Home-Ground Disadvantage

The rule in all tipping competitions is if in doubt tip the home team. This is especially true of the Super 14 and all its predecessors, where the tyrannies of distance, jet lag, altitude (to some extent), rock throwing trumpet blowing spectators, insulting ground announcers and foreign cultures made playing away always a difficult proposition. At least it was true.

In 2008, to date, more matches have been won in the Super 14 away from home than at home. Even South African teams are winning in Australia and New Zealand, an unforeseen event that could ruin the founding intention of Super Rugby which was to ensure the inherent sovereignty of Australian and New Zealand Rugby (2007 notwithstanding which resulted from a miscalculation by Graham Henry).

Tipping competitions have been spiralling into chaos as previously naturally hopeless tippers with no idea such as foreigners (especially Queenslanders), women and Rugby League fans have surged to the top of the tipping tables.

So whatever happened to the home town advantage? The Rolling Maul blames it on modern stadium design and technology.

Ever since every new stadium started to look like an airport terminal on the outside, grassed hills were removed, full-strength beer was banned, and you couldn't run on the field at full time, atmosphere reverted to the air you breathe, not the life force that inspires victory in the face of adversity.

When football grounds are known by their corporate naming rights sponsor and not their suburb or their purpose for being then Rugby may as well be played on the roofs of city office blocks at lunch time in front of 20 blokes in suits who aren't even paying attention.

In addition, modern Rugby balls are made of all weather hi-tech sticky rubber with hi-grip nodules instead of the laces and water absorbent leather that takes on the handling conditions of soap and the weight of a brick when it rains. Today, every ground has perfect drainage and grass cover unlike the not too recent past when you couldn't tell the difference between the teams because of the mud when it rained or the blood when it didn't. As a result, the natural wet weather skills (primarily one-out running and an infinite loop of rucks and mauls) of hulking New Zealand behemoths (forwards and backs) are lost. Also, the natural running game of the great Australian teams, finessed and perfected in an effort not to be ground into the rock-hard dusty drought riven playing surfaces of Australia, have been forgotten.

It's Rugby, but not as we know it. As such, the recipe to Waratahs success is simple. Reinstating the original name of the Sydney Football Stadium was a commendable step but it doesn't go nearly far enough. The NSWRU need to stop watering the ground, remove the seats at each end and replace them with grassed hills, and bring back full strength beer. And if that doesn't work, score more tries.