The Evolution of a Super Rugby FanFebruary may just be my favourite month of the year. My liver finally gets a rest from the resounding beating it received over the more festive summer months and the sweet smell of football season begins to linger in the air. In years gone by, it was the mere whiff of trial games and pre-season club rugby training that got me as excited as a labrador at meal time, but now, due to the expansion of pretty much every major sporting league there is, we get some real competition. We get Super Rugby.
Living in the Eastern Suburbs, only a short bus ride from the defending champions’ home base, has added to that air of expectation, and even though I grew up north of the border and am expected to hate those ‘bastards in blue’, it was hard not to feel a modicum of pleasure when the Waratahs finally broke their duck (this sentiment does not extend to State of Origin – I truly hate NSW for those three games).
I don’t think it is just me either. With the introduction of the conference system and more Australian teams in the mix, Super Rugby fans are starting to follow more than just their home state. For the first time, people from the east coast are casting a lazy eye over the fortunes of a team from Western Australia and the ACT is no longer just a place where politicians collect their glamourised dole cheques and labradors loathe meal time for fear of being sexually assaulted (that one is for the Raiders fans).
I realised this last year when it was only with mild disappointment that I watched the Queensland Reds – the team I would say I have consciously supported the longest in my sporting life – routinely cop a bit of a shellacking. They endured their worst run since the dark days of the mid-2000s, when they couldn’t win a game (except, curiously, against NSW) and their board was so archaic the surfer-hipsters now overrunning Bondi and Byron Bay, with their ‘we’re too cool for leg-ropes’ attitudes, would have become positively engorged at the notion of paddling out upon it. Yet the Brumbies and the ‘Tahs were going well, so I was not too perturbed.
Perhaps it is an indictment upon myself. Perhaps I have become so enamoured by the beauty of the beaches and people around Bronte that my loyalties are cheaply bought. Perhaps. But I think it is more than that. Super Rugby has long been a precursor to the real nitty-gritty, the Wallabies, and thus it is particularly hard to go out of your way to dislike someone like Adam Ashley-Cooper (despite his hyphenated surname positively screaming for a Queenslander to make fun of him) when for the majority of the year he is playing like a legend for Australia.
So bring on Super Rugby and may all the Australian teams go well. I’m not 100 percent sure how the conference system works, but can they all make the finals? Can the ‘Tahs go back to back? Can James O’Connor stop being a knob? Can Special K (Karmichael Hunt) become the greatest convert since potatoes were turned into vodka? Can I stop asking silly questions and be patient? Only time will tell.