Sydney has been the focus of some interesting discussion over the past couple of weeks. A lot of conversation has centred on whether or not Sydney has lost its ‘mojo’, specifically with relation to the arts and nightlife. The increasing cost of living, unreliable and expensive public transport, poor parking options and a faster paced environment are all factors that have been attributed to Sydney’s recent demise and the elevation of our country cousins, particularly Melbourne and Brisbane, into more culturally vibrant cities.
Personally I do think that post Olympics Sydney has lost a little bit of its oomph. We’ve become overly reliant on icons such as the Opera House and Harbour Bridge to continue to set us apart from the rest of the pack, but a lack of intelligent investment, both in infrastructure and culture, has led to a city that is becoming a little bit blasé.
But that’s neither here nor there.
How does this all relate to sports?
If Sydney is losing its cultural mojo, are we losing our sports mojo also?
Part my morning ritual each workday is to listen to the Big Sports Breakfast on the wireless. This week TK and Slats were interviewing young Rooster Tom Symonds, the hero from their heart stopping win over Souths Sydney in a cracker of a season opener.
During the course of the interview the topic turned to the crowds during the opening round. By all accounts the turnout was fantastic, with the NRL announcing a record combined attendance for an opening round. Well done to all concerned, and a pat on the back to besieged NRL CEO David Gallop.
Then Symonds mentioned the great turnout during the Souths vs. Roosters game and that’s when I hit the brakes.
Two foundation clubs;
Inner city rivals;
The Roosters coming off a Grand Final appearance;
The Rabbitohs debut of Greg Inglis;
Opening game of the season;
Fans salivating for some footy after a summer of discontent watching the Ashes debacle;
A stadium capacity of 80,000;
The most populous city in the country;
And 28,000 turn up!
To quote the Wolf (Pulp Fiction): “Let’s not start sucking each others d#cks just yet!”
How does a crowd of 28,000 at a season opener between two rivals (both with great news stories) constitute a good crowd? Is this all the NRL can muster?
Why is it that the AFL can generate crowds of 50,000 plus for regular season games, and yet the NRL can’t crack the 30,000 mark for a showcase season opener?
I was in Melbourne a couple of weekends ago when the Swans played Geelong (I think it was Geelong) in the NAB Cup. I trawled the streets for an hour before the first bounce looking for a chwarma (as a health dinner option) and I noticed that the bars, cafes and sidewalks were teaming with fans wearing colours from both clubs. All finishing off their last Belgian Beer or Unwooded Chardonnay before heading off to the game. And this was just an insignificant preseason game.
Why is it then that rugby league, the dominant football code on the Eastern seaboard, can’t generate this sort of human traffic?
So I started thinking (I do that sometimes).
Is this a rugby league issue, or is it a Sydney issue? Are small crowds a symptom of Sydney’s high cost of level, poor public transport, lack of parking, and general lack of time?
Maybe Sydney’s lack of mojo extends to sports as well as the arts, fashion and other areas of higher culture.
After generating a lot of noise when the A-League first launched a few years ago, Sydney FC has struggled to consistently draw big crowds. The NSW Waratahs have had similar issues over the past couple of seasons. And the Sydney Kings...let’s not even go there. Obviously it doesn’t help when the product you’re promoting isn’t performing, but even the most poorly performed AFL teams can boast healthy gate receipts.
The NRL obviously has a great product. And judging by television ratings is definitely a sport that continues to grow its viewership. But personally I believe there is a long way to go before the NRL can start to crow about crowd numbers with great confidence.
Wouldn’t it be great to see team colours on the streets every weekend in the lead up to big games? Atmosphere is delivered on the ground, not through the idiot box. I don’t care how high the definition is, or how many dimensions they’re telecasting in.
Maybe it’s the cost, maybe it’s just lack of time.
Or maybe Sydneysiders are just too cool to pop on a beanie and wave a scarf when kicking back at a funky wine bar serving average wine at above average prices before heading off to watch the big game.
UP: Novak Djokovic on extending his unbeaten run to 17 games after dismantling compatriot and Davis Cup hero Viktor Troicki at Indian Wells. Playing the best tennis of his career to date.
UP: Sydney Kings. Props to Moose Robilliard and his charges for not tanking the entire season. After such a disastrous start it would have been easy for them to mail it in for the whole season. Instead they’ve turned it around and become on of the form teams of the competition. Some may say too little too late. But sometimes pride is worth playing for.
DOWN: Ricky Ponting. Punter just doesn’t look like a man who is enjoying his cricket at the moment. His childish and petulant reaction to a fielding mishap with Steve Smith was of a man struggling with form and motivation. Without denigrating his amazing accomplishments in both forms of the game, it might be time to pack it in.
Last week I tipped 4 from 8, which wasn’t such a horrific start. If the Steelers hadn’t been gifted two competition points by the referee and if the Panthers has turned up to play I might have nabbed six. Don’t you just love dealing in hypotheticals?
This week I like:
Friday March 18
Eels vs. Panthers @ the Gates of Heaven aka Parramatta Stadium
TIP: Eels. Scares the hell out of me when my team has to face someone coming off a shellacking...and Penrith where seriously spanked last week. As a fan it’s hard to stomach total lack of effort from your team, especially the first game of the season. Pemrif fans have a right to be furious with their outfit. So expect the Mountain Men to be switched on tonight. Still, with the Eels playing a new brand of no frills football, I see them grinding out another impressive win
Raiders vs. Broncos @ Canberra Stadium
TIP: Raiders. Canberra has a great record at home. Impressive first up win with some key players out injured. Ox coming into the team. Too much for the Baby Broncs to match up against
Saturday March 19
Storm vs. Titans @ AAMI Park
TIP: Storm. It’s a long trip from the Gold Coast to Melbourne. Different time zone, different climate. Heck, it could even be a different country. Storm too strong at their Mexican stronghold
Tigers vs. Warriors @ Leichhardt Oval
TIP: Tigers. They really disappointed me first up against the Dogs. I honestly thought they were specials. I expect them to fire up this week, although this one could go down to the wire
Cowboys vs. Knights @ Dairy Farmers
TIP: Cowboys. Knights were as impressive last week as Penrith were poor, but the Cowboys make a living off winning at home, so expect more of the same. Plus, they’ll be on a massive high after getting a rare win in Brisbane to open the season
Sunday March 20
Rabbitohs vs. Bulldogs @ ANZ Stadium
TIP: Bulldogs. For mine the most impressive performers from last week, considering how many new faces are playing in key positions. The Rabbits showed some good fight to get themselves in a winning position against the Roosters, but their inability to play a consistent brand of footy for 80 minutes is a worry for Russell Crowe and cohorts. Plus they’ve suffered injuries to some key personnel and I don’t think they have the depth to cover well. Editors Note: I hate tipping the Dogs
Roosters vs. Sea Eagles @ SFS
TIP: Roosters. Forwards dominated the early proceedings last week, setting the platform for the backs to open up a big lead. Switched off for twenty minutes and almost lost the game, but showed great courage to get a deserved win. Too much firepower for a Manly outfit lacking form and depth
Monday March 21
Sharks vs. Steelers @ Toyota Stadium
TIP: Steelers. If you can’t get up for a local derby then you shouldn’t be playing the game. But the Sharks would need an absolute miracle to get anything out of this game. Look to the Steelers to aim all their attacking kicks high and at the ref