Sports

Shute Shield broadens reach, Super Rugby keeps eye on US comp

The catch is that rugby remains on the nose among Australian free-to-air broadcasters, so convincing Ten to take a greater stake in the sport will be tough. A well-placed source at Ten described it thus: “Why invest in a sport going backwards?” Later adding: “Upside is if the sport gets its house in order with competitive, exciting games…”

Which is where the CBS link comes in. The networks head office is taking a keen interest in developments in the Aussie market and if Major League Rugby can win over the bigwigs, there could be an opportunity for Super Rugby to pitch to a receptive audience. As another source told The Cauliflower, “Id be on the first plane over there if I were Raelene Castle.”

Folau discussion just won't go away

Bernard Foley has thrown his support behind Israel Folau after his teammate was slammed by former Wallaby Nic White and All Blacks halfback TJ Perenara for an anti-gay comment on Instagram more than a fortnight ago.

Shortly after one-Test All Black Brad Weber expressed his “disgust” at having to play against Folau, Perenara joined the discussion by saying Folaus comment, in which he said Gods plan for gay people was “HELL”, was out of line.

Speaking out: TJ Perenara has slammed Israel Folau.

Photo: AAP

“Let it go on record that I am 100% against the comments that were made by Israel. It was not ok to say that. It's not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments," Perenara tweeted. “To anyone, young Māori/Pasifika people especially, who may be struggling with their identity – please know that it is ok to be you."

White, who played with Folau for the Wallabies between 2013 and 2015, also added his two cents' worth, saying Perenara and Weber “hit the nail on the head”.

“Hats off to you both for having the balls to speak up,” White tweeted. “For what its worth I completely agree and support you boys.”

There will no doubt be extra spice during this years Bledisloe Cup after comments from across the ditch about Folaus religious beliefs.

Asked for his take on the matter on Thursday, Foley said Folau was a great person.

“I support Israel,” he said. “We dont all believe the same, its his religious beliefs, but for me Ive had a lot of chats with Izzy this week. Hes a teammate of mine and hes a really good friend and a guy that I have supported from day one when he first arrived here. There is diversity in teams, corporations, society. One thing Ive known from Israel is he loves and accepts a lot of people."

Will cheap tickets pay off for Tahs?

The Waratahs are so keen to get fans through the turnstiles at Allianz Stadium on Friday theyre selling tickets for the same price as a Shute Shield game. For $15, you can watch the Waratahs take on the Lions and check out the Super W final beforehand between NSW and Queensland. Its a concerted effort to get more bums on seats after poor crowds in the first three home games of the year. NSW have averaged 12,795 fans per game at home this year. From the first three fixtures last year, that number was 15,367, which was still down on previous years. The bad news for the Waratahs is the Swans are playing next door at the SCG at the same time. The lowest ever Waratahs home crowd is 10,555 but youd think four victories in a row would encourage a healthy number of folk down to Moore Park on Friday evening.

Support: Fans mob Harry Johnson-Holmes after the Waratahs snatched a late winner against the Stormers in February.

Photo: AAP

Gay coach has say on Folau

An open letter to Israel Folau piqued our interest this week. It was written by Dave Oliver, Australias first openly gay premiership rugby coach, who came out the other end of an ice addiction as he battled his sexuality. The crux of the letter was telling Folau he had a responsibility to make rugby inclusive and that his words were extremely hurtful to gay people. Speaking to The Cauliflower, Oliver said public opposition to Folau in recent days had sent a message that gays were still very much welcome in rugby.

“This has been extremely empowering in the last few days,” Oliver said. “People are seeing that theres so much support for people who are gay and in rugby. I do worry about these 11 and 12 year olds though that arent adults [and] dont think a lot for themselves quite yet and are influenced by these sports stars. These players have a big responsibility to just think about what theyre saying and how they say it and I think Israel has fallen way short of the mark. You get really disappointed that someone of that profile just couldnt keep something like that to himself.”

Location for country footys big weekend locked in

Wallaby Ben McCalmans home town of Warren will host this years NSW Country Rugby Union Championships. About 660 players from nine different rugby zones across the state will converge on the tiny NSW town next Saturday and Sunday. Greg Whitley, chairman of the Country Championships Organising Committee, reckons the tournament will bring about a quarter of a million dollars into the local economy. “Rugby has always played a prominent role in country communities and even in times of hardship it gives the whole community a chance to come together to support their local teams.”

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Georgina Robinson

Georgina Robinson is a Sports Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald

Tom Decent

Tom Decent is a journalist with Fairfax Media.

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