In the Brumbies glory years, fans turned out en masse, energised by the team’s exuberant style of play.
There was little in the way of pre-match entertainment in those days, apart from a rousing rendition of the team song to the tune of ‘Click Go the Shears’ by the Brumbies Choir.
Then over time people started staying away for a variety of well-documented reasons and little issues became bigger through inaction. A divide appeared between the team and rugby’s grass roots in Canberra.
Now, long gone is the expectation that people will turn up to matches even if the team is winning.
As a result, Brumbies management have engaged with members and supporters in the off-season to find out what needed changing in a bid to get more people to games. From this, they have responded and made some changes.
The fruits of their labor will became evident at the team’s opening game of the season on Friday night when the Brumbies play the Queensland Reds at GIO Stadium.
In what the franchise describes as the biggest investment in the fan experience in the history of the organisation, the focus will be on catering for families with a kids’ zone, a family room, and a quiet suite where supporters and families of those with autism spectrum disorder or social disabilities can watch the game.
Ticket prices have been reduced and kick off for night games is at the earlier time of 7:15 pm, again with families in mind.
One issue raised during the members’ forum was the desire from supporters for the players to have more interaction with the fans. And this is going to happen on game day before and after home matches, coupled with an increased visibility in the community during the weeks.
Brumbies legends Ben Alexander and Josh Mann-Rea will be part of the field announcing team and the bar, known as ‘The Slab’, will be open well before and until well after the games.
It will be a different feel on the field as well with at least five new players in the starting side following the departure of a number of big names in the off season.
The style of play will also be crucial to the investment in the match day experience, as has been illustrated in the past when the team was winning but fans became frustrated with defensive, field position games dominated by kicking.
Last season, I felt as though there was a definite step in the right direction with a game plan, which encouraged more attacking rugby.
In the trial win against the Melbourne Rebels, the Brumbies showed enough to suggest they have been working on their overall game in the off-season with impressive attack matched by effective defence.
There is much to like about the Brumbies approach to this season on and off the field with an obvious determination to ensure the city has a Super Rugby team of which it can be proud.
Buy tickets to this Friday’s Super Rugby season opener at GIO Stadium at Ticketek.
How do you think the Brumbies can get the crowds back?