A plea to RA and our broadcasters for more arvo Test matches
By Sam Ryan
What a time to be alive for Australian rugby fans.
After back to back Wallabies’ wins over the World Champion Springboks, the mood amongst us ‘rah rahs’ is sky high.
We’ve even got rusted on rugby league fans back on the bandwagon, suddenly they’re happy to talk about the rugby.
It might only be two Test wins, but why not celebrate it for a while. As Australian rugby fans, we deserve it.
Saturday night’s win was arguably the Wallabies best in years.
And as good as it was to watch to watch Taniela Tupou throwing flick passes and Reece Hodge stealing pilfers, I was equally excited to watch thousands of Wallabies fans storming through the gates of Suncorp in the minutes before and after kick off.
From lockdown Sydney, the idea of a few hours in the sun on Caxton Street ahead of an afternoon Test match is just about as good as it gets right now.
So why don’t we play more afternoon Test matches?
These decisions are obviously largely determined by the broadcaster. But Rugby Australia is in a rather unique position thanks to our new deal with Channel Nine and Stan.
Ratings from live broadcasts are clearly still a key metric for Nine, however it seems the bulk of the revenue from this deal will come through subscriptions to Stan Sport.
If that’s the case, then commercially you’d have to think that the best way to increase revenue from subscriptions is to see interest and attitudes towards Australian rugby continue to improve.
And it’s hard not to see that happening if the Wallabies can keep winning.
Rugby fans in Australia haven’t disappeared, a lot of them have just gone quiet and if the past two weeks tell us anything, it doesn’t take much to get them talking again.
Winning is the key though, so why don’t we play more Test matches in the afternoon in conditions that clearly suit the Wallabies style of play?
Not only will it increase our chances of winning more Test matches, but it can also turn a Wallabies Test into an event that rugby and non rugby fans desperately want to be a part of.
For the July Tests, Club and school rugby could be moved forward an hour or two to avoid a clash or a bye could be organised to align with the respective Tests in each city.
There’s nothing better than the atmosphere of a packed stadium on a sunny afternoon and those big crowds can only help boost TV ratings. Afternoon Tests are also perfect to watch from a backyard BBQ or in a beer garden of a pub.
When non rugby people start seeing more and more Cadbury Gold jerseys around, it won’t take long to capture their interests if the action on the field is as engaging as the atmosphere off it.
Australia has an extremely crowded sporting market and rugby needs to find a positive point of difference to fight back against our rival codes.
Turning Wallabies matches into an afternoon of entertainment might just be the key. It’s worked pretty well for club rugby in recent years.
Maybe the numbers don’t stack up, but Saturday arvo in Brisbane looked pretty good on and off the field.
Why can’t we hope for more of it?