YES, some of Canberra’s stadium facilities could do with a bit of a touch up, but compared to 40 years ago, today’s ACT sports fans get a pretty good deal, especially in winter.
Think back to 1987… the Raiders were maturing as a force in the game, but playing at Seiffert Oval. Rugby was limited to whatever fixtures the ACTRU could talk the national body into sending our way, Canberra’s NSL team had been relegated, and the AFL was trying hard just to keep the Swans afloat in Sydney and didn’t really seem to be giving Canberra (which used to be an Aussie rules stronghold) much thought.
Fast forward to 2017. In just the past few weeks, we’ve been treated to some thrillers from the Raiders in front of good crowds, not to mention international rugby league, several Brumbies games and, courtesy of the part-time tenancy of the GWS Giants, two big AFL games at Manuka.
Now, I’ll be the first to agree things aren’t perfect.
Getting away from the AIS can take a bit of time if there’s more than 10,000 at a game, but compare that to the nightmare of escaping Moore Park in Sydney.
Or if you catch a bus after a Giants night game, you need to have your skates on to make a connection at the interchange if you’re going further than Civic or Woden.
But at least most nights during the footy season our taxis are relatively plentiful, with drivers who know where they’re going. Most of the time. So, yes, there are areas for improvement, but it could also be a lot worse.
What about inside the stadium? I was lucky enough to be a part of the 2CC commentary team for a recent Raiders fixture at ANZ Stadium in Sydney’s Olympic Park. The crowd was more than 13,000 but felt much smaller due to the size of the stadium.
Certainly, the atmosphere is better in the more intimate confines of Bruce with similar-sized crowds and you’re much closer to the game in Canberra than in most of the cavernous Sydney stadiums. There’s a problem at both venues – I assume it’s an NRL directive to turn the PA up to 11 in every stadium at almost every opportunity. Apparently, you can’t have a game without reminding attendees that we will, WE WILL, ROCK YOU!
Brumbies games are a more interesting case study. In recent years, the crowds seem to have shrunk; have they also become quieter? Yes, but is that cause and effect or is it because Rugby Union has decided the game needs noise during every stoppage. Maybe I’m looking at past games with a rose-coloured filter, but today cheers developing organically in the crowd die a swift death, obliterated by music before it can even begin. You could take this as proof that less can be more.
As for the AFL, I know some of the visiting media weren’t enamoured with their surrounds at Manuka and the recent Friday night game was bitterly cold, but the crowd gets into the games there and the ground looks great.
The Giants have done everything they can to build a Canberra profile, and it does seem to be working, but there’s one thing missing for any footy fan who grew up in Melbourne. Where are the hot jam donuts? None of the food vans have them in Canberra.
Sure, some visitors may be surprised there’s something to do in Canberra on Friday nights and, yes, maybe a stadium with a roof would keep some of the chill away but, honestly, it’s pretty good here right now.
Chris Coleman presents “Canberra Live”, 3pm-6pm, weekdays on 2CC.