Breaking in the Brumbies

I’m a Sydney boy. I grew up supporting the Waratahs, and going to games at what is now known as Allianz Stadium, but what I’ve always known as the Sydney Football Stadium. What I’d say was lacking, though, was a serious atmosphere at the rugby. Sydney is a city of many sports, and it is hard to find the passion and buzz obvious at other codes’ matches around the country, and the world. Sure there’d be the rise and swell as the Tahs launched an attacking raid, but there was never the edgy tension evident at a Manchester derby in England.

Moving to Canberra in my first year I didn’t really embrace the Brumbies as a new home team. This year I turned a new leaf, beginning with attending the recent grudge match between the Brumbies and Waratahs. I had heard there have been attempts this year to really get a proper atmosphere going behind the Brumbies and after 80 minutes of rugby, I am calling it early as a success.

The Brumbies are making a huge effort to create a great atmospshere. The Southern Bowl is taking on a decidedly student feel, with tickets only $10 for students. Brumbies General Manager George De Crespigny says the aim is to, “create an atmosphere that is attractive for students, makes it easy for them to attend, and so that they have a great time regardless of the game going on in front of  them!”

This has been based on Canberra being a city highlighted by its strong university presence. “The Brumbies want the students to “own” them as a team.” Through their major sponsorship, UC and the Brumbies have established the rUCkus Supporters Club. They are the backbone of the attempt to create the student atmosphere, and the Brumbies “would love to see ANU do the same.” There has been the offer that if ANU establishes a similar situation, the Brumbies will happily provide promotional material and collateral. I’d love to see this happen at ANU in the next year or so, because the Brumbies could never have too much support!

Immediately I noticed a difference between that night and the regular games I attended in Sydney. Walking to Canberra Stadium there was a buzz in the air, a general sense of anticipation for the game. I was surprised by the amount of supporter’s gear on display. There seemed to be a family focussed, deep rooted support for the Brumbies. The fans were passionate but without malice. Wearing a Waratahs jersey I expected to be abused and hassled, but my experience was quite to the contrary. That’s not to say nothing was said, but it was very light-hearted with smiles all-round. When the Brumbies ran out in their centenary of Canberra jerseys, the crowd exploded.

One new addition to home games this year as a part of the attempt to recreate the famous atmosphere of the 2001 season when the Brumbies won the Super 12 Competition, has been Party Gravy in the South Bowl. Party Gravy are a local brass band with the self-professed aim to “get the party started.”

Working with the UC rUCkus Crew on the atmosphere, band member Andrew Kimber says, “Our involvement is basically to watch the game and I guess you could say we provide musical commentary on what is happening on the field. We play songs like “I’m Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)” or of course the Brumbies theme song to try to boost the moral of the players. We play other tunes to attempt to warm the crowd up and get them cheering, if you think along the lines of an organ player at American sport you’ll have the idea.”

In terms of the crowd and team’s reaction to their involvement, Andrew has only heard positive reviews.

“We have found the reaction from the crowd to be really good. At the Tahs game we played a couple of songs John Butler’s “Zebra”, RAGTM “Killing in the Name of” and the “Chicken Dance” all of which had the crowd joining in, or at least those in the south bowl … At the end of the game the Brumbies themselves thanked us and the UC rUCkus crew for their involvement in helping them in their win and we got tweets from several players including a song request from Clyde Rathbone, and a shout out from David Pocock and Stephen Moore.”

The atmosphere that Party Gravy created, at least down in the South Bowl, was electric and made the rugby that much more enjoyable. Their musical commentary adds another dimension and the group is sure to become a regular staple of home games.

The MCG has its Bay 13, Dunedin have the Highlanders’ Zoo, and hopefully soon the Brumbies will have the South Bowl.

Information about Party Gravy, as well as their involvement with the UC Brumbies can be found on both their Facebook and Twitter pages –
www.facebook.com/partygravy
www.twitter.com/partygravybrass