Try-ing times: Rugby’s return scratches itch for sports fans

Sports fans groaned a collective sigh of relief as a truncated version of the NRL season kicked off last weekend.

The sparse stadia were populated only with the teams, coaches, (surely pointless) security stewards and other associated yellow-vested personnel, necessitating the use of fake crowd noise to add atmosphere to titanic struggles.

For $22.50 fans could even have a cardboard cut-out of themselves inserted into a seat in the crowd. The innocence of the promotion was soon sullied however by exponents of black humour who managed to get an image of mass-murdering doctor, Harold Shipman, into the army of inanimates.

The early 2020 season Warriors performances would have been more at home with canned laughter playing as opposed to canned noise, but impressively the Warriors showed absolutely no signs of homesickness as they clinically slayed the Dragons 18-0 in a remarkable display.

photo: NRL.com

To a casual observer, the scoreboard would have appeared underwhelming at the end, but the Warriors displayed military-like discipline to complete a remarkable tackle completion rate of 44 straight sets, before making a tired error late in the game.

A stiffer challenge awaits them at Campbelltown in round 4 against Ivan Cleary’s Panthers. The Panthers are still without coaches’ son- playmaker Nathan, who is sitting out another week after being banned for Tik Tok-related bubble breaches.

Talking Rugby Union, the derby-riffic Super Rugby Aotearoa has been confirmed for a June 13 return. The Blues are pitched against the Hurricanes in a game that should draw the hordes (virtually at least if we are still in level 2) of rugby-deprived people, who will be salivating over Beauden Barrett’s eventual return against his old side.

Cantabrians, already seething over the Blues latest acquisition of veteran (and prodigal son) Dan Carter (picked up as an injury replacement), will have to wait another week to see their crusade continue after drawing the bye.

The competition runs a paltry two games per weekend, but sports lovers’ appetite should be satisfied once the Australian teams sort out their own makeshift competition, which will include the re-instated Western Force.

Time will tell if a domestic-only format continues to appeal to viewers on both sides of the Tasman once the afterglow of being released from couch-potato captivity is extinguished.