This Saturday night Super Rugby heads back to Ballymore for the first time since 2005. It shapes as a fascinating night for Queensland
Rugby as ‘traditionalists’ have been calling for a return to Queensland Rugby HQ since we left five years ago. In the end its taken a soccer game at Suncorp to get us back there, which is somewhat ironic considering soccer is now a major tenant at Ballymore.
I was at Ballymore only a few weeks ago to watch Will Chambers run around for the QLD A team. Whilst the ground itself still looks superb – as good as any in Australia, even Suncorp, the rest of the facilities are substandard. Make no mistake about it, it will be a shit fight this weekend. And I’m not talking about the footy.
Expect queues everywhere. To get in, to buy tickets, to buy beer, to have a piss, to jump on the band wagon…the facilities just aren’t up to. The funny thing is that the Reds’ improved performance this year, notably the win over the Crusaders, should see a big crowd this weekend. But the crowd would have been better at Suncorp anyway, but now Team Ballymore is sure to jump on their soap boxes, take credit for the crowd and start braying about bringing the game back to the people.
By why did we leave? Sure, there was the thrill of playing at that schmick looking place that used to be Lang Park. And it was such a hit at the 2003 Rugby World Cup. There HAD to be some inducements coming from the Government. It would eventually come a year or two later in the form of sponsorship from Queensland Rail. But they won’t hang around much longer, which pretty much frees us up for a return. So should we?
I know, personally, I hate the battle to get to Ballymore. Trains work so well to Suncorp, and let’s face it, there’s a still a few of us selfish pricks who prefer to drive. Parking around Milton is do-able. Not so at Ballymore. The local residents are feistier than a Springbok forward pack.
But the memories. Ahhh..the memories. Creek bank picnics. Post game footy on the field. The Bundy Bar. Going back a little further, that playground in the back where your parents ditched you so they could drink at the bar. The uncomfortable bench seating of the McLean Stand. Milling around waiting for the players to leave the change rooms post game to get an autograph. Sitting on the hill. The top right corner of the Ariadne Stand when it was new. The curve of the playing surface meaning, at ground level, you struggled to see play at the opposite corner. Girls in jodhpurs. The Big Rooster (before they were Red) outlet. Bomber the dog. PK chewing gum (it seemed the only time I had it was at Ballymore). The memories keep flooding back. And that’s without mentioning the players themselves.
And we were bloody good there. Let’s forget the real glory days, the amateur days, and let’s look at how we fared in the pro-era. From 1996 onwards. When Super Rugby hit. Looking at the stats and it’s fair to say, the Reds loved Ballymore.
In the 54 Super Rugby games we played there, we won 37 of them. That’s a win record of a little under 70%!!! When you considering we are hovering around 42% in all professional Super rugby tournaments, that’s a bloody significant record.
And we left that? To go to Suncorp? Great facility, but.
Our record at Suncorp is pretty bloody poor. We’ve played 29 there and just won 11 for a win record of about 38%. Not that good! In fact in 29 games there, we have already lost more games (18) then we did in the 54 games at Ballymore (16).
You just don’t throw away that type of home ground advantage do you? Seemingly….we did!
Nice timing on the return though. The Blues. They HATE Ballymore. In Super Rugby they’ve come there five times and lost every game with an average scoreline of 34-16. And this was the team that dominated Super 12 in the early years. We racked up scores against them of 51-13 (1996), 33-18 (1998), 33-26 (2000), 34-23 (2002) and 20-3 (2004). It’d be an amazing streak to extend this weekend.
The last Super game played at Ballymore, was in 2005 against the Cats. We won, as statistics show was more often the case. 21-15 was the score. But it’s worth noting the team and seeing where they are now.
15 Chris Latham – last Reds game in 2008 before heading to England to play
14 Wendell Sailor – last Reds game in 2005 before heading to Tahs, then purgatory, then league.
13 Ben Tune – last Reds game in 2007. That debacle v the Bulls. How unfair.
12 Junior Pelesasa – last Reds game in 2005 before heading to the Force. Now in France.
11 Drew Mitchell – last Reds game in 2006. Went to Force to play fullback. Now wing at the Tahs.
10 Elton Flatley – last Reds game in 2006 due to too many head knocks.
9 Nic Berry – last Reds game in 2007. Also playing in France
8 John Roe – last Reds game in 2008. Retired gracefully, albeit mid-season.
7 David Croft – last Reds game in 2008. Retired gracefully too, albeit losing to the Tahs.
6 Daniel Heenan – This was his last Reds game before embarking on an injury free career at the Brumbies. Oh, hang on…
5 Nathan Sharpe – last Reds game in 2005 before abandoning the ship to play for the Force.
4 Hugh McMeniman – last Reds game in 2009. Or is it?????
3 Greg Holmes – still playing. This was only his 8th game, and 6th start.
2 Sean Hardman – still playing. This was his 56th Super cap for the Reds.
1 Nick Stiles – last Reds game in 2005. Now coaching in Japan.
Julian Huxley – last Reds game in 2006 before returning to the Brumbies. Now retired. Or is he??
Lloyd Johansson – last Reds game in 2007. Now in Italy. Rumoured to be a Rebel recruit. But who isn’t?
Tom McVerry – last Reds game in 2007. The Bulls game. Now in Japan.
Stephen Moore – last Reds game in 2008. Now at Brumbies.
Rudi Vedelago – last Reds game in 2005. Another who went West. Back home now running family business I believe?
So where does that leave us? The ground has great memories? Check. The Reds have a great record there? Check. The QRU owns it so its cheaper to use to Suncorp? Check (or possibly not, when you consider overlay requirments). So should the Reds go back? Are you going back? Would you on a permanent basis? Let us know.