Why the fans abandoned the Kiwis - and how to get them back

Radio Sport with Chris Rattue, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Monday, 15 October 2018, 9:43AM
The Kiwis comeback win reverses their fortunes after an earlier string of losses. (Photo / Getty)


The Kiwis deserved to have won by more, and there should have been more people at Mt Smart Stadium to witness it.

So where have test league crowds gone?

Saturday night was a victory and a defeat.

The Kiwis turned around a dreadful few years with an emphatic victory over Australia, a new young team delivering the sort of performance we should come to expect.

But the crowd was put at a mere 12,763, an almighty embarrassment quite frankly and even more so when you consider how rarely the Kiwis play at home.
Compare that to the Warriors, who averaged around 11,700 during a troubled 2017 season, and played before an average home crowd of nearly 17,500 this year (according to the club's official release).

There was a lack of spark to the test build-up last week, with attention already focusing on the predicted Australia-Tonga sellout this Saturday.

And the reaction to Saturday night's win is nothing compared to the surge of interest a young Kiwi team created with a shock victory over Australia in Melbourne in 1991. Something has definitely changed.

Where has it all gone so wrong for the Kiwis?

Thirty years ago, the New Zealand Rugby League nervously booked giant Eden Park for the World Cup final against Wally Lewis and the Australians and sold the ground out.

There was an unprecedented build-up to that game, and the Kiwis included some famous players even if a few were past their prime.

That was a one-off occasion, but it does portray how bad the decline has been.

And it's not just here. Check media coverage of Australia's shock defeat on Saturday night — it is hardly a headline-grabbing moment across the Tasman either.

Australia talks State of Origin selections endlessly. In comparison, tests hardly rate.

Potential reasons for a lack of spectators at Mt Smart Stadium for Saturday night's test.-

1) The Kiwis constantly fail and are often well beaten by Australia. Their public image is dreadful.
2) They have lost a connection with the public because players emerge out of Australian clubs, even if they were brought up here.
3) Test football is seen as an NRL sub-plot, consciously or sub-consciously.
4) Players swapping teams dilutes international "tribalism". (It's still going on - Agnatius Paasi quit Mate Ma'a Tonga for the Kiwis recently).
5) Once the NRL grand final is played, the league season is considered finished by many. 
6) Poor promotion.
7 The weather (poor excuse, but we're struggling for ideas).
8) Stadium crowds are no longer a good barometer for actual support
9) Pass - it is not fully explainable.
10) Traffic (It's an ingrained Auckland thing)
11) ...BUT NZ v Tonga will be a sellout next year. Thank you....Tonga.


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