If It Looks Like A Duck And Quacks Like A Duck...

John O'Neill and the Sydney Morning Herald declared it an unqualified success, but you can bet they weren't stuck in any of the queues - the queue to get in (sure Rugby supporters only turn up five minutes before kick off but everyone knows that and it should be accounted for), the queue for beer and the queue for steak sandwiches. But what the Australian Rugby Championship's first match lacked in service provision it made up for with Rugby.

Over 3,700 turned up to North Sydney Oval last Friday night - not to watch the Sydney Fleet play the Central Coast Rays, but to see if the invented competition with it's invented laws looked and tasted like real Rugby. And much like the Tooheys New served up in tin cans bore a passing resemblance to real beer (which is served out of a tap into glass), the ARC had incomprehensible ruck interpretations, fumbling dropped ball, non-straight line-out throws and multiple re-set scrums - everything that we've grown to know and love about Rugby.

There were also some nice trys (trivia question answer for future years - Jordan Macey - the first try scorer in the ARC), some decent hits (although Wycliffe Palu lasted only 40 minutes) some sweeping backline movements and little guys running along the wing pursued by hulking second rowers (no idea who he was but it was like watching an episode of Benny Hill).

That the players were taking it seriously was probably the most important aspect of the game. The biggest cheer all night came when the two teams came out swinging after a particularly messy ruck. And the passion wasn't just limited to Friday night's game either. It was apparent in Chris Latham's cajoling of his Aces teammates into making one last tackle to hold off the resurgent Tornadoes and the joy on the face of Luke Burgess after running 90 metres to secure the ARC upset of the century (of all four games to date) against competition favourites Canberra Vikings.

Matt Dunning and Lote Tuquiri can do as much partying until the wee small hours as they like as far as the Rolling Maul is concerned. Real Rugby lives on in the ARC where club players (the Jeckyll and Hyde Gavin DeBartolo for example), borderline rep players and washed up old props can show off their limited wares and get paid more than match fees to do so.

John O'Neill and the Herald are wrong. The ARC isn't an unqualified success. It's a qualified success.

For a start, the Sydney Fleet need to play all their games on Friday nights at North Sydney Oval if they want to get a crowd (though TV commitments ensure that won't happen). The ARU talk about engendering tribal loyalty but in the era of the franchise and not the team that could prove difficult.

Fortunately Rugby's greatest saving grace is it's ability to be more event driven than sport driven and the ARC has event potential. That most of the spectators at North Sydney were supporting the Central Coast and not the nominal home team is almost inconsequential. Indeed the Rolling Maul decided to support the Central Coast Rays for no better reason than Mrs Maul's parents live in Woy Woy and we thought it would be nice to see a game in Gosford with them. Rolling Maul's brother chose the Melbourne Rebels because it has a number of Easts players and his best mate had picked the Fleet before he had a chance to (we each decided to support different teams for a change).

So if the coaches are prepared not to coach too much, if the players are prepared to throw the ball around and smash their club mates, if spectators are willing to watch Rugby for Rugby's sake and the ARU can stop bickering and start enjoying (and if Matt Dunning and Lote Tuquiri can get off the booze and the front page) there's hope yet for the ARC and Australian Rugby. Just.


Anonymous said…
Your previous title was much, much, much better. That's My, That's My That's My Franchise

The Beastie Boy

Great minds think alike. Just posted saying something exactly the same. Love the work.

MBS said…
See what happens when you pick up people at the pub.