Welcome to this week’s delayed rugby news! The three days (and a dabble of AFL… Go the Dees!) got the better of me……
Anyhoo, that was certainly a fun weekend down here in sunny Melbourne! Five Super Rugby games and a cracking Super W Final. There was the fourth round of the TikTok Women’s Six Nations and some domestic rugby kicking along here in Australia. All in all, it seems like it’s back to business in terms of rugby! I’m reverting back to four simple paragraphs this week as, well, I’m already late…
EDIT: I saw this on the rounds and wanted to share with you all, the true spirit of rugby:
SUPER ROUND – RESULTS
Our weekend started early with the postponement of the Force v Moana Pasifika game. Some ‘communication problems’ meant that the game was delayed whilst Moana were somewhere over the ‘ditch’. Not happy, Jan. That left us with five men’s and a women’s game.
Friday evening saw the Chiefs get up over the Tahs. Angus Bell made his team’s night very difficult with a lifting tackle on Sam Cane and saw red… literally… for his handiwork. Unfortunately, Porecki went off with a concussion at pretty much the same time. Whilst the Tarts certainly gave a decent first half and a bit, as predicted, the energy of the Chiefs saw the Tahs run out of steam in the last 20. By no means were they embarrassed; however, this was an important lesson in intensity for the youngsters.
Saturday afternoon and evening saw what turned out to be the match of the round – Fijiana v Tahs Women. Now, leaving aside the non-match factors (to be continued below… get your big boy/girl pants on for that rant), this was, by a significant distance, the match of the weekend. The rugby was pure, the standard high and the entertainment at a premium. I was lucky enough to have seats amongst the Fijian supporters who were delighted to be cheering their women. Indeed, the atmospheric highlight of the weekend was the Fijian fans breaking into traditional songs and hymns at about the 60th minute mark. It was truly what rugby is about.
Then came the Drua v Blues. Again, not a bad game of rugby to watch. I was pleased for the Drua that thet weren’t blasted off the park nor were they played out of the game. Indeed, a week off seemed to come at a very good time. Their discipline, I felt, was better than previous weeks and they made the match difficult for the Blues.
The final match saw the Hurricanes play the Reds. Unfortunately, both teams seemed to forget that this is an entertainment business and decided that they’d do dumb shit and keep Gus Gardner in business. What could have (and maybe ought to have been) the match of the weekend turned into a bit of a drab game. Then again, when each team is fighting hard for the scraps, this is what our game can turn into. Maybe one for the purists; however, one that both teams may look back on and wonder ‘what if’… especially the Reds!
Sunday afternoon saw the Brums come up against the Highlanders. Tom Wright showed that he is Tom Wrong when in the motion of scoring a try (do the Nela Dive, man!). The ironic jeers from the majority Kiwi crowd certainly made Tom blush. After this though, it seemed all one-way traffic for the Ponies for the first half. The back three of Bobby V, Pistol Pete and Jahrome Brown were phenomenal. The backline seemed to function better after referee O’Keeffe marched The Lip 10m (boom!), though having Noah back certainly helped, too. Although the scoreline was probably a lot closer than it ought to have been, the Brumbies looked in control for the duration of the match.
The final game was the Saders v the Rabble. The first half was absolutely shocking with both teams playing like a bunch of u8s at their first game. The error rate was atrocious. After what I assume was a Crusaders-esque sword rocket contraption from Razor at oranges, the Saders burst out of the gates and quickly put the result beyond doubt. The Rebs scored a consolation try with a slick Carter Gordon grubber for Hodge to score.
And that, GAGRs, was that.
SUPER ROUND – FEEDBACK
As you’ve probably worked out, I was lucky enough to have a three-day pass for the weekend. I need not have bothered purchasing tickets as there were so many community rugby ticket deals for free tickets that I now feel dumb (and am certainly financially poorer) for actually bothering to pay. Bugger.
Now, my three day pass (which was two adults and two kids) was $200. Fine for a rugby fanatic like me and my guests from Canberra who made the trek down. It worked out at roughly $8.33 per person, per game (though if the Force game was not cancelled then $7.14). All in all, not an unreasonable cost if you could sit through the games. That said, if you can’t fill the stadium with free tickets, then I doubt any price reduction will actually help! Factors working both for and against (you can make points each way) was that it’s the end of school holidays, it was a long weekend, fans may yet be careful about being in Melbourne Covid-wise, the international borders, particularly with NZ, being newly opened and you’ve picked the toughest sporting market in Australia!
The marketing of the event was hit and miss. Much to my chagrin, there were many supporters who has NO F**KING CLUE THE WOMEN’S FINAL WAS ON!!!! What the absolute fudge, RA??? I, personally, knew the game was on as I was initially appointed as one of the match officials before SANZAAR thought better of that idea (ha!), but to have people talking on both Saturday and Sunday about not knowing…. well, it’s both a disgrace to the game and to the supporters and an insult to the Women playing. Even the advice regarding tickets to the game was either not forthcoming or difficult to decipher. As it was, a day pass got you into the match… but these are things that have to be spelled out for ease of mind for fans. Worse still was that the Tahs Men’s side weren’t even on-site for their compatriots. Indeed, there wasn’t even a tunnel of juniors (which would’ve been amazing to see junior female players there) or any community engagement or input.
Administrators made a good move in having the Friday night match moved back to 7pm. It’s a shame, though, that there were such long breaks between the games. Sure, have an extra 10 minutes up your sleeve for serious injuries and stoppages. By all means, have 20 odd minutes for people to stretch, get fed and hydrated and to complete personal care. But almost an hour between matches with bugger all to do was too long.
This, however, could have been helped with a little bit more fan entertainment and engagement between the games. I appreciate that the ground staff wish to look after their baby (the turf), but, seriously, what harm will a few junior games or some sevens actually do? Give the community a reason to show up and allow the current youth their moment in the spotlight. It was amazing to see the littlies in the AFL have their AusKick at half-time with 70k people cheering them on. Surely it wouldn’t be that hard for rugby to find a few teams to do the same. Instead, we got ‘treated’ to tacky events and even tackier ‘Fan Cam’ moments… either people ‘dancing’ or catching people on their phone on the ‘oblivious cam’. Cheap and nasty, but it does get a laugh I suppose.
Now, food and beverage prices are perhaps not in the remit of RA. That said, if you want people in and having a good time, you can’t price your fans out of the market here. $11.20 for a 300mL Bulmers… yeah, nah. Same same for pretty much everything else on offer. Yuck.
Ultimately, Brett over on The Roar makes a very valid point. Who actually had responsibility for this weekend? RA, NZR or SANZAAR? I mean, there were some really weird decisions, like all the matches were designated as Kiwi home games (huh??) and the lack of both organisational capabilities was obvious, e.g. the marketing, etc. If this is to work, the organisations either need to take complete joint responsibility and not hide behind the façade that SANZAAR is, or, take individual control with assistance from the suits. As it is, we got a bit of a clusterf*ck with too many
Chiefs and not enough Indians sorry, RugbyReg probably won’t like that reference as it might be ‘offensive’.. too many coaches and not enough players then!
There were some absolutely cracking matches over in Europe with the TikTok Women’s Six Nations. The level of play is outstanding and the way that the teams play is truly refreshing. It is amazing what can happen when the proper protocols and plans are put in place. I encourage you all to seek the matches out, especially the Italians win over Scotland!
Well done to the VRRA’s own Amber McLachlan who took control of her first of two matches as referee this weekend in England’s demolition of Ireland in Leicester. Curiously, the Leicester game attracted a new English Women’s Rugby record crowd of 15, 836.
I’d like to share this Tweet from the weekend. This shows over 400 former female players at the England match. Bloody epic!
Last week, NZR released their report into the governance of Women’s Rugby. In a blight for the sport, this is now the third high performance programme to have been delivered a wake-up call. Both Ireland and Canada have each been blasted with their level of support and professionalism in their ranks. I would say Australia is lucky not to be the fourth, especially after two previous head coaches were sacked for their comments about players during last season’s Super W in Coffs Harbour.
To save a bit of space, here is an excellent article about this issue.
YET ANOTHER CALL ON CONCUSSION
This week, I read a desperately sad tale of former English prop, Steve Thompson, being placed on suicide watch due to his declining health. Say what you want about ‘the game going soft’, and, ‘this isn’t tiddliwinks’. If you are one of those people, kindly jog on.
In the era of mental health being a priority as well as physical health, particularly after a traumatic few years of global crises, we much each do our absolute best to ensure that we can all enjoy our beautiful sport whilst ensuring that we have the optimum safety measures in place. Disturbingly, a medical doctor of the English u20s side was disciplined and banned after failing in his duty to appropriately recognise and remover a player due to suspected concussion. Appallingly, the misconduct was provided with a mitigated ban due to prior good conduct. If failing professionally, ethically and medically gets you a reduced ban, well bugger me sideways. What a joke!
Now, imagine, even for a second, that Steve Thompson is your family member or friend. How absolutely gut-wrenching it must be. Yet this is not an isolated case, and I would have dared you to call Steve the names many people bandy about on social media pages about concussed players (damn keyboard warriors) in his hey day, let alone now.
A part of the article is below (warning – emotional):
“This day I just thought, ‘f*** it’. There’s a fast train that goes through without stopping. It actually passed through before I got there. I sat on the next one and just bawled my eyes out. I sometimes find myself thinking the least selfish thing to do is just to kill myself. That’s what this can do to me. I just want things to change. Rugby needs to understand the problem and stop lying about it. There is a crisis. I’m f*****. But this is for the sake of the next guy.”
Hear hear, Steve. Best wishes from all at GAGR in your continuing battle.
Red cards are here to stay. If you don’t like it, tackle better. Simple.
Well, if you’ve made it this far, it’s my duty to announce that this is my last weekend of Monday’s Rugby News. Over the school holidays, I was offered (and have duly accepted) a promotional position at my boarding school. Alas, as with all promotions comes a catch, which is that I’m now working 9am Sunday through to 9am Monday. With the schedule and deadline for rugby news being as it is, I felt it was impossible to give the appropriate time and energy into the news that it so richly deserves. It has been an honour and privilege to write for GAGR and, time permitting, I may be able to again down the track.
On another note, if you’re interested in writing for GAGR, Sunday is now available. RugbyReg – you interested, bro? But seriously, let Sully know if you’d like to have a crack! I promise you it’s brilliant fun!
Thanks to the GAGR team behind the scenes for their support and allowing me to poach their news ideas!