Throughout broadcasts, print media, and public discussion the representative rugby side of New South Wales is often not referred to as such, rather most commonly being called ‘the Waratahs’, ‘the Tahs’, or sparingly ‘the NSW Waratahs’. Seldom, if ever, is the team simply regarded as being the ‘New South Wales’ side.
Whilst it can be conceded that this convention is appropriate to identify the side within non-rugby specific contexts, all too often the practice is continued within rugby contexts where the original impetus for a secondary name does not exist.
In rugby terms there is only one team for New South Wales, so why don’t we call things as they are?
Of course, in the past we did. Or rather there was a sense of equity about the component nature of the name, that which has since been whittled away throughout the professional era.
The motive being to broaden the supporter base by removing the geographical barrier to fandom, but, as we look at the game now, has this really had the desired effect?
If anything, support has dwindled, as within the endlessly competitive Sydney-NSW sporting landscape the side has begun to be perceived as absent to its state-representative nature. The very feature that is such a key emboldening drawcard for fans.
Rather, and most markedly, being inordinately equated as comparable to NRL and AFL club franchises in terms of sporting eminence.
For example, the commonality amongst the names of ‘Waratahs’, ‘Sea Eagles, and ‘Swans’ reasonably supposes a commonality and likeness in the minds of fans. As opposed to the alternative ‘New South Wales Waratahs’, ‘Manly Sea Eagles’, and ‘Sydney Swans’, where, through the superior representation, the side is elevated toward a higher grandeur.
I’m certainly not proposing that we abandon the ‘Waratahs’ moniker, but rather that we return to a more equitable employment of the composite parts of the name. That, in the instance of a try, a caller could say “New South Wales cross over for a try” and within the same passage of commentary, “scored by the Waratah winger…”. As opposed to using “Waratah(s)” for both.
The viability of this sort of subtle change in rhetoric, with regard to helping re-connect and resume fans’ enamourment with the side, can be observed from Brad Thorn’s tenure coaching the Queensland Reds.
Where the coach spearheaded a re-emphasis on the ‘Queensland’ nature of the name; moving away from the Brisbane and South-East Queensland reckoning of the side and re-emphasising the state-wide representative nature of the team. Oftentimes referring to the side without the ‘Reds’ moniker and just as ‘Queensland’, renewing the support of fans in the process.
This shift in nomenclature and reckoning facilitated further boon directives such as the ‘Reds to Regions’ program and the re-development of the historical Ballymore precinct.
It’s reasonable to think that a similar shift to re-emphasise ‘New South Wales’, whilst emboldening fans, could also potentially spur similar initiatives to renew support in regional areas.
And, if you aren’t convinced, this sort of adjustment doesn’t really have any profound downside, so why don’t we try it?