(This article originally appeared on The Roar on 24 April 2017)
Allianz Stadium was a strange place to be on Friday night. The Waratahs had declared their intention to bin the box kick and get back to running rugby during the week. It was a bizarre admission of erstwhile poor tactics. Perhaps more a desperate plea to fans. Against a footloose Kings outfit, we were at least promised entertainment.
The early signs were good. The Tahs raced to a 17-0 lead, though both sides had a frantic air to them. There were handling errors and messy scrums but it was all a bit of fun.
The crowd laughed gloatingly at the replay of Wandile Mjekevu’s dreadful missed tackle, allowing Rob Horne to score. Even when the Kings clawed their way back into the match, it seemed a matter of time before the Tahs revved up again and put them to the sword.
But the mood changed. Actually, it was hard to gauge the mood throughout, such was the stadium’s obsession with filling every possible moment with blaring noise. Every kick for touch, scrum reset, or brief pause for injury came with its own obnoxious soundtrack. Often the music bled over into whole sequences of play as the teams tried to make lineout calls or hear the referee’s instructions.
If someone gifted you the playlist from Allianz Stadium on Friday, you wouldn’t even listen to it out of courtesy. In fact, you’d reassess the friendship. A couple of choice cuts included ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, followed by ‘All The Single Ladies’, capped off with everyone’s favourite audio lobotomy, LMFAO’s ‘Party Rock Anthem’.
In the meantime, the Tahs stadium announcer bounced around the stands, cackling maniacally, trying to whip up a frenzy among the fans. He tried to start chants, bellowing “New South Wales! New South Wales!” just as the Kings strolled over for a try. His tone was that of a TV rug salesman, while his eyes barely flickered with life.
Most fans go to the game as a social outing, using breaks in play to chat or, indeed, cheer. Yet we weren’t even afforded this respite from the tepid on-field fare. The stadium speakers thwomped and screeched for two hours as the Tahs continued their procession to ignominy.
At one point, the referee tried to review potential foul play on the big screen, only to be delayed by a crudely animated blue frog, overlaid on different sections of the crowd, encouraging them to dance.
All in all, it was the single most alienating and unenjoyable experience I’ve had in over 20 years of attending Waratahs games. Between the ground announcer, the stadium DJ, and the Tahs themselves, it was an utter shambles. The entire performance a disjointed cacophony, tone deaf and tragic. Right now, they’re a team desperate to add the bells and whistles before they’ve mastered the basics.
“A lot of talk, not much action there…It’s pretty disappointing and embarrassing,” captain Michael Hooper said post-match. He’s one man who cares. It remains unclear how much the rest do.
Daryl Gibson must go. That much is obvious. His stay of execution looks more nonsensical by the day. The best we can hope is that this is, in fact, rock bottom. Though best to tread carefully ‒ who knows when another trapdoor will give way.