Wynne Gray 's Opinion

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Curtain-raisers certain crowd pleasers

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What sort of bang do you want for your buck when you go to Eden Park or any other test in New Zealand?

Obviously not the sort which meant three spectators needed treatment after the pyrotechnic malfunction before the All Blacks exploded against the Wallabies.

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The NZRU talk about being in touch with their fan base and you wonder what sort of feedback they have about the right formula for pre-match entertainment.

Frankly the sort of fireworks display used at Eden Park is as passe as cheerleaders, marching bands and that boring Mexican Wave. Apparently this is not just the view of some ageing scribe who has been to hundreds of games at the stadium.

Younger troops around the office are not hugely inspired by the entertainment entree however that was balanced rapidly and in large dollops by the style and size of the All Black victory.

Spectators pay some serious coin for test tickets and are urged to use public transport and to give themselves plenty of time to make it with 50,000 others to somewhere like Eden Park.

If they arrive early, how are they entertained? They can launch plenty of folding at food and alcohol outlets then watch the players go through their warm-up routines out on the field and listen to some music before the national anthems and fireworks festivities. Usually the smoke has still not cleared the park when the ref, in conjunction with their television counterparts, decides it's game on.

We are probably going to get more of the same, sans fireworks, when the All Blacks next play in a fortnight at Napier then the following week in Wellington.

It is all a little dull, a touch archaic and a bit out of date. It is also a wasted opportunity when the ITM Cup is in business.

Wouldn't it have been a great start to the evening if the ITM schedule had been re-arranged so Auckland hosted a 5pm curtain-raiser against Manawatu - with plenty of time left for the pre-match festivities.

That would have given the ITM Cup players a significant stage to present their skills while also offering the crowd a close-up look at provincial rugby, which most usually absorb via television.

Next week, instead of Hawkes Bay travelling away to play Northland on Friday, it could have been scheduled as a curtain-raiser to the All Blacks' test with Argentina at Napier.

The All Blacks' final domestic test for the season against the Springboks in Wellington on September 14 offers an equally tantalising concept. The night before, Wellington are scheduled to travel to play Canterbury.

Smarter planning around that game as a curtain-raiser to what should be a belter of a test would have been a winner in Wellington.

Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

NZ Herald senior rugby writer Wynne Gray has been covering the All Blacks for almost 25 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

Read more by Wynne Gray

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