The Roar
The Roar


Legalising foul play, laneway bars and Molly Meldrum: Ten ways we can conquer Melbourne for rugby

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
27th February, 2024
1938 Reads

Super Round is coming up, and Melbourne will be hosting all 12 teams this weekend – much to the chagrin of many supporters, who would rather the showcase round be held in a city with a better than even chance of drawing a crowd that couldn’t fit comfortably in a Volkswagen.

Amid the doom and gloom about the future of the Rebels, we’re living through a moment of supreme pessimism about rugby union in Melbourne and its chances of ever gaining a hold of the southern imagination.

But it need not be this way.

Melbourne can indeed become a rugby stronghold, and its people converted into passionate rugbyites.

It’s just a matter of making a few compromises, a few tweaks, a few concessions to the Victorian mindset.

Super Round should lean into Melbourne’s culture to bring back the fans. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)


All rugby has to do is bring those things that Melburnians love into the game that we all love, and before you know it Melbourne will be the rugby capital of Australia and Super Round the hottest ticket in town.

I lived in Melbourne for 20 years, and they were among the top three 20-year periods of my life so far.

My experience makes me the perfect man to formulate a plan for turning the southern capital rugby-mad. Here’s a few suggestions for how we do it:

1: The scoring system.

Melburnians instinctively react against rugby when they see how points are scored, because it seems inherently unfair. “How cruel,” they muse, “to give three points for kicking a goal, but nothing at all for having a good honest try at kicking a goal”. If we want to win Melbourne over, that has to change. Rugby needs to introduce a reward for anyone who misses a shot at goal. As Australian Rules has always held, it’s only fair that you get something for putting in the effort. In a similar vein…

2: Ball handling.

No Melbourne fan, however much they might want to get into rugby, will embrace a game in which players so routinely pick the ball up cleanly. Rugby must move with the times if it wants to take over new territory, and that means ending this obsession with ball handling. Get rid of the proscription against knock-ons and let players have as many goes as they want to pick it up. They’re doing their best.


3: Marking.

One big plus for rugby in conquering Melbourne is that, like the AFL, rugby has marking. But our marks are a pale imitation of theirs. Why would they come watch ours when theirs are so much more spectacular? Easy to fix though: while now a mark is rewarded with a free kick, rugby can increase that incentive, awarding the player a free kick and fifty metres of territory, if they take the mark while standing on an opponent’s head. Which brings us to the next point:

Glen Vaihu leapt high to take the ball over Tom Wright at AAMI Park on February 23, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images)

4: Foul play.

We are going to have to legalise standing on opponents’ heads.

5: The offside rule.

This is a real “two birds with one stone” play: nobody likes the offside rule anyway. It’s confusing, keeps changing and leads to long and tedious arguments. And it’ll never catch on down south. Open the door to Melbourne’s hearts and minds by abolishing offside and allowing attacking players to stand wherever they like to chase or receive kicks.


6: Refereeing.

Melburnians are understandably confused by the weirdly small contingent of match officials on the field for a rugby game. Three referees, at a minimum, and an extra ref up each end to occasionally wave a big flag are a must if crowds down south are to be assured the game is being correctly administered.

Ben Pobjie has come up with ten ways to bring back the crowds in Melbourne. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

7: Coffee.

Melburnians are justly proud of their world-beating coffee, but rugby offers almost no opportunity for showcasing this great element of Australian culture. It will double crowds instantly in Melbourne if players are permitted to have a coffee on the field every ten minutes. Think of the atmosphere at a Bledisloe Cup match when, at a tense point as the game approaches a thrilling climax, the official barista runs onto the field and starts doling out the lattes. I’ve got chills!

8: Moomba.

Melbourne folk love Moomba, so tell them that rugby is part of Moomba. They’ll come in their millions. Dress the players up in birdman costumes and it’ll be even more popular.


(: Laneway bars.

The laneway bars of Melbourne are the envy of the world, according to numerous expert Melbourne laneway bar owners. To give rugby a truly Melburnian flavour, stadiums must be adapted so that the stands are made up of multiple laneways and fans can watch the game while seated in an uncomfortable metal chair under a promotional umbrella.

10: Molly Meldrum.

They love that guy down there. See if he’s available to play, it’ll be MASSIVE.