Ewen McKenzie Dumped Along With Perspective

Rugby types like to reminisce. Forwards like to hark back to muddy fields and sharpened studs, upper cuts at the bottom of rucks and rolling mauls that went for days on end and made 15 metres in the process. Backs like to pretend that life was better when they didn't need to get mud on their jerseys (but other than that all the rules invented in the last 30 years and all the improvements to playing surfaces have made their life easier, just don't tell them that).

So to hear the ARU and NSWRU cry poor and bemoan the falling attendances and TV ratings is to listen to old men with selective Alzheimer's.

Back in the good old prehistoric days, around 1997, when the Super 14 was less Super and the concept of 26 rounds or a team in Japan wasn't even a twinkle in John O'Neill's eye, you could get into the Sydney Football Stadium for $15 on the night and have a whole bay of seats to yourself, and not behind the goal posts but on the 22. Beers cost $2, there were no beer queues and if you ran onto the ground you were just politely told to leave of your own account or be escorted away (as happened to the Rolling Maul one memorable bucks party).

Super 12s Rugby had a one-hour highlights package on channel 7 but if you wanted to watch a live game you had almost no chance. Foxtel was a luxury no one had (unlike now when it's a luxury everyone is almost forced to have) and apart from going to the game to see the match played you had to find a pub that showed it, and there weren't many of those.

Fast forward to 2005. In front of packed grounds, super coach Ewen Mackenzie takes a star-studded Waratahs to second on the ladder and the final of the Super 12s (where they get thrashed by the Crusaders). The game is in rude health after a highly successful World Cup where the game captures the imagination of the country and all matches are ridiculously well attended and TV ratings are massive.

So less than two years later is a legacy of a successful World Cup and Waratahs Super Rugby season squandered? Is Ewen Mackenzie leading a team of injury riddled youngsters and washed up has-beens to the bottom of the table. The answer to both is a resounding no. The powers that be that run the game have never had it so good.

Compared to the late 1990s, Rugby Union in this country is in rude health. Over 20,000 people saw the Waraths play the Cheetahs, a team from South Africa that no one knows anything about and haven't won a game all season. The Waratahs have won 4 from 6, as good as nearly any season they've had in the past and a massive improvement over 2007 when only a victory over an even worse Queensland outfit prevented them taking home the wooden spoon.

Yet the NSW Rugby heavies, with memories only slightly better than goldfish (OK, so that's a myth but so is contemplating League merging with Union) have pushed Ewen Mackenzie out the door.

Maybe they should thank the NSW public for giving them such a luxury. And while they're at it, try talking the game up rather bemoan a lost heritage that doesn't exist.


Anonymous said…
Maybe we should have Rolling Maul organising pub! Or even round robin home visits to watch the games at the luxury houses.