4 April 2024

It's more than a game when the Brumbies face the Waratahs - especially in 2024

| Tim Gavel
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The Brumbies versus Waratahs game at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

The All Blacks have the haka; the Brumbies have their hatred for the Waratahs. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

In the lead-up to the 2005 Super Rugby season, the Waratahs had never beaten the Brumbies in Canberra.

NSW coach Ewen McKenzie, a former Brumbies foundation player, knew the psyche of the city more than most. He was also a renowned student of mind games.

In the days leading up to the game against the Brumbies, McKenzie devised a plan to get into the minds of the opposition.

He was well aware of the build-up in Canberra every time the Brumbies played the Waratahs. ‘Tah Week’, as it was known, drew on the emotions of players. These were Brumbies players who were seemingly unwanted by NSW, only to find a more successful home in the ACT.

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The week before these games was the easiest for a sports journalist in Canberra as Brumbies player after Brumbies player expressed an intense dislike for the Waratahs.

It was akin to the Western Suburbs Magpies preparing to take on Manly in the Roy Masters era.

The All Blacks have the haka; the Brumbies have their hatred for the Waratahs.

McKenzie knew he needed to do something to unsettle the Brumbies.

In April 2005, the Waratah’s bus, emblazoned with murals of the star NSW players on the sides, spent more time in Manuka and Kingston than on the Hume Highway.

McKenzie’s plan was to invade the Brumbies’ space, which at the time was the leafy inner south. He spent time in the cafes frequented by the Brumbies.

The Waratahs beat the Brumbies that Saturday night 10-6. It was a dour affair in front of close to 27,000 fans.

The NSW players celebrated as if they had won the title in Round 8.

That year the Waratahs made the final only to go down to the Crusaders.

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The backdrop to Saturday night’s game has a different feel. There’s less fire and brimstone, but it’s just as important in the context of the politics of rugby in Australia.

The Waratahs are effectively under the control of Rugby Australia, while the Brumbies resisted takeover moves by the governing body, resulting in the Brumbies’ future being seemingly under threat.

The proposed centralised model is off to a rocky start for the Waratahs. After four losses in a row, the team is on the verge of being out of contention for the finals if they go down to the Brumbies on Saturday night in Round 7 of the competition.

The Brumbies, on the other hand, are in third place and remain unbeaten against all Australian teams so far this season.

A win over the Waratahs on Saturday will be icing on the cake midway through the season.

The ACT Brumbies host the NSW Waratahs at GIO Stadium on Saturday, 6 April. Kick-off at 7:35 pm. Tickets from Ticketek.

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