Wallabies coach Dave Rennie hasn’t given up hope teen sensation Joseph Suaalii will snub a big-money offer by NRL club South Sydney to stay with rugby union.
Friday 17:00, September 18th, 2023: Grand Hotel de l’Opera, Place du Capitole, 31000 Toulouse, France.
Well, what a day we had. Travelling with a group has its limits, even if we had all played rugby together. As my wife put it directly, “Look, the wives didn’t play together, and can you stop calling us the women’s auxiliary?”.
Friday had three choices, arranged by the Hotel. The Airbus Factory Tour (A380’s and Aerospace Research, no thank-you), The Wineries in the Gaillac Region (I’m focussed on game day, tomorrow, surprising my friends) a Toulouse City and Churches Walking Tour (St. Sylvius, bishop of Toulouse, began construction of the basilica towards the end of the fourth century.
Its importance increased enormously after Charlemagne (r. 768-800) donated several relics to it, as a result of which it became an essential stop for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela).
By 9:30 am we had split up and on our separate ways. The Rugby World Cup off the field is the experience of a lifetime. Fans from all over the world gather, and on our walking tour, you could see all the scarves, people from all walks of life. The other countries still regard the Wallabies highly and tomorrow’s game was going to be one for the history books.
By 5 pm we were back together for the Kayo-Roar Supporters Cocktail Party at the Grand Hotel de l’Opera. Australian, New Zealand and New Zealanders living in Australia permanently gathered together for a riotous early evening of drinking, BS, across the ditch bragging and baiting, old friends and new.
By the end of 2022 not only the rugby had undergone dramatic changes but so had the broadcast and media in general. Murdoch had sold Foxtel Sports to Netflix and kept Kayo. Kayo merged with The Roar and created a sports streaming service with a fan-base who they listened to through Zoom focus groups and The Roar’s expert commentary and home-grown postings.
The Rugby World Cup media announced the referee’s and teams at the function and ran live interviews with the coaches and captains from each side. Between 2021 and 2022 there was a lot of bad blood created between the two parties, complicated by the Private Equity sharks and News Limited.
Three organisations, four if you count Murdoch had been pursuing dominance in the sports content business, didn’t give a stuff about our game, exposing self-centred administrators, ignoring rugby’s fan-base and social rugby players. People had come to know CVC Capital, City Football Group and Silver Lake but remained confused where the pot of gold lay when the business model relied on some-one funding the losses.
The elephant in the room was the denial of the fundamentals of business. The costs were rising, and the revenue was falling. The players were shifting towards the morality of the people who sought to profit from their skills and teamwork.
“CW, what are you doing buddy?”, interrupted Georgie.
“I was thinking”.
Well, let’s get back to the ANZ friendship party.
We were gathered in the ballroom of the Hotel de l’Opera, for the speeches, drinks and meet and greet. Then in the main square, there must have been 10,000 people from all countries. There was a bloody great big BBQ, Bars, Stage, Music and cross-pollination of French, Fijian, Maori, Pākehā, Aussie, League, Indigenous..old, young, baby-boomer, millennial, whatever.
Rugby supporters, all united. We stood spellbound as Palmerston North Boys High did a Haka that lifted the roof off the La Cathedrale St Etienne.
I looked back to Australia in 2020, drought, bush-fires and then COVID and we did recover. How? It was a community effort, and we are the global rugby community. It’s not about PE investment ratios, self-interest, ego inflation or wealth accumulation; we are a rugby community. My wife came over. “You’re very pensive tonight, Mossy, what’s going on”.
“Well, Mum came from Palmerston North, I was born in Auckland, live in Sydney, support the Wallabies, but the Haka made me wonder if I was ignoring my heritage, my country”.
She hugged me and off we went to rescue Champs who was explaining the finer points of the maul to two Italian rugby wives, thirty-five years his junior. Marty and his Le Coq supporters suddenly appeared in front of us and the next thing we are singing, the whole crowd is singing La Marseillaise:
Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Qu’un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
La révolution sera demain, Les Wallabies versus Tout Noir, Rugby World Cup 2023.