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  • Did everyone forget the Wallabies are playing in Canberra

    2019 - 03.13

    Did you hear that? It was the massive sigh of relief as Australian rugby’s ugly war in the west reached some sort of conclusion earlier this week.
    Nanjing Night Net

    The embers will burn for as long as Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest is backing the Western Force, but the lessons learnt should never be forgotten. Especially in Canberra.

    The Wallabies will play in the capital next week for the first time in seven years when they host Argentina in a Rugby Championship clash.

    Word around town is … well, there’s hardly been a word because most have either forgotten the game was on or had no idea about it in the first place.

    It is hoped ticket sales will pick up in the coming days to avoid the embarrassment of empty stands in a city that would have cried injustice had the ACT Brumbies been jettisoned from Super Rugby.

    Australian rugby – now the subject of a senate inquiry – has done some irreparable damage to itself this year. Bitter wars, legal battles, axing teams and leaving the people who matter most – fans and players – hanging by a thread.

    The challenge now is trying to find out if there’s a way back from the darkest of days, searching for some sign of hope to resurrect the game.

    The Brumbies should rightly feel relieved and vindicated by a 12-page document released by the ARU this week, which detailed why the club was saved from the chopping block and merger talks were squashed.

    But the Brumbies were in serious danger for longer than most would think. And while the ARU eventually came to their sense, those in Perth and Melbourne were gunning for the Canberra side to be axed.

    The one thing the ARU got right in a drawn-out debacle was giving the Brumbies certainty about their future given the club is financially stable, has never asked for a handout and is Australia’s most successful franchise.

    But the entire saga has to be used as a trigger for change or an opportunity to restart rugby love in the capital rather than sitting back to get comfortable.

    The one thing surer than Twiggy’s bank account balance is that rugby lovers in Perth will be ready to pounce on any weak link in the coming years.

    The past two years have been tumultuous for Canberra rugby as off-field dramas – some inside the organisation and some out of its control – overshadowed on-field results.

    So while the Brumbies are safe for now, will they continue to be if crowds don’t bounce back in the coming years?

    Will the Wallabies still play in Canberra if no one turns up to the first Test in almost a decade?

    Sporting threats carry very little weight in the capital these days. The Football Federation Australian burnt those bridges long ago when they told Canberra fans to show up to Socceroos matches with the promise of an A-League club in return.

    The crowd turned up, but the A-League never came to the party. It was scorched into Canberra’s sporting memory.

    The Brumbies – and Canberra – cannot afford to be the rugby weak link and the club has cut ticket prices and membership costs in the hope of winning back fans.

    The ARU will be keeping a close eye on crowd numbers at the Wallabies’ game against Argentina to see if it will be worth coming back in future years.

    More than 15,000 watched the Wallabies play against Fiji on a chilly night in 2010. The game next week will be a perfect chance to look into a seven-year time warp.

    It might just show how far rugby has fallen and the ARU’s disconnect with Brumbies heartland. But it could also be the new beginning rugby desperately needs.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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