One of RugbyHeaven’s best snouts was perched among the members at the Sydney Football Stadium on Friday night, agog at what he was watching.
He messaged: “Have the Waratahs even cut their gas costs? Those firework flames behind the try line are a quarter the size of previous years.”
Greg Gowden writes that indeed they were. These are clearly tough times. The fireworks, which used to spit out showers of sparks and vast tongues of flame when the Waratahs did something interesting, now resemble hand-held sparklers. The billowing smoke used to turn the ground into Sydney’s version of the Yorkshire moors. Now it is as if someone had just stamped out a cigarette.
Welcome to 2009′s no-frills Super 14. The global financial crisis has seen teams forced to take buses rather than planes to games, officials sharing rooms on away trips, Moet replaced by cooking sherry in the dressing rooms, and the introduction of a ridiculous refereeing merit system, which suspiciously looks like another sneaky way to lower costs.
At a time when local crowds are down and even successful sides such as the Waratahs are recording sizeable financial losses, a tournament in need of resuscitation hasn’t been able to provide the required fireworks in the opening three rounds. Many games have been flat, while some have descended into monotony as we watch referees award free-kick after free-kick and reset scrum after scrum.
If you really want to watch something invigorating, get hold of a tape of the Force-Brumbies match from Saturday night and observe what happens between 34 minutes, 48 seconds and 36:08.
Eighty seconds of absolutely nothing, as referee and forwards thrust their chests and mumble and groan about the importance of setting just one scrum right. And as you reach for the No-Doze pills, you suddenly realise why, a few minutes earlier, referee Matt Goddard complained to the players that this would be “The last time we play silly buggers.”
Silly buggers indeed!
Maybe that’s why the organisers are attempting to put a cattle prodder right up the Super 14′s rear.
The SANZAR heavyweights will travel to Dubai today to discuss the future of the tournament, with a concerted push to revitalise Super football through a change in format. Australia will again argue for a Super 15 competition and an expanded tournament running from March to August in 2011.
The proposal involves five teams in each of the Australian, New Zealand and South African “conferences.” If the Australian delegates get their way at the Wednesday meeting, there will be a substantial increase in home games, a new home-and-away series involving Queensland and NSW and a six-team final series.
There is even a push for the new Australian team to be located in Japan, because it could lure new broadcasters. And the question of broadcasting is bound to trigger some argy bargy in the United Arab Emirates. While Australia and New Zealand are certain to face opposition from South Africa over expansion, there could easily be support for loosening SANZAR’s links with News Ltd – which holds the southern hemisphere broadcasting rights.
SANZAR are wondering whether it would be smarter to instead negotiate directly with the pay TV networks in the three countries, rather than handing the rights over to News, who then do the deals. There is common sense in removing the middleman, and that issue is bound to be high on the agenda in Dubai.
Nonetheless, the argument to dramatically increase the number of Super 14 games and stretch the tournament to 22 weeks falls a bit flat when the current product leaves so much to be desired. At the moment, the tournament – dominated by too many interruptions and intrusive refereeing – is about as explosive as a wet penny banger.Tweet