NSW Waratahs: Coming Home

It's been a long time coming but the NSW Waratahs are back home.After wandering NSW without a permanent home, Darren Coleman's men return to where they made their name as the brand-look Allianz Stadium welcomes Super Rugby for the first time.The ground has been well indoctrinated to the 'game played in heaven' already, with the Wallabies-Springboks the first International sporting event whilst there was a steady flow of supporters through the gates of the Sydney Sevens last week.Whilst the Rugby faithful flocked to the $828 million new facility, the results are yet to come for the home sides.The Wallabies produced arguably their worst showing of 2022 on home soil against the Springboks whilst both World Series champions were knocked out of medal contention before the final day.The Waratahs will be hoping for better luck as they settle into their permanent base, having won 105 of their 160 games at the ground since 1990.Just two remain from the starting side that last ran out on Allianz Stadium, 1679 days ago on July 21 2018, with Jed Holloway and Jake Gordon the survivors from a 30-23 quarter-final win over the Highlanders.Then Wallabies captain Michael Hooper missed the game after picking up a hamstring injury against Ireland the month earlier whilst four players (Tom Robertson, Brad Wilkin, Michael Wells and Bryce Hegarty) will play on for either the Rebels or Force in Perth on Saturday.It leaves a new generation of Waratahs ready to make their own mark on the ground and learn about the magic that it holds.A HOUSE IS NOT A HOMESince the stadium's demolition in 2019, the Waratahs have wandered far and wide across NSW in the search of a home ground.From Newcastle to Wollongong, they have travelled up and down the coast.They used seven in total, which includes the SCG, Brookvale Oval, ANZ Stadium, McDonald Jones Stadium, CommBank Stadium, WIN Stadium and Leichhardt Oval.Even Scully Park in Tamworth was on the cards before COVID halted that expedition.“It was exciting at the time, the opportunity to take the game to different places but it’s hard over the space of the amount of time we ended up doing it for," Hooper said.“On a personal and performance level, you get used to a nice routine and that’s the home-ground advantage. You can wake up in the same bed, eat similar food and do your routine before you rock up to the stadium and it feels good.  “It was different every week for us and that made it a challenge. It was an away game every week. Yes we got to see different parts of NSW and be in front of different fans and hopefully, those places can come back to Paddington and the SFS but to have a home ground and build that feeling, particularly for the young guys who haven’t had that in this group is exciting and really something to build off."It's why coach Darren Coleman has been so keen to build that connection early in the year.The sleepout under the stars was the main headline of the day-long culture piece at the ground but there was meaning behind every step, designed to further their understanding of why the ground is so special to NSW Rugby and the Waratahs.The players learnt about the place and where their loved ones will sit whilst legendary Waratah Nathan Grey evoked memories of the past when the ground was pumping.“For me, it’s just an amazing place for NSW and Rugby people to come together,” Coleman said.“I remember going there as a fan, you’d go there after playing club Rugby on a Saturday arvo, you’d bump into guys from other clubs and you’re all in the Bundy bar in your seats watching the Waratahs. I think it’s a great meeting point.“If we can provide a quality of football and a competitive game where the fans – and they’re not fans – they’re Rugby people, come to watch us and go ‘geez that team puts in’ and on top of that they have a good night, have a couple of beers and see their Rugby friends from other parts of the state, that’s what it means to me.”BACK WHERE THEY BELONGOut of all the home grounds they moved to, Leichhardt Oval was the closest to a 'home' that they got.The hill started the fill game-by-game and was bordering on a sellout when the minor premiers Blues came to town.However, the Waratahs are meant to be at SFS under whatever sponsorship dictates the naming rights.“I think Allianz has always been the home of the Waratahs,” backrower Will Harris believes.“We found a little home away from home at Leichhardt but the football stadium is our home. Although I’ve haven’t played there I feel that connection from going there as a young kid and watching the Waratahs play there."Hooper spoke to the heritage of the place in a video released just after their season launch, touching on the famous moments.Will Skelton's barnstorming run in the 2014 semi-final against the Brumbies stands out, finding Bernard Foley, who swan-dived over to secure the win. Seven days later the club lifted their first and only Super Rugby title to date.Matt Dunning's intercepts/drop goal sits as a close second and there's probably still a hole in the ground where Dean Mumm fended a Sharks defender into oblivion.“I think it’s the spiritual home of Rugby in this country," former centre Tom Carter said.“I know there are other stadiums up in Queensland and in Melbourne but it’s a fantastic place with the new stadium.”

Michael Hooper on what it means to the Waratahs
It now presents the new crop of Waratahs the chance to make their own memories.The squad has undergone significant gentrification across the past five years, with the 'golden generation' of Junior Wallabies starting to stake their claims on the world stage.Nothing will set the tempo like beating the Brumbies to kick off the 2023 season.The Brumbies are the standard-bearers for the Australian sides after their narrow semi-final defeat and victory puts them one step closer to Coleman's goal of taking the Waratahs to the top."I used to go there with dad who loved the Reds, we’d go there and watch them play. I think I’ve got a few signed jerseys from a Tatafu Polota-Nau, Sekope Kepu, those sorts of guys. It’s exciting to now be in the squad and play there to write my own memories," Harris notes.“We’ve got to make a big emphasis that this is our home and we need to be tough to beat there.”“I watched the Wallabies v Springboks when they played there and it was unreal,” fellow backrower Langi Gleeson said.“The crowd was massive and it was just unreal so having that plus the new facilities it’s just going to be unreal.“It’d mean everything. They’ve been the strongest team for a while in terms of Australian Rugby plus to (help) get most of the Waratahs boys into the Wallabies side, I’d say it would be one of our biggest games.”Click Here: Cheap AFL Guernseys