Super Rugby needs look no further than the NRL's magic round to appreciate how to host a proper showcase weekend.
Contrast the two events in terms of an attraction, it is a case of the little and big leagues at present.
Brisbane's third staging of the NRL's magic round, which involves all 16 clubs converging on one location, was a roaring success last weekend.
The sold-out event had Brisbane accommodation venues booked solid and passionate fans adorning their team's colours to bring a festival atmosphere to the River City.
It is no wonder other cities such as Sydney and Auckland are scraping to host future magic rounds, given the money-spinning tourism boon it has proven for the Queensland Government.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, in confirming the magic round will remain in Brisbane for the next two years, placed the annual windfall at $22.5 million.
From the Caxton St walk to Suncorp Stadium, the best sporting venue in Australasia, Brisbane is the perfect host for such an event to the point that daylight is second.
Aside from the lure of Suncorp, little things make a big difference for events like these, such as the ease with which you could come and go from the venue.
Prior to their respective matches, bars adopted teams. The Warriors had former players Kevin Campion, Mark Tookey, Jason Death, owner Mark Robinson and chief executive Cameron George greeting fans at the Lord Alfred Hotel, while at Suncorp, fan zones were created, with the Cronulla's blue and Canberra's iconic green standing out in unison.
The Warriors were, of course, the major let-down. Watching them live for the first time in a number of years underlined how unfit they seem compared to their rivals – and their lack of attacking ideas.
Even their insipid first-half performance and ongoing woes did not dent the mood for long, though.
Despite near-constant rain, on Friday and Saturday at least, the eight matches over three days all featured crowds of no fewer than 30,000; loyal supporters and neutrals riding the highs and lows of their teams' fortunes throughout.
In all, 130,122 fans flocked through the gates at various times – more than those who live in Napier and Hastings.
One ugly brawl involving Manly great Owen Cunningham's son being king-hit detracted from the event but as far as I could see that was a one-off, with the large attendances embracing positive spirits.
From the retirement-aged stalwart supporter in her well-worn Tigers jersey to parents accompanied by children of all ages to ignite their affinity, they came from far and wide to savour the occasion.
This was the hottest ticket in town.
Compare that vibe to Melbourne, where the inaugural super round barely registered a blip on the sporting radar three weeks ago, and it is clear Super Rugby organisers need a major rethink.
This year's super round may have served a purpose in boosting the Covid-depleted coffers of the five New Zealand teams by $300,000 each for giving up their respective home matches but, surely, the financial picture is only part of the equation.
A half-empty AAMI Park, with the top tier closed to pull sparse fans together, was a terrible look for a new competition attempting to showcase its premier talent at one venue.
In any sport, genuine fan engagement must come first.
Melbourne's connection to rugby could not be more removed from its love of AFL and coffee culture.
From a fan perspective, Melbourne will never be the best place to host the super round – hence why it is not in the discussion for future NRL magic events, either.
The concept, first launched by the UK Super League, of bringing all teams together at one venue should, indeed, work well for rugby, league and other sporting codes.
The sooner Super Rugby powerbrokers realise Melbourne is not that answer, and that Brisbane and Suncorp is a no-brainer, the better off the event will be.
New Zealand Māori adds to bumper tour
Confirmation of two mid-week New Zealand Māori fixtures against Ireland completes the most compelling traditional July series – outside the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour – in eight years.
Ireland's first tour of New Zealand in a decade was always going to generate widespread appeal after their historic results against the All Blacks since 2012.
Two games against New Zealand Māori further broadens the appeal and intrigue about how Ireland will manage their enlarged squad and the potential toll of those additional fixtures in Hamilton and Wellington – the latter four days before the second test at the same location.
The All Blacks have not faced a foe the strength of Ireland in this window since England's tour in 2014. On that occasion, Steve Hansen's men escaped in the tense first test at Eden Park thanks to Aaron Cruden's late quick tap sparking the only try of the match to Conrad Smith in the corner.
It was another tight struggle in the second test, with the All Blacks prevailing 28-27 in Dunedin before the locals pulled away to take the third assignment 36-13 in Hamilton.
Eight years on, Ireland's imminent tour may well adopt a similar theme. Certainly, their best chance of causing a major stir is to snatch the first test at Eden Park, where the All Blacks are likely to be rusty, or perhaps the second in Dunedin, before fatigue and injuries inevitably bite at the backend of their year.
Record: 6/13 (-$15)
The Crusaders came through to comfortably cover last week's half time/full time double ($2.1) and narrow the betting deficit. With Wallabies playmaker Noah Lolesio and inform loose forward Rob Valetini returning from their respective injuries, this week I fancy the Brumbies to cover +7.5 points against the Blues in Canberra at $1.80.
I'm an Eels fan, so David Kidwell's decision to quit mid-season irks me. How do you think he will go with the Pumas? Giovani, Thames
Signing a league coach as a test defence mentor continues a recent trend set by Eddie Jones. With England, Jones first employed Jason Ryles as his defence coach and now has former South Sydney Rabbitohs and Brisbane Broncos coach Anthony Seibold in that role. League defences are renowned for their line speed and jamming from the outside in – a tactic widely used to cut down the opposition time and space in union. Kidwell has coaching pedigree, having worked under Craig Bellamy at the Storm and Brad Arthur with the Eels. There's not a lot of time to make sweeping changes with the Pumas but Michael Cheika must be confident Kidwell can make an impact.
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