pool too much.

    Does Cully believe that a ten-team NRC would generate enough television, sponsorship and spectator revenues to pay for stars like Israel Folau or Michael Hooper to play rugby in Australia?

    Israel Folau

    (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

    The rugby league scouts would have an even greater field day with stealing young and old rugby talent than they had before the Super Rugby tournament was started in 1996.

    And here is a nice irony. During the round-robin section of the NRC, teams play for the Horan-Little Shield, a challenge trophy that is played between the holder and a challenger, rather like the New Zealand Ranfurly Shield.

    Tim Horan and Jason Little were two of the great Wallabies of their generation who were ‘saved’ from having to convert to rugby league because of their contracts with the new Super Rugby tournament.

    Since 1996, the drift of rugby players to rugby league has been stopped and there has been a steady and important flow of talented players from rugby league to rugby as a consequence of the money and lifestyle that the Super Rugby tournament offers.

    Incidentally, the Sunday Telegraph ran an interesting little article, ‘Ratings Dive A Concern,’ that challenges one of Cully’s main assertions.

    The article pointed out that A-League television rating figures were 18 per cent down on last year. NRL on Channel Nine is down eight per cent. AFL is down by about 12 per cent. But Super Rugby on Fox Sports “is doing best of all … up about three per cent.”

    Now, this slight ratings lift has occurred even though the Australian teams have had a horrible 2018 Super Rugby season, so far.

    The Australian teams have had 18 wins out of the 44 matches they have played so far this year.

    It is a commonplace of sports commentary (but true, nevertheless) that even the most ardent of supporters will lose some of their enthusiasm if their team is a losing spiral.

    On the other hand, winning creates finals fever and with this enthusiasm great support. Moreover, if the Super Rugby franchises could learn from the Western Force how to promote their games, their crowds would be bigger and more enthusiastic.

    Michael Hooper of the Waratahs tall

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    As Paul Cully observed in his article, too, more viewers in Australia (around 50,000) watched the Blues versus Hurricanes match at 5.30pm, a week or so ago, than the 48,000 viewers of the Crusaders versus Waratahs match at 7.30 pm on the same night.

    One can presume from this, as Cully did, that it was Waratahs supporters who were turned off from their team.

    The brilliant win against the Highlanders on Saturday night at Sydney, even though the Highlanders played for over an hour with 14 men and for ten minutes with 13, should bring viewers back to the ground and to their television screens.

    It is a wonder to me that Rugby Australia has not been openly active in pushing the Australian franchises to perform better than they have. What input, for example, is the high performance unit providing to the struggling franchises?

    Incidentally, Cully makes another observation about the Super Rugby tournament that actually destroys his case: “Indeed, based on my understanding of Super Rugby pay TV audiences in Britain, there may be more watching Sky Sport UK broadcasts than the Wallabies fans in Australia.”

    This is the point about the Super Rugby tournament, it allows rugby in Australia to be part of a worldwide audience. This is its point of difference with rugby league and AFL. They have an essentially provincial reach. Rugby has an international reach.

    This international reach means that the Super Rugby concept has huge commercial value, even for Australia where the sport is struggling to be even the third football code.

    AFL and rugby league cannot compete commercially, in a global sense, from a Super Rugby tournament that embraces South Africa, Argentina, Japan, New Zealand and Australia.

    Add to this the fact that there is a large viewing audience for Super Rugby in the UK, Ireland and throughout Europe.

    Michael Hooper

    (AAP Image/Jeremy Ng)

    And, just as importantly, the Super Rugby concept has forced the franchises in Australia to lift their game to compete against the different other franchises.

    It is no accident that only one country outside of SANZAAR has won a Rugby World Cup, England in 2003.

    And in Rugby World Cup 2015, all four semi-finalists, Australia, Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand, were from SANZAAR.

    So the hard truth is this. Super Rugby is not the problem for Australian rugby. The terrible record of losses this season is the problem.

    There is some consolation over the weekend that although the Reds (to the Hurricanes) and the Brumbies (to the Lions) lost, both sides actually played very well considering some earlier performances and the quality of their opponents.

    And the Waratahs, glory be, defeated a resilient Highlanders team to break the 40-game losing hoodoo of Australian sides losing to New Zealand sides.

    Next weekend, the Rebels play the Sunwolves at Melbourne. The Waratahs play the Chiefs at Hamilton, with the home side returning from South Africa. The Reds play the Highlanders at Dunedin. And the Brumbies play the Bulls at Pretoria.

    All of these games will be difficult for the Australian teams to win. They reflect what a tough tournament Super Rugby is.

    But for the Waratahs, Australia’s only real hope of winning the tournament, an away win in New Zealand is a defining challenge going into the finals.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (193)

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:22am
      Carl said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:22am | ! Report

      To paraphrase Vitas Gerulaitus “Let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats the Australian Rugby franchises 41 times in a row.”

      • May 21st 2018 @ 9:40am
        sheek said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Good morning Spiro,

        i find myself in an unusually awkward situation this morning.

        Most times I would find myself agreeing with your articles & most times I would find myself disagreeing with anything Paul Cully says.

        But today I feel the reverse. I reject the arguments of your article today & fully endorse what Paul Cully said in last Saturday’s SMH.

        Even your colleague Wayne Smith at The Australian seems to be getting carried away with this one win. One Win! Even two or three wins won’t cut it.

        Australian rugby is in a severe mess entirely of its own making. Fans are indeed no longer watching super rugby, or indeed, anything above club rugby. Even the NRC is losing viewers.

        They’ll watch the Wallabies, but also in declining numbers.

        A few wins will no longer cut it. Until a majority of Australian professional teams start beating their NZ counterparts on a regular basis, emphasis on regular basis, we have nothing to crow about.

        Super rugby has lost the fans. There is deep resentment that RA & SANZAAR won’t listen to the fans, give them what they want. So consequently, we’re giving them the “bird” by walking away.

        Even if they admitted their mistakes now, it would be too little, too late. The fans have stopped listening to their garbage, & have stopped caring.

        It’s an interesting thing about people who climb the ladder, whether it’s government, banks, sport, or whatever. Once upon a time we had it prevailed upon us that we should seek higher office in order to make the world a better place. For the majority.

        Not anymore. Today too many people seek higher office purely for their own benefit, or theirs & their cronies.

        To expect that RA & SANZAAR will now admit their folly & do the best for the majority of fans is to be totally deluded.They are incapable of any such act. They are there for themselves mostly, not the game.

        First-up, they almost certainly don’t think they have a problem. And secondly, they’re incapable of admitting any culpability.

        I’m sure they think it’s someone else’s fault.

        Probably they believe it’s the collective fans’ fault for not doing as they are supposed to, that is, be complaint & just follow their direction.

        Super rugby as it is, is broken. It’s been broken since SANZAAR in its gross ignorance, expanded to 18 teams, allowing a team from Japan & a 6th team from South Africa.

        The Jaguares, yes of course. If you’re going to have Argentina in the RC, then you must have Argentine representation in super rugby. But no more of this nonsense.

        Rather than admit their culpability, SANZAAR & RA found a couple of fall guys for their folly in the Force, Cheetahs & kings. Fans have walked away in disgust.

        And please, stop upholding NRC as some kind of redemptive comp for the future. NRC only exists while our super rugby teams gurgle & drown around in super rugby. it will never ever be, a comparable comp to Currie Cup or NPC.

        If Australia wants a national domestic comp, the first five teams in it will be the Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies, Rebels & Force.

        Call them NSW, Queensland, ACT, Victoria & WA, or Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne & Perth, it doesn’t matter. Be a national provincial comp or national club comp. Just do it!

        The Waratahs, Reds, Brumbies, Rebels & Force are the first five teams to go into a national comp. They are our inaugural national comp teams.

        And a majority of fans apparently want to see them playing in Australia against each other at Australian grounds, before Australian audiences, on Australian TV at Australian time-friendly kick-offs.

        It will probably be ugly to watch, because the talent is being drained overseas & not being replaced sufficiently. But at least it belongs to us, it’s setting down sound structures that will hopefully be sustainable into the future.

        Get the structures right, once & for all, & the benefits will follow. Or, as another Roarer put it on the weekend, look after the cents, & the dollars will take care of themselves.

        But that saying is probably lost on the instant credit world we live in, where everyone thinks they have so much more money than than they really do. Obviously SANZAAR & RA are infected with the same fantasy bug.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 10:06am
          Haradasun said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

          You have echoed my sentiments preciciely Sheek. I won’t watch another super rugby game and the administration has successfully fragmented Whats left of the rugby supporter base with a myriad of different rugby competitions yet strangely no national one. NRC is a development pathway not a supporter driven competition so I’m happy supporting my local shute shield team and will go watch Wallabies play Ireland and that’s about it.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 10:39am
            Joseph said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:39am | ! Report

            What are you on Sheek? I would like some of what you are having please?

          • May 21st 2018 @ 2:47pm
            Stephen Creagh said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:47pm | ! Report

            I don’t agree with the deconstruction of Super Rugby but note that you make an important point, Haradasun – the NRC, much like the Sheffield Shield, is a pathway for development and is having much success in this area.
            If we expect huge crowds for every game, then we will all be disappointed, but if we expect a larger field of competent players to choose from, then the outlook is far more positive.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 10:40am
          Connor33 said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

          Sheek. So many things that are sensibly said in this post, though I have often disagreed with your negative tinge, particularly in recent years where you have boarded on double negatives, but I guess that makes it positive.

          But let me say this—and I do not agree with it fully, substantively—but grammatically, this sentence is near bloody perfect: “Super rugby as it is, is broken.”

          Not quite broken. But simply need to go back to three teams to herald back the “golden” age of the 1990s and 2000s as often talk about—and which most of us on the Roar are full aware.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 11:09am
            sheek said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

            Connor,

            I am perpetually intrigued by this notion that someone who calls a spade a spade, or even a bloody shovel, is somehow construed as being negative. Perhaps you should give me some credit for being prescient.

            Recently I have re-read a book on Kokoda & am still wading through a massive tome on The Great War. Both books are written by well known Aussie authors.

            In the Kokoda book, some clearly wrong decisions being presumed by generals & brigadiers at the rear, without first-hand knowledge of what they were asking their soldiers to do, were challenged by officers who were at the front, & who clearly knew what was going on.

            None of these officers at the front, who projected their disagreement as respectfully as they could, were ever considered negative by their soldiers, once they knew they were going into bat for them.

            Any objective that can be achieved with lesser loss of life has to be commendable.

            As for the generals of WW1, if they tried today what they got away with back then, I would be surprised if they weren’t charged with wilful murder, even if they were involved in the business of war!

            But the prevailing attitude back then was to have some kind of fatalistic attitude, despite the gross bumbling & unnecessary loss of life going on around them.

            I’ve long believed as an adult that if something is wrong, it should be challenged & changed. To remain silent in the face of something being hopelessly wrong, is cowardly.

            Of course, once if we become a totalitarian regime one day, I’ll be quiet as mouse! But while we live in a democracy, I’ll speak up.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 1:14pm
              peterm said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

              well said Sheek – could not agree more – sometimes leadership comes from behind, not always from the front. Please keep it up. I hope you’ve read about Tubby Allen in Kokoda in your reading ? So far as Super Rugby goes, this is one fan that would rather see our Aussie teams play less against each other, and be guaranteed to play each of the overseas teams at least once- same for the NZ teams. Local derbies aint as appealing (to me) at this level compared to measuring up against arguably the best provincial teams in the world

            • May 21st 2018 @ 2:06pm
              Connor33 said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

              Sheek,

              While I personally do not have “first-hand knowledge” of the Great War, my Grandfather did at the Battle of the Somme. And no doubt your books told some sorry stories about that one under British generals, no less.

              But it seems that your books do not retrace the more positive narrative—and those won by AU generals at the Battel of Hamel, among others, won by Monash. And yes, he was Australian. And while this was a “positive” victory for all the reasons recounted in his biography, that battle, and Monash’s tactics, provided the predicate for blietzkrieg in WWII. So yes, I am a pretty keen student of history—the full picture, the full narrative, and the full context.

              Something that is lacking in many posts that you post.

              Though, I think on this occasion we actually had more in common than in contest—and I’m hoping you can pick that up, in my post, on a further read.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 10:49am
          Hugh Dillon said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

          Sorry Sheek — as jerry-built as Super Rugby is, turning away from it would be a disaster for Australian rugby. We need to be competing with NZ teams to reach their standards. That has been obvious since the 70s when Australian rugby bottomed out (remember the “Woeful Wallabies” of 1972? Maybe you are too young but us older guys can.

          And where will the money come from for an Australian competition?

          Spiro got this dead right and, although I think Paul Cully has many interesting ideas, he is dead wrong.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 1:52pm
            jameswm said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

            Yep. Having our own comp would be nice and insular, but we would fall way behind NZ.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 9:38pm
              sheek said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:38pm | ! Report

              Why James,

              There’s still contact in my suggestion with Champion’s Cup & Rugby Championship.

              If/when we get flogged in those two comps, there should be plenty of incentive to lift standards.

              We’re playing Kiwi sides more often than ever before & getting regular floggings.

              Playing Kiwi teams week-in, week-out isn’t making us any better at present.

              So changing the script won’t be any worse than what we’re currently witnessing.

              • May 21st 2018 @ 10:16pm
                Jameswm said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:16pm | ! Report

                Not for the last 2 years maybe, but for 15-20 years before that we’ve been more competitive than ever. And see where we’ve got to in 2 years being forced to raise our standards.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 3:36pm
            Tuc Du Nard said | May 21st 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            How would you know what level you’re really at by going it alone? Finding out the hard way every RWC is plain wrong. We need to stay connected with the best or we will never win another World Cup.

            Know thy enemy…

            We need to invest in coaching across the board. This is where it starts. When kids are learning the game you need good coaches.
            And we can invest in both grassroots and the top level because there will be huge support flowing back if the Wallabies go better this year.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 10:53am
          Joe King said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:53am | ! Report

          Yes, I agree Sheek. From the beginning of professional rugby (even earlier) the ARU/RA should have been pursuing a strong national domestic comp followed by a shorter champions league. But now it is trying to appease an overseas audience first and foremost.

          Rule number one for RA (not the NZRU or SARU): give the Australian fans what they will most enjoy watching. Build it to last 100 years. The rest will take of itself.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 11:42am
          Brian George said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

          Jeez sheek, I expected a bit more of you than to piggyback on the first comment (without reference to either the poster or their post) in order to get your “important” comment up the list rather than on page 3, just like so many of the numpties who think their comment should be read by everyone.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 12:29pm
            sheek said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            Brian,

            The repeat comment here was an accidental finger trouble. I wanted to say to Carl – excellent, as I did below. The first & original comment appears further down.

            Sometimes I accidentally double-click not thinking I had hit ‘add comment’ previously. I’ve been caught out a few times exiting without hitting ‘add comment’.

            So that’s the reason for the double-up.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 2:10pm
            Connor33 said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:10pm | ! Report

            Brian, I thought the same. But thought the same but soon realized that I have been guilty of the same.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 4:03pm
          Armchair sportsfan said | May 21st 2018 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

          “And a majority of fans apparently want to see them playing in Australia against each other at Australian grounds, before Australian audiences, on Australian TV at Australian time-friendly kick-offs”

          Yeah!!!…USA!!!…USA!!…USA!!!……

          As an Aussie living overseas….I see more and more comments like this these days (and not just about rugby), and it saddens me that jingoism is not only alive and well, but is prospering in Australia. This inst a dig at Sheek, he’s just echoing what the broader Australian consciousness seems to want…..

        • Roar Rookie

          May 24th 2018 @ 1:01pm
          joeb said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

          “They’ve [Chiefs] got a lot more strike power and they’re a great team, ‘but you’ve got to beat the best’.”

          Playing local derbies all season doesn’t prove much; enough to drive a half-sane fella completely round the, umm, corner. Bend, if you wanna be pedantic.

          Are we allowed to post links these days?

          https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/his-tooth-was-in-his-mouthguard-tahs-to-call-on-spirit-of-2014-to-ambush-chiefs-20180521-p4zgko.html

          Apparently not.

          “Tahs to call on spirit of 2014 to ambush Chiefs”, SMH RugbyHeaven, 21 May 2018

          Don’t say it too loud though, the ambush bit. But it’s a definite ‘must watch’ affair.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 9:41am
        sheek said | May 21st 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Carl – excellent!

      • May 21st 2018 @ 11:00am
        freddieeffer said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        The Effer says it was 1 win for effssake.

        The Effer also says, if you can’t win against 14 with 65 minutes to go, then that’s worthy of player (Tahs) instant dismissal (without pay), and automatic player and team deregistration from the competition for being so useless and embarrassing.

        That’s what the Effer thinks of that ONE win. (40 on the trot to go before anyone thinks of opening their self-congratulatory, self-backslapping mouths)

        • May 21st 2018 @ 11:43am
          Phil said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:43am | ! Report

          Effer,it’s not always a foregone conclusion that a team loses when playing a man short.There have been many instances where teams have won with a player down.Even the B and I Lions had trouble beating the All Blacks last year after SBW got sent off.You still have to do the job and,in some cases,the team with a man up can get complacent and the other side can lift.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 12:12pm
            freddieeffer said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            Agreed, but my context was responding to the back-slappers exuberance with one win against a 14 man side after 40 losses, many of which have been in the self-inflicted defeat/capitulation category.
            In other words, if ever the Tahs were going get a Kiwi SR scalp to break the drought, it would be against 14 with 65 to go. If they couldn’t ……
            Can the Tahs put 50 on the Chiefs and win?

        • May 21st 2018 @ 4:12pm
          Albo said | May 21st 2018 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

          Why is it so wrong to be happy about a win?

          Do you have any idea what it’s like to be 40-0 down in individual matches against your biggest competitor, let alone one game? I genuinely want to know how we are supposed to act?

          Has anyone one here pointed to a NZ downfall? Has anyone suggested that the ABs are no longer the incredible outfit they have been?

          You have to stop looking at genuine relief and celebration as some sort of slight against the other team.

          OUR game, the one you and I BOTH love, is struggling in this country and it’s taking its toll. Zero people are calling us world beaters how. We are celebrating because it showed we can be competitive still. That’s what the backslapping is about; that on our day, we can still beat the best. Yes there were 14 men but that hasn’t stopped us losing before.

          Let us enjoy any win. You should enjoy any win. NZ are still the benchmark. We still have a loooooooong way to go. But this is a start.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 8:07pm
            Reverse Wheel said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

            Well said

            • May 22nd 2018 @ 1:55pm
              Buk said | May 22nd 2018 @ 1:55pm | ! Report

              After 40 losses I would take a win against 10 men 🙂

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:28am
      Advrider-oz said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Well written Spiro. Paul Cully’s proposition was ill conceived and nonsense.

      No doubt Super Rugby has issues but the fault is a bar bell. At one end tardy, visionless leadership and the other 3 iut if 4 teams going thru major rebuilds.

      Are we on the right track to building success- who knows but killing Super Rugby is not it.

      I would like to see 2-3 rugby games before each main game. U20’s, womens and a schools team game. I well remember 10-15k spectators at a St Joeys game 10-12 years ago.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:33am
      Sebastian Amor-Smith said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      I don’t often agree with what you write, but you have nailed it this time. I had to stop reading Paul Cully’s article because it was sheer stupidity.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 7:41am
      Malo said | May 21st 2018 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      One win and sr is saved, what optimism.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 8:54am
        Reverse Wheel said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:54am | ! Report

        Can you just quote me the bit where he said that please?

        • May 21st 2018 @ 12:53pm
          Malo said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

          We had score of 1000s at the easts vs Uni game for ladies day down at Woollahra. Great to see Maddocks and past wallabies down there. There are so many rugby supporters and no one talks about SR. I’ll go to my schoool rugby this W/end and there will be 1000s watching as well. Sr just does not rate and actually is detested by the grassroots due solely to the RA.

    • May 21st 2018 @ 8:02am
      Daveski said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:02am | ! Report

      Hmmm I don’t know Spiro. Explain how the Manly Rats game had a larger crowd than the Tahs Highlanders? I’d be very keen to see Tv rating comparisons despite the club game being on at a less than ideal time.

      I’ve loved my super rugby since the mid 90s but it’s not engaging with fans not just in Oz, but in Sth Africa and NZ too.

      I was at the Sunwolves Reds game two weeks back. Brilliant atmosphere. And it’s great if we are getting decent viewing numbers in the UK. But if the week-in, week-out product is not dragging in the punters in the member unions ultimately the sport as a whole is weakened over time.

      Cully isn’t right but he’s not all wrong either. There’s a lot right with super rugby ( think of recent highlights like Folau’s 2nd try, Tupou’s run on the weekend, Clark’s chase of Ioane). The product is great generally but so much around it is frustrating, disfunctional and non-fan friendly.

      The drought breaking win doesn’t change this nor does it change the fact that RA shouldn’t have sacrificed any lambs to SANZAAR or at least sacrificed the wrong one.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 8:55am
        Reverse Wheel said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        What was the crowd at the manly rats game?

      • May 21st 2018 @ 10:02am
        SP said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

        Explain how the Manly Rats game had a larger crowd than the Tahs Highlanders?

        Local derby. Cracking weather. Rat park and Manly oval both great places to watch a game. Either venue is only about 25min away from most places on the Northern beaches. Cheaper.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 12:39pm
          Daveski said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:39pm | ! Report

          Don’t disagree with any of that but 10 years ago all your reasons were still valid and the crowd comparison would have been something like 5-6K at Manly Oval and 18-22K at SFS. Instead the club crowd is probably now double and the super crowd has halved.

      • May 22nd 2018 @ 1:10pm
        Jamie said | May 22nd 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

        There was 12400 at the Tahs game. And what was the manly rats crowd? 7k?

    • May 21st 2018 @ 8:08am
      Neil Back said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:08am | ! Report

      Super Rugby is a dogs breakfast of a tournament. Even when Australian franchises were going well it was hard to invest in. Almost any alternative seems worth considering.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 8:19am
        woodart said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:19am | ! Report

        rubbish. its not perfect and never will be . having teams from five different countries spread halfway across the globe is a huge plus. these stupid comments about how aus rugby should go alone make me wonder what some people are smoking.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 10:02am
          DJW said | May 21st 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Yet fan engagement is much higher in all the other sports that have predominantly domestic leagues – AFL, NRL, NBL, A-League.

          I doubt most Australians could name a South African team or the Sunwolves / Jaguares or even New Zealand for that matter.

          A Heineken cup model would work better with the best teams from each country determined from domestic leagues playing off.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 11:22am
          Sydneysider said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

          “having teams from five different countries spread halfway across the globe is a huge plus.”

          Delusional.

          Super rugby is finished in Australia, it’s only a matter of when not if.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 12:58pm
            Malo said | May 21st 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

            Exactly when, if you can’t get ex rugby players and rusted on supporters to a game you know it is a matter of when.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 11:09am
        Taylorman said | May 21st 2018 @ 11:09am | ! Report

        Geez i still use the Leinster final to put me to sleep. Northerners. No idea.

        • Roar Rookie

          May 21st 2018 @ 1:43pm
          The Delta said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

          +1 Tman.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 2:39pm
            Neil Back said | May 21st 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

            Don’t need any assistance from Super Rugby fixtures. You’re asleep when half the games are being played anyway. Then again, being awake for a side getting walloped isn’t much better.

            • May 21st 2018 @ 8:23pm
              Taylorman said | May 21st 2018 @ 8:23pm | ! Report

              Yet your teams fall over themselves paying for those same Superxv players to fill your comps up. So youre watching Super rugby wherever you watch. I mean it took a Blues ex to kick the winning points. Someones telling little porkies methinks😂

              • May 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am
                Neil Back said | May 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

                Seems to me there’s a whole bunch of people falling over their baggage at check in to leave Super Rugby behind. Not so super huh.

      • May 21st 2018 @ 1:50pm
        Nathan said | May 21st 2018 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

        I totally agree – winning is not sufficient to get supporters to invest in the competition in a sustainable way. Spiro’s assertion that the problem is simply poor results seems incredibly shallow. We need to have teams and players we feel passionate about, we need a competition and teams that the players themselves feel passionate about, we need an elite competition that is connected to geographical locations and with provides representation for lower level competitions, we need a healthy vibrant amateur competition, we need a competition structure that is understandable, and we need regular games that we can actually view on TV or at a ground. Is there anything else? Having our teams winning will actually be a reflection of all of this and in some sense is the cherry on top! A failure to win is the symptom and not the cause of the problem. (you can’t make a cupcake starting with the cherry 🙂

        Super rugby has provided some great benefits including greater financial benefits and the chance to watch our teams play against many of the worlds best international players on a weekly basis. But the current structure in Australia is not meeting many of the needs highlighted above (maybe it does in NZ and SA) – it is sad to see the way in which super rugby just doesn’t seem to connect with rugby in the ACT for example. Australia does need to find a way for Super rugby to benefit a strong national competition that is properly grounded.

        • May 21st 2018 @ 5:53pm
          Andy said | May 21st 2018 @ 5:53pm | ! Report

          Do yourself a favour and check the stats reds and Waratahs attendances were quite healthy when they both won the comp, lots of fair weather supporters out there, who will come back when they think their team are a genuine chance of winning! An australian only Como will likely fall flat on its face as there will not be enough revenue to keep the big names.

          • Roar Guru

            May 21st 2018 @ 6:13pm
            jeznez said | May 21st 2018 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

            Did the Tahs really have healthy attendance in 2014?

            Here are some numbers to consider (apologies that most numbers came from articles that gave inexact rounded figures but the trend looks pretty clear):

            2004 avg – 34,000
            2005 avg – 33,000
            2010 avg – 24,000
            2014 avg – 18,115 (avg including finals 25,220)
            2017 avg – 14,500

            Is that title year in 2014 really that healthy?

            • May 22nd 2018 @ 7:29am
              Andy said | May 22nd 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

              Wiki reported 25 000 for the tahs in 2014 and 33 000 did the reds

              • Roar Guru

                May 22nd 2018 @ 11:59am
                jeznez said | May 22nd 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

                That matches the average including finals number above – still a far cry from what the side used to average.

                Is boosted by the 60K that went to the final. I that is fairly telling as well – they couldn’t sell out their stadium for their first ever title win.

            • May 22nd 2018 @ 11:46am
              Lorry said | May 22nd 2018 @ 11:46am | ! Report

              Just reminds you how great the 2004-2005 days were for Tahs!
              Mat Rogers, Nathan Grey, Chris Whitaker, Phil Waugh, Matt Burke.

              A terrific team.

            • May 22nd 2018 @ 2:03pm
              Buk said | May 22nd 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

              Thanks for the numbers Jez, pretty telling stat for 2004 and 2005, I’d almost forgotten those crowds.

          • May 21st 2018 @ 6:31pm
            Nathan said | May 21st 2018 @ 6:31pm | ! Report

            Sure Andy, more people will turn up if the football is good to watch and if their team has a chance of winning (these are related). But people making your argument miss 2 big things.

            The first is that having supporters who aren’t just fair weather supports is really important to clubs in lean times and changes the character of a club (Just check-in with the Bulldogs – AFL team).

            And the second thing is that the endless mantra of “they need to be winning” doesn’t say anything about how this is going to be achieved – so the high performance unit just needs to decide to push the franchises to play better rugby? What? So we all sit around waiting for this to happen – really!

            I never said that Australia should turn its back on some form of super rugby or international comp. I think the argument that it is one or the other misses the point, which is that the comp as it is right now is leading to a massive decline in interest.

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