Waratahs Bandwagon Not Quite Written Off

It's deja vu all over again for the Waratahs. In fact, it's deja vu for the Rolling Maul and for every Waratah supporter, if there are any left.

When the Waratahs lost to the Force on Saturday night, the bandwagon that had barely got rolling lost a wheel and came to a shuddering halt. Indeed what was surprising about the loss wasn't the loss itself but the fact that almost no one was there to see it.

Only 14,000 'fans' turned up at the newly crowned stadium to watch the 'performance' and when it was over it was deathly quiet. Even the few boos were pathetic. Inflatable promotional cushions rained down from the upper tier, and the Rolling Maul was sconned on the head by a frisbee like cardboard advertising disc (the external pain only distracting briefly from the internal torment).

Clearly, most Rugby fans in NSW, and there are plenty of them if crowds at internationals and the Rugby World Cup prove, had already cast judgement and voted with their feet. There may be a bit of a chicken and egg thing happening here; poor performances on the field over multiple seasons sees crowds go down. Smaller crowds equals less atmosphere, less enthusiasm and less inspiration. Correspondingly players underperform, resort to tried and failed methods and embarrass themselves. Even less people turn up next time. And on it goes.

So how does a team end the cycle of crapiness and bring the crowds back? Well funnily enough we'll probably find out on Saturday. In a rare and applauded move the NSW Rugby Union have scheduled two afternoon matches this season. While the April 29 match, on a Sunday, against the Crusaders, will probably be extremely well attended (not because of the Waratahs but because of their opposition), this Saturday afternoon the Tahs take on the Sharks.

Saturday afternoon is the traditional abode of Club and schoolboy Rugby. With neither the Club Rugby or School Rugby seasons having started, a rare opportunity has presented itself to everyone in the greater Rugby community (players, coaches, mums, dads, administrators etc etc) in Sydney not involved in cricket finals to attend a match at a time of the week they'd probably be doing something Rugby anyway. And the Sharks are classy opposition too with a decent history of Super Rugby success. They also beat the Reds last weekend so they're not too shabby this season either.

A good crowd enjoying sunshine and a dry track, one decent performance, a few flashy tries, some stars returning from injury and the bandwagon could be in the panel beaters faster than Drew Mitchell predicting his next comeback date. Mind you, given the weather in Sydney lately most Sydneysiders would probably just settle for the sunny weather, but that's a story for another blog.

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