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Controversy and issues overshadow Super Round of rugby, but 10,582 individuals remain optimistic.
Rugby union Sport

Possible rewording: Controversy and issues overshadow Super Round of rugby, but 10,582 individuals remain optimistic.


Super Round kicked off smoothly on Friday night, but a gust of wind caused some minor disruptions. The face-painters had to be relocated, and a blow-up castle remained deflated. However, the football game between the Highlanders and Blues started with a kick-off and a knock-on.

Many attendees were familiar with the situation. The Melbourne Rebels are currently under administration, burdened by debt due to troubles with their main supporter, and there is uncertainty over their future beyond 2025. Additionally, Rugby Australia is facing challenges in bouncing back from their unsuccessful World Cup performance.

But the rugby union fans at AAMI Park remain stoic. One Rebels supporter, who introduced himself as Chris, arrived early and was enjoying the opening match by himself. He was proud to show off his foundation member hat dating back to 2011, remembering fondly their inaugural fixture against the Waratahs. “The stadium was full,” he said, smiling. “We got smashed.”

On the eastern side, Michael Kelly and his companion Tony Boult traveled from Queensland. They both believed that Rugby Australia needed to come up with a plan for Super Rugby in order to maintain their fan base. Kelly stated, “Otherwise, they will lose their supporters.” The two had attended six World Cups. Boult chimed in, “But we won’t stop supporting them.”

The first match was high-scoring, end-to-end. The Blues won 37-29, but a late try to the Highlanders’ Ajay Faleafaga sent a 10-strong bank of children and adults, wearing matching T-shirts, into the air. “That’s my little cousin,” one shouted.

The round is a celebration of Pacific rugby, bringing together 12 teams in one city. The concept originated in the UK for rugby league’s Magic Weekend, and was first brought to Australia by the NRL for its own Magic Round. Super Rugby’s version began in 2022, and this year’s iteration is the third.

Young rugby union fans enjoy the 2024 Super Round in Melbourne.

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An individual who supports the Rebels from Melbourne had his father visiting from New Zealand for the second consecutive Super Round. He expressed disappointment in the lack of effort from organizers to showcase global diversity by saying, “Why aren’t there any Pacific food stands?”

A couple from Lennox Head, New South Wales traveled to meet their son for a weekend. “We wanted to spend time as a family,” the husband shared. “We planned to enjoy the restaurants, bars, and maybe catch some rugby,” his wife chimed in. “But unfortunately, there aren’t many people here.”

Last year’s Super Round, 15,282 fans attended the Friday event, but this year’s turnout was lower. The upper section on the west side was not open, and only 10,582 tickets were purchased.

The agreement for the Super Round event in Melbourne will end this year. A spokesperson for the Victorian government stated on Friday afternoon that they are eager to meet with event organizers after the conclusion of the event.

A spokesperson stated that there has been a rise in visitors from both other states and countries in 2024. Kiwi supporters Raylene Lee and Lenore Smith were in great moods, decked out in all Blue attire. Lee, who was visiting Melbourne for the first time, expressed her excitement for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She also mentioned her upcoming trip to Dunedin for a Pink concert and described her weekend in Melbourne as one with little sleep. However, they also showed empathy towards Rebels fans. Smith commented, “I feel sorry for them.”

Ash Fulcher relocated to Australia from New Zealand four years ago in pursuit of better opportunities. He believes that Rugby Australia must provide support for the Rebels team in order to keep them. Otherwise, he fears it will be a regrettable loss.

Alti Aiga and his family were located in the highest section of the eastern stand, accompanied by his wife and three sons. His sons were all active members of the Rebels junior teams and Aiga revealed that the family was contemplating their future tonight. He expressed concern that removing the Rebels would also take away the aspirations and goals of many individuals. Aiga’s hope is for someone else to step in and support the Rebels for a period of time, allowing them to learn from any previous errors.

In the main game of the evening, Melbourne, who lost in the first round to the Brumbies without scoring a try, had a sluggish start against the Force. However, the sport played in paradise can still produce a remarkable outcome.

As the game clock wound down in the second half, Josh Kemeny stretched his arm across the tryline, bringing the home team within 10 points. Carter Gordon made an interception and ran the full length of the field. Filipo Daugunu also scored two late points.

The Rebels were able to secure a 48-34 victory with 29 unanswered points, bringing a new sense of hope for the club’s fans.

Source: theguardian.com