It's time the NPC got a better suck on the sav
Provincial rugby deserves betterGLENN MCLEAN
Will you go to watch a midweek NPC match?
OPINION: Provincial rugby deserves better.
The New Zealand Rugby Union have delivered a serious body blow to the national provincial championship by cramming it into a 10-week window, putting games on nights when it is less appealing and surrendering common sense for the wishes of their pay television network.
Look at Taranaki as an example of getting the short end of the stick. They have one Saturday match in the entire competition and that is against one of the most boring sides in the country - Southland. It should be a rite of passage for every young rugby fan to be able to plan weekend trips away to support their province.
But if you are a young Taranaki fan you have to take time off work or flag the idea of supporting your side outside your province's boundary. And if you do go, the atmosphere for midweek matches is stodgy because most of the time you are in a half-empty stadium or a deserted central business district because no-one is out on a school night.
It is even worse for responsible parents who will not let their young children out on a school night because they won't be home until after 10pm.
Why do we have to put up with this? Because the NZRU and the New Zealand Players' Association demand their employees or clients have a window where they can take annual leave.
Here is an idea - how about they simply extend the NPC season for another fortnight and the Super Rugby franchises can have their men a little later in the year.
It surely would not make too much difference if the coaches do not get hold of their cattle for another fortnight to flog them with pre-season training because, after all, the season does not start until late February.
Another fortnight would be a real shot in the arm for the NPC.
For starters, the scheduling could be adjusted and we would not have matches spread from Wednesday through to Sunday.
Sky Television can suck it up and accept that games should only be played between Friday and Sunday, and who cares if there is more than one on at the same time? They can simply put on delayed coverage, even if that upsets the TAB.
In a time when tradition is getting thrown out the window, it is time the NPC got a better suck on the sav.
Fans should be able to go out and have lunch, enjoy a quiet pint and walk down to the stadium in the afternoon more regularly.
While it was great to read last week that most of New Zealand's rugby unions were in a reasonably healthy financial state, things could be much better if they were allowed to have weekend matches every weekend.
Surely the NZRU has a moral obligation to do more for its members.
Weekend matches would generate more atmosphere and, more importantly, more fans.
The NPC deserves more than just persevering with, it deserves to be a better product for everyone. If it is, more people might get off the couch and go and watch it.
- Taranaki Daily News
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