IT’S hard to imagine how the current saga at the Brumbies would not be affecting the club’s image and brand.
The management dispute, which has virtually taken over most discussions about the Brumbies. At Canberra Stadium for the game against the Crusaders I talked with many rugby fans, as I do at all Brumbies’ home games. This time though, not once was the question about the team’s on-field prospects raised. It was entirely about the off-field drama. It was the same at the State of the Union lunch.
For years the rugby community outside Canberra has looked upon the ACT with fascination. The Brumbies, Australia’s most successful Super Rugby side, has been viewed as unique, almost insular, with the city very protective of the team and its players.
It has been portrayed as “us against them” with a certain amount of justification as the history of the Brumbies saw them utilising players not wanted by other provinces, alongside locally bred players looking for an opportunity.
What materialised was a team the city embraced because of their carefree nature. The Brumbies’ players had a say in the running of the organisation, which was previously unheard of, and success followed. They appeared to enjoy playing together; it wasn’t a job, it was an expression of joy to be part of this team.
At times it has become a point of difference with teams such as NSW and Queensland, who saw themselves as superior because of their long history in the game. There was a perception that things were done differently in Canberra.
This current saga has played straight into these perceptions with those who looked upon the Brumbies as the rugby equivalent of “Dodge City” feeling justified in their initial judgement of the rugby community in Canberra.
Issues over the years, such as the incident in Capetown and the sacking of David Nucifora, solidified in the minds of many a sense of lawlessness even though the dramas were in reality no different to those that have happened elsewhere outside the ACT over the years. They will see this current drama as cream on the top, just another episode in Canberra.
Another concern is the impact that it is having on the entire code in Canberra, with the saga enveloping everything else in rugby.
To suggest that there is no division within the ACT Rugby community is wrong. I would go as far as to suggest that divide has never been greater as people take opposing points of view.
The longer this drags on the greater irreparable damage it is doing to rugby in the ACT to the delight of many outside Canberra who have, in the past and even to this day, looked upon the Brumbies with envy.