Why the long face?
ACT Brumbies mascot - Brumby Jack - has been forced to buy a ticket to the biggest Australian rugby derby in more than a decade after NSW officials banned him from the Allianz Stadium sideline on Saturday night.
The Waratahs have sold almost 35,000 tickets for the blockbuster clash against the Brumbies in Sydney, with the winner advancing to the Super Rugby grand final next week.
But Brumby Jack will have to sit in the stands with fans instead of trotting up and down the sideline after NSW denied his request to join Tah Man on the field
Brumby Jack was invited to AAMI Park in Melbourne earlier this year to pump up the crowd for the game against the Rebels.
NSW say there's no room for a horse so close to the action, citing security issues and jam-packed entertainment schedule as reasons.
The Brumbies confirmed Brumby Jack would be part of the travelling party, but it is believed to be the first time a visiting mascot has been denied on-field access.
It's the first time since 2002 that two Australian teams have gone into battle in a finals match.
The Brumbies and Waratahs share a rich history of intense rivalry contests, and this finals match will pit some of the best players in Australia head to head as both teams chase a grand final berth.
Superstar Israel Folau and Fijian flyer Henry Speight will compete for the title of best gamebreaker, giant lock Will Skelton will take on hard-working Brumby Sam Carter and former ACT skipper Stephen Hoiles lines up against his replacement, Ben Mowen.
But for now, Tah Man and Brumby Jack have been denied a sideline contest for fan support.
"The Brumbies have brought Brumby Jack a ticket and he will be sitting in the stands," a NSW spokesperson said.
"There are no freebies for this game, he buys a ticket like everyone else. I'm not sure what the ticket price for horses are though."
The Brumbies are sending busloads of supporters to Sydney for the match.
NRL mascots are allowed to travel to any venue in the competition.
Victor the Viking will be going toe-to-toe with Reggie the Rabbit at Canberra Stadium for the Raiders' round 20 clash against the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Monday night.
Brumby Jack was a Youtube sensation in April when comedian Dayne Rathbone - brother of Brumbies winger Clyde - vomited on the sideline when he overheated.
The Waratahs are hosting a final for the first time since 2008 after finishing the regular season as the best team in the competition and favourites to claim their first Super Rugby championship.
Australian teams haven't squared off in a sudden-death play-off match since the Brumbies beat the Waratahs 51-10 in 2002.
The Brumbies and Waratahs have played twice this season, with each side winning once.
"It's a different experience this year," said Brumbies prop Scott Sio.
"But finals time has to be the same preparation, everyone wants to be here at this time of year.
"The Waratahs have set the tone all year, that's why they're No. 1 and they've been able to put teams away. We need to make sure we shape up because last time we weren't great."
- Canberra Times
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