A regular conversation starter between rugby supporters at a party, pub or in the office often goes along the lines of something like this:
Supporter #1 - “Did you see watch the game on the weekend?”,
Supporter #2 - “Yea mate, don’t know how we blew that one. Didn’t help we got a yellow card which clearly wasn’t one”,
Supporter #1 - “How about that lock who socked our prop one in the side of the ruck in front of the ref and got away with it, dirty bugger...”
And so on…
Being the club fanatic I am, I then launch into how the Red Machine got on the previous Saturday and a detailed analysis of how I think the team is going to get on the next week. It’s not until ten minutes into the conversation that I realise I have lost the other guy and he hasn’t been able to get a word in.
What I am trying to get at here is that as a Marist St Pats supporter I am very passionate about this level of our great game (some may say too passionate but I’m not sure that can ever be the case).
But why does club rugby at times struggle to get numbers on the sidelines? The players train like they are professionals, the quality of rugby is superb, you are in the thick of it on the sidelines for 80 minutes and after the game you get to go back to the clubrooms to have a drink with the players, referees and fellow supporters. If you haven't had enough rugby after all this, you then get to watch more rugby at the club with your mates!
The thing is, while ‘Supporter #2’ may be a die hard rugby supporter - and will often say to me that they would love to get back down on the sidelines of a club rugby match - we struggle to get rugby supporters like this down to matches. Often these supporters will follow 1st XV Rugby, Mitre 10 Cup, Super Rugby and of course the All Blacks. We need to get these supporters back following the purest form of the game in New Zealand - club rugby.
It is New Zealand’s grassroots rugby clubs that breed, nurture and develop the stars we worship in the grades mentioned above. We need to stop the disconnect between these levels of the game and grassroots rugby - the clubs are often the places our rugby stars are molded from.
Instead of watching Saturday night rugby at a pub or at home, I encourage you to try something different and make a point of coming up to the clubrooms with mates and family. Amateur rugby clubs rely on people like you reading this article to get in behind and support them.
If we wish to see club rugby grow and get the exposure it deserves, we all have a responsibility to support, promote, endorse and encourage other rugby supporters to get down on the sidelines and get involved at the clubrooms. It’s not just for adults either. My brothers and I grew up on the sidelines of Athletic Park in Newtown watching mighty Marist St Pats and kicking a ball around with other kids who were there. Many of those same kids have gone on to play Premier rugby at the club!
If you can’t make it to the game or the clubrooms every week, plan some weekends in advance where you can come along and have a good time with your mates, family and fellow club members.
Lastly, it’s not getting any easier for clubs on the financial front, a good start in supporting the club would be in paying your subs; it may not seem like a lot but it all contributes to help pay the bills. Standard memberships start from as little as $40. For those that don’t live in Wellington an Out of Town membership is $25. Find out more here.
As the season starts to pick up pace, look at what you are going to do to support your Marist St Pats club community. Make 2017 the year you reconnect with rugby.
Patrick Holden is a lifelong Marist St Pats supporter. While his glory days on the field ended as the captain of the Under 55 A's at St Patrick's College, he remains immersed in the grassroots game as one half of the Holden Bros. tandem that manage the club's website and social media presence...