Waratahs disappointed by poor turnout
February 24, 2014
Wycliff Palu crashed his way trhough the Force defence several times throughout the Waratahs win © Getty Images
The only obvious downer from the NSW Waratahs' crushing start to the Super Rugby season was the crowd. And it is a major concern for the cash-strapped organisation. NSW officials said they weren't in a position to provide an official figure on game-days, but the broadcasters floated a attendance around the 16,000 mark.
Despite the inroads made last year, including the signing of Kurtley Beale, the brilliance of Israel Folau and the promise of an attack-at-all-costs mentality, a sea of empty seats greeted the Waratahs on a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon at Allianz Stadium.
With next to no competition from rival sports it was an underwhelming atmosphere, despite the fact the Waratahs delivering on the field, as promised, a six tries to two, 43-21 thrashing of the Western Force.
Star hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is confident, however, NSW can bring the crowds back this season. After years of disappointing results, it seems fans need to be convinced with actions rather than words that it's worth making the trek back to Moore Park, or Homebush - the venue for Saturday night's Australian Conference blockbuster against the Queensland Reds.
Polota-Nau expects the numbers to swell for the Reds and continue to grow if the Waratahs can demonstrate on a consistent basis their commitment to an entertaining brand.
"I think we've got to show them that the game we're trying to portray is a game we believe can bring the crowds back," said Polota-Nau. "But it's early days. First game back, not expecting big crowds. But hopefully the more consistent we can be we can bring them back and attract them more. I'd like to think we can definitely attract a crowd with the attacking play we performed yesterday."
Polota-Nau says the big lesson to come out of the bonus-point victory over the Force was belief.
The Waratahs talked it up in the pre-season that they would stick to their attacking mantra at all costs, and on Sunday they put into practice - refusing to deviate from the game plan even when the Force got back to within eight points with a quarter left.
The Wallabies hooker said NSW would need to remain mentally strong against Australian powerhouses the Reds - who beat the Brumbies in Canberra last week and have a winning 2-1 record at Homebush's ANZ Stadium.
"It's good to know that once we got into our strategy and we did lay that platform it did work for us," he said. "That's all we need to do, is stick to our guns because there's been times when we haven't. The mental part of it is very challenging. You don't really train for it. It gets repetitive which can be quite boring, but that's what you have to do to win games - it's all about consistency.
"The real test will be this weekend when it comes to the Reds because they're quite the competitive side, particularly on the breakdown. Yesterday was good but we've got to step up another notch. Izzy [Folau] crossing over three times - if you give him space he'll cause damage."