Like resuscitating a patient in a hospital, it’s important to remember that survival isn’t the only KPI. We must consider quality of life.
Rugby union has been resuscitated following the injection of a free-to-air broadcast deal. The next 12 months will heavily influence the quality of the competition.
What can Stan, Rugby Australia and the fans do to ensure this competition is healthy and thriving?
Michael Cheika’s debut last week was underwhelming. However, he is a big name in the sport and does have something to bring.
We always talk about players needing to play to their strengths. Cheika was a notorious man motivator. He should be doing the pump-up pre-game pieces a la Matt Nable in the NRL.
I’d also get him involved in the advertising marketing. The panel should be asking him about his famous motivational tactics as that was his forte.
The advantage of free-to-air coverage is that it opens the game up to a greater audience. The problem that rugby has is that not many people know who the players are.
Stan needs to introduce the players to the fans. Have pre-match origin stories detailing the background story of the players. For example, there are a lot of Pacific Island players with interesting back stories. I want to know about the family sacrifices, what schools they went to, what motivates them. Once fans can relate to the players, the interest will grow.
There were some hiccups with Stan’s delivery into pubs. This was a critical error on opening weekend. This must be rectified immediately. Have cameras in multiple pubs across Australia broadcasting the rugby. When a team scores a try, the broadcaster can show the best reactions.
It frustrates me that sports networks continue to employ former players. Just because they could play the game doesn’t make them good commentators. It is an entirely different skill set. If anything, it could hinder their commentary performance as they will be less objective.
Kayo minis were a great extended highlights viewing option if you’ve missed the game but want more than the news highlights, but don’t have time to watch the whole 180-minute replay. I’d borrow that idea.
In the same way that rugby league is bringing back the reserve-grade matches to play before the main game, union should do this with the reserve teams. I’d happily turn up a little earlier to watch some more rugby, especially if I have to travel to some of the less conveniently located stadiums.
It’s exciting to see who is coming up from your reserve team. Alternatively, have a women’s national club comp on pre-game.
Perhaps in next year’s rendition, we could add a Pacific Island team such as the Drua? I love the brand of rugby they play.
Could we please introduce a Super Rugby NBA-style combine or draft? It would nicely complement Rugby Australia’s proposed television of schoolboy rugby.
You could have a week-long camp testing sports biometrics. It would generate community interest in the game at a grassroots level. It would also provide another broadcast opportunity for a mendicant union.
Parochial protectionist unions will argue this disincentivises local academies, but you can weight the draft picks to favour local products.
In the New Zealand domestic cricket competition, a certain amount of fans are given bright coloured T-shirts and if they catch a six, there is a cash prize.
If we could transplant this into catching conversions of kicks into touch, this could add entertainment value.
Pre-game entertainment in the NBA may include half-court shots for large prize money. These often make world news when they occasionally are won. Adopting this in rugby could generate increased exposure in various news feeds or social media. An example may include a series of difficult challenges catching high balls on a slippery surface, nailing a few difficult drop kicks and conversions in a certain time frame.
Themed rounds are another way of adding novelty to each round and engaging the young fans. You could have retro round with clubs wearing their inaugural jerseys, an Indigenous round with Indigenous jerseys, a club round where players wear their club socks, a charity round similar to the Jane McGrath pink day at the Sydney cricket Test, and a magic round where all the games are at the same ground.
Have a live tweet scroll on the bottom for commentators to answer fan questions during the physiological dead space in a match, such as during scrum resets.
Optics are important. It’s grim watching 5000 fans at a rugby match scattered throughout a big stadium. Where contractually possible, go for smaller stadiums to create better atmosphere. If the tickets sell out, it will generate interest and incentivise people with the demand it creates. Smaller stadiums include Ballymore, Kawana Sunshine Coast Stadium and Cairns.
As a passionate rugby fan, I don’t want to see rugby wither and die. I don’t want to realise one day that all of the resuscitation efforts so many stake holders have made were all in vain.
I don’t want to be told Australian rugby is not for resuscitation.