Why are we so much less interested in Super Rugby Aotearoa this year compared to last year?
We should be fizzing for this competition because the thing that we loved about last year is still there this year: a good competition of only strong kiwi teams going up against each other without the rubbish squads form Australia and South Africa.
That hasn’t changed. So why are the crowds down again? Why are we back to the sad empty stadiums we had pre-Covid?
The rugby bosses are putting this down to the lockdowns. They reckon it was because we were starved of any sports at all that last year was a blockbuster.
But I reckon they’re wrong. Lockdowns don’t turn a basketball fan into rugby tragic.
I reckon the reason is the very thing we’ve been talking about for years now: the season start date.
Last year the season started only once we got back into level 1 after the lockdowns, which was in mid-June.
This year, we started it in February. We are still in cricket season. We’ve been watching the America’s Cup. We are not ready for rugby.
The fact is we never get the chance to miss rugby, like we do cricket between seasons.
Every summer I am hanging out for cricket, I know when the first game is, but every year rugby arrives before we’re ready for it.
Unlike in the past, this is no longer just a theory. This time we have the evidence. It’s there in black and white.
One season is a success, the other is a flop already.
Obviously money complicates this. The rugby bosses have to decide if they can make more money playing more games with half empty stadiums, or fewer games with full stadiums. That’ll be the deciding factor.
But what they can’t neglect is the impossible-to-price buzz. Buzz is so important because it is the thing that makes us talk about the games and stay up and watch them and let our kids play.
And that is already missing this season. There is no buzz.