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An Open Letter to Fans and Critics of the National Rugby Championship

Discussion in 'National Rugby Championship (NRC)' started by #1 Tah, Aug 25, 2014.

  1. #1 Tah Chilla Wilson (44)

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    Hi all,

    Many of you will have watched the series "The Call of The Wallaby" on Fox Sports and YouTube recently. There was an inconspicuous moment in the first episode, when Tiana Penitani said something along the lines of "My generation has never known the Wallabies to be that successful".

    I was born the same year as Super Rugby, in 1996. My earliest memories are of my Dad taking me to rugby games at places like Coogee, Woollahra, Manly, Concord and North Sydney, or running around in the stands and on the hills, watching and learning about the sport that we all love.

    My two clear earliest rugby memories are of Jonny Wilkinson hitting that drop goal in 2003, and of the Waratahs going down in the 2005 Final in Christchurch. I only have three clear memories of the Wallabies beating the All Blacks - in 2008 in Sydney, in 2010 in Hong Kong and in 2011 in Brisbane. I don't know what it's like to win a Bledisloe cup, and I don't know what it's like to win a World Cup. The last time the Wallabies won at Eden park was five years before my parents had met.

    "Boo hoo, you are whining about the Wallabies losing" I hear you say. And you're right. But this isn't just me. This is the entire generation coming through high school. The kids playing Schoolboy rugby all have the same experience as I do - the next generation coming through to play for the Wallabies don't believe that it's possible for the Wallabies to match and compete with the All Blacks consistently, because we have never seen it done. These kids are going to play for the Wallabies and start the game already beaten because they don't believe they can do it.

    Now more than ever Australia needs a third tier Rugby competition. And give credit where it's due, the ARU has provided for us. It's not perfect, but it's a start. There's nothing to say that the competition is going to stay this way forever. This competition was designed to be able to adapt and evolve, to be a global leader in Rugby and provide a strong development pathway to Super Rugby and into the Gold jersey. If you look at New Zealand and South Africa, and say that their dominance on the international stage has nothing to do with their national competitions, then you must be very naive.

    This brings me to those who seek to cut down, criticise and undo all of the hard work that every stakeholder has put into this competition. Those of you who will bag the format, the teams, the jerseys, the law variations, the broadcast deals, the crowd sizes. I could go on, but you get the point.

    My response to the majority of these is this: It's been one fucking week. Either give the competition a chance to prove that it's shit, then launch into the "I told you so"s, or watch it take off, and then kindly pipe down and take a slice of humble pie. To the people who didn't watch the game on Thursday, didn't go to any games on the weekend and still criticise, you are the reason we can't have nice things. Get away from the keyboard that's in your parent's basement, and go to a game. You might even enjoy it.

    Those who criticise the laws: I wasn't around when Rugby went professional, when the value of tries were increased, when the sin bin was introduced, or when lifting in lineouts were allowed, but I have no doubt that there were people opposing it. Where are those people now? They are either dead or they are too embarrassed to show their faces in public. So you have a choice - you can try something different (god forbid we let crook lineouts go if they aren't contested) or you can get left behind. If we look back at the end of the season and we decide that some laws weren't working, we can always go back to what we know works next year.

    Those who criticise the teams and broadcast deals: Remember when the Big Bash league started? Cricket Australia moved away from the traditional state based teams, which had history, rivalry and established pathways and manufactured some new teams, put them in fluoro colours and tweaks the laws to promote attacking cricket with plenty of sixes, catches and bails that light up. It was as much a development tool as it was pure entertainment. Sound familiar? The Big Bash started out on Foxtel, and after two years, moved over to Channel 10, which was a resounding success. Yes, the NRC has a longer race to run, but if it keeps up the same standard we saw this weekend, then we can expect to have every game broadcast in the next few years. If we keep getting out to games, watching on Thursday nights and pestering Fox and the ARU for more content, then they will give us more. Make this product a success, and a Free-To-Air network will make a bid. First we take Manhattan, and then we take Berlin.

    I just don't understand those who think this competition is anything but good for Australian rugby. Who knows: if it turns a profit, then the ARU may be able to stop charging junior clubs registration fees to improve their bottom line. For the first time, Rugby has a genuine force in Western Sydney, ready to really engage with the fans and fight the good fight against the mungos, the AFL (Australian Fairy League) and that other joke of a sport. We want to build a community feel around Rugby in Australia, and if we can't do it around the Wallabies when Super Rugby ends, we need this competition to fill the void. It's a start, and it's only going to get better. The players get better as they play more, fans get a competition that has a good standard and exciting rugby all round. My generation gets something to do on Thursday nights, Saturdays and Sundays that will keep us from beating each other up in Kings Cross. We teach the kids about rugby and drag them away from finals time in the other codes. They can run on the field, meet their heroes and shake their hands after the game. Can you do that at a mungo or AFL final? Didn't think so. This is rugby as it should be.

    Ultimately, this competition's success will depend on how we, the fans, embrace it. This is my call to arms to get around it. Lets make this one last longer than a year. If you live in Sydney, go to every game you possibly can. Go to Parra stadium on Thursday and get out to Leichhardt on Sunday arvo. I don't care if you don't support the Rams or the Stars, the Vikings or the Spirit, the Rays or the Eagles, City or Country, lets get out to every game we can. We need to do this for Australian Rugby; we need to do this for ourselves to make sure that we have a game to support in the years to come. We need to do this to keep this pathway into Gold open, so one day my friends and I can know what it's like to win a Bledisloe cup, and humiliate the All Blacks like they have done so many times for us. They have built it; it is time for us to come. (And we all need to take a leaf out of Pfitzy's book and come as hard as him for this competition).

    The Tahs are champions. Sevens is now an Olympic sport. Rugby in WA is only growing, and Adelaide is constantly campaigning for the Wallabies to come to town in South Australia. This competition is the missing link that can take us to number one. It's not going to be an easy or quick process, but it has started. Get around it or get left behind.

  2. p.Tah John Thornett (49)

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    Quite sobering to think that a whole generation hasn't seen successful Wallabies.

    One comment, if we want rugby to do well and attract new fans, we should drop the criticism of other sports such as NRL, AFL etc. These new fans have to come from somewhere and we're unlikely to attract them if we mock what they currently love.
    boyo, Bardon, matty_k and 4 others like this.
  3. Jeeper Jimmy Flynn (14)

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    Exactly, everyone is a potential fan. I am first and formost a rugby league fan having grown up in country nsw and have only recently been exposed to rugby union and fallen in love with the contest of rugby. The NRC is the perfect medium for attracting new fans. Fans want fast action with something happening all the time and that's exactly what the televised game displayed on Thursday night.

    There is nothing wrong with supporting other sports, and it sure as hell doesn't get you anywhere by criticising them. Having worked with players at the top level in league union and afl I can guarantee the majority of the players watch and enjoy opposing sports on a weekly basis.

    Well writen post aswell #1 tah
  4. FiveStarStu Bill McLean (32)

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    Love the passion #1 Tah.

    It was really exciting being at AAMI to see the Rising kick off. It reminded me of when I saw the Rebels kick off in the NRC, and had the likes of Digby Ioane and Dave Dennis showing their wares at the start of their careers.

    Yesterday was better from a Victorian perspective, as the guys in the blue and pink were guys I knew. Gus Hamilton was captain of my club and now he's a step away from Super Rugby.

    If the ARC gave Victoria rugby, then the NRC will give rugby Victorians. How can that be anything but awesome?

    Plus we need more because that Bledisloe isn't coming back any other way.
    Braveheart81, Mal M Fike and Dctarget like this.
  5. Pfitzy Tim Horan (67)

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    Fuck me, but that's eloquently put. Bravo young man.

    Also a good point. If only so many of them weren't uppity about it.

    We don't use that word in any form on this forum!

  6. Bardon Peter Fenwicke (45)

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    Well said #1 Tah.

    When you talk about a whole generation like that it brings to mind something my fiancee once explained to me. In Japan there's a generation split between those is their mid 20s and younger and those who are older. Older generations are inherently optomistic due to Japan's past while the younger generation are inherently pesimistic as they've never known a time when Japan's economy wasn't in recession.

    On the point of the NRC as an Irish guy who's going to be living in Japan I shouldn't give a shit about it. But I love rugby, all rugby, and I want to see it flourish all over the world. So I hope the NRC is a success and that in 18 years time there's an article about a guy who wasn't even born when the NRC started who's about to make his SR debut.

    I agree about giving this new competition and teams time. For me that's probably more time than most of you guys would allow. I'm talking about time enough for #1 Tah to bring his grandchildren to the game and for him to tell the story about how he was there at the very start as they look on wide eyed.

    New teams have a distinct disadvantage over established teams in that they don't have a soul. That's not something that comes as part of your franchise package. That's something that the players, officials, fans and community build up over many many long years.

    It comes when that guy in his 70s who runs the local pub is also the guy who scored the first try for the club. It comes when the club in West Sydney (or any other non-traditional rugby stronghold) has a wall full of photos depicting players who came up through the club receiving their 1st Wallaby cap.

    It comes when guys like #1 Tah are old and grey are sitting in the club house debating with the younger generation whether the current no. 10 is a patch on the guy who played for the club in the 2020s.

    To those who look down their noses at these new teams I say this. Unless your club is the oldest in the world there were probably people who looked down their noses at the people who formed your club.

    These new clubs don't detract from your clubs history, that remains, what they do is allow others to build and experience the same for themselves. It helps to foster generations to come in the same spirit that means that any rugby fan can walk into any rugby club in the world and be welcomed and made to feel at home. We need more places like that in the world.

    The ARU or whoever can give your new club it's licence, marketing men can come up with a catchy name, players can do their part to provide entertaining games. But it's up to you to give the whole thing its soul. Without fans and community they're just a bunch of guys running around a field. It's you and the generations to come that make that mean something.
  7. Richo John Thornett (49)

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    Awesome post, #1.

    Bonus points for the Leonard Cohen reference (although you almost lost them with that "Australian Fairy League" crap; no need for the homophobic undertones).
  8. USARugger John Thornett (49)

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    I don't think he meant to imply an homophobia with the comment.

    I mean, have you seen how high those blokes can jump? Surely there are fairies involved at some point in the process.

    Posts by #1 and Bardon are rugby poetry.
    Dan54 likes this.
  9. FiveStarStu Bill McLean (32)

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    This might be the best thing I've read on this website. I was lucky enough to help the Rebels find their feet in that regard, and I always get a little shiver when the 'Reeeeeebels' chant starts up by itself. As you described, it's a tiny bit of the club's soul appearing right in front of your eyes.

    It's fun to think we get to do it all again.
    #1 Tah likes this.
  10. Dan54 Andrew Slack (58)

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    Well said #1 Tah, I as a kiwi who loves rugby went to watch Brisbane's first game, really enjoyed it and came away thinking and saying it is the start of a good thing,( for 1 thing I can wholeheartedly support the Brisbane team as they never play kiwi teams) and also thought the crowd were starting to connect with the team by end of game, which will come more as we all get to know them. We will then have a top comp with plenty of banter on here between fans etc.
    As I also commented on match thread of first game I can see in 4-5 years maybe longer a call for the winner of NRC to play winner of ITM cup in NZ, in the meantime I am going to continue going along and supporting the Brisbane team, and hey will look forward at some stage to following them to an away game , and perhaps catching up with a few of you fellow gaggers for a beer!!
  11. waiopehu oldboy David Wilson (68)

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    Back in Oz Friday night, so It's shoot down the GC Saturday arvo, wifey can bond with the niece for a coupla hours while I go to the footy. That's the plan, anyway.
  12. Dan54 Andrew Slack (58)

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    Yep keep me informed Waiopehu, may go down myself yet, if so we'll say hi!
  13. wamberal David Codey (61)

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    Is it too early to start putting forward some ideas for next season?

    My two bobs' worth:

    Firstly, scrap all the experimental rules, and just use the standard Laws of the Game. Part of the future for this competition must lie in being able to sell the viewing rights in other rugby nations. Having a different rule book will hinder this possibility. Plus, frankly, I think these teams are capable of playing good, entertaining, rugby under the proper rules.

    Secondly, have a good close look at the public image of the teams. The names, and the uniforms in particular. We have no time to waste in trying to develop genuine followers for the teams. ALL participants must surely realise this. Time to let sectional interests wither on the vine. Only a mother could love some of those jerseys.
  14. Jamie Fred Wood (13)

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    Personally I have really liked this comp, I love rugby but to be honest I'm not very interested in the Shute Shield, so this is a really good product for me. Hopefully this comp will grow in the coming years however:

    - Some of the experimental laws have to go, it seems too unstructured at times and although I love to see running rugby and tries score line like 70 - 40 does not appeal to me. I don't want to watch a glorified sevens game.

    - NSW Country has to be either that or 2 separate teams, moving the team around is a good idea in principle but how can you build a following like that? once you have an established fan base maybe but not before then

    - Teams need to be realistic about their crowd expectations and play in grounds that will cater for those numbers. What is the point of having 3K attend your games when it will create zero atmosphere in a 20k stadium

  15. Chris McCracken Jim Clark (26)

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    I have to disagree with your thoughts on NSW Country. It may not be great financially, but if the team is in one spot, then it will just centre in the Hunter and no-one will ever see it from outside that.

    The team manages to serve a few areas in the country who don't get to see a lot of professional Rugby live. Those people are engaged and interested. And kids who want to play Rugby get to know that there is a place for them.
    Iluvmyfooty, Antony and Braveheart81 like this.
  16. Jamie Fred Wood (13)

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    Hi Chris
    I see your point, what I am hoping is that there will ventually be a team that reprents the East and another that represents NSW Country area. the ARU have accomplished a great deal with starting this comp, off course it is not without it's flaws and I do think that they missed the chance to really build a strong following this year, hoping for good things next year
  17. Braveheart81 Rocky Elsom (76)

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    I'm an Eastern Suburbs fan and I've been supporting NSW Country more than any other team but I really disagree that there needs to be a team based in the east for those rugby fans.

    Woollahra and Coogee are both pretty average grounds. I was able to watch one NSW Country game at Coogee which I enjoyed despite the weather.

    Leichhardt Oval is not too far away and realistically, Parramatta Stadium and Brookvale are both reasonable enough that you can watch NRC games there.

    If there are really that many Easts and Randwick fans who feel so alienated by the NRC teams available that they won't follow any of it without their own local team, I'd also suggest that they'd struggle to follow a team made up solely of Easts and Randwick which are traditional rivals.
  18. Jamie Fred Wood (13)

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    I don't really follow the Shute Shield and although I live about 5 minutes from Woollahra Oval I have only been to one or two games in the last 5 years(Main reason I got over Sydney Uni winning very year but that is another topic) so I cannot really comment on the whole Randwick East thing but I will say that as far as mates and myself goes we would like to see a team based in the East, not playing at Coogee or Woollahra, totally agree with you there. We do go to very Tahs game and we would most definitely go there to support a team based in the East.
  19. Jagman Trevor Allan (34)

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    I'd assume the SFS is too expensive for an NRC team. Apparently it's becoming too expensive for the Waratahs. A few years ago the SS final was there instead of Concord and it looked like no one was there even though they claimed 5000 spectators.

    I live in the east and support the Eagles and only ended up seeing them at Leichhardt oval a few weeks ago. It will be interesting to see where they go if they get a semi final.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  20. Jamie Fred Wood (13)

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    Probably right and I guess there are no easy answers, who knows with time I might end up supporting the NSW Country or another team like I support the Tahs. I'm definitely watching the games either live stream or on Fox and next year I will attend more games based on what I have seen

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