So it’s late January, which in the Aussie rugby world means one thing: time to talk Tahs. Specifically, it’s time for every man and his rugby-playing dog to talk about how this year, 2013, will be different.
Say goodbye to the bland, uninspired rugby of Waratahs past. Say goodbye to the uninterested, dwindling crowds and the so-close-but-so-far losses to quality sides. Say goodbye to injuries, illness, suspension and painful press conferences. This will be our year.
Because this year is different. We have a new coach and new star player. But most importantly we have a new attitude. We’ve got our mojo back. We’ll be spinning it wide while opposition coaches will be crying into their sponsor’s beverage. Scoring tries and filling the stands. Taking rugby to the back pages, then to the front pages. First Sydney, then the world.
In the press it goes in its traditional cycle. On Monday the coach will say something vaguely positive about a solid hit-out at training. On Tuesday a current player will echo the coach’s sentiments. Maybe they’ll trot out an ex-player on Wednesday (think Phil Waugh, Matt Burke, Simon Poidevin) who will reflect on past glories and point out the obvious similarities between those moments and 2013. Thursday will be an analysis piece, or maybe the reaction to the up-and-coming Tahs from north of the border or across the ditch. Then on Friday you reflect on the week that was. Rinse and repeat until the season starts and it all changes.
Slowly but surely this talk rubs off on the average fan. After the final game of last season (an insipid loss to the Brumbies, if I recall correctly… or an insipid loss to a South African team… who cares, really?), the Tahs barely had any fans left. They’d be lucky to get 10,000 to a game. But time (and shrewd off-season signings) heals all wounds. Once again we Tahs fans pick ourselves up of the canvas and begin to believe again.
And by jeez it irks our friends north of the border. They rant about Waratah bias, and try and bring us down by informing us that we’ve been hurt before. Like the caring best friend trying to talk us out of getting back with an old flame who treated us so badly last time. And the time before. And the time before that. But when January comes around and the sun is shining, you look at that lineup and it’s just so hard to say ‘no’….
But here’s the kicker that the Negative Nancys can’t seem to acknowledge: rugby needs Waratahs hype. Awarding them the January Championship for yet another year may give you the shits, but it’s a much-needed title for a team struggling for wins. Despite the expansion of the game into new frontiers in the West and South, the greater Sydney area is still vitally important to the health of the game. And we need them to care about the Tahs, to believe for a second that they may throw off the shackles of the past and be the team we have always wanted them to be.
So my message to jaded non-Tah fans is this: give us January. Please! At the moment it’s all we’ve got. You will have your fun when the season starts. We need the hype, the attention. And the game needs it too.
Tahs 2013. It’s happening. But even if it doesn’t, prepare to meet me here next year (same time, same place) and we can do it all again….