The Queensland Reds’ Super Rugby AU title win has not only broken their title drought but turned around their financial fortunes and laid the foundations for a decade of dominance.
James O’Connor may not have known it when he landed a late penalty to seal the Reds’ 24-22 win over the Brumbies back in late April, but the kick that locked in a home final was worth at least $500,000 to the organisation.
Queensland Rugby was banking on at least 30,000 fans heading to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for the final, hoping that would translate to another bumper crowd for this Saturday’s game against the Crusaders – a match that celebrates 10 years since the teams clashed in the 2011 Super Rugby decider.
But with 41,637 in the grandstands for the final and a miracle win delivered almost five frantic minutes after regular time had expired, there’s little doubt the faithful will be back for more when Brisbane and Townsville host Trans-Tasman clashes against the Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues over the next three weeks.
And they’re likely to be joined by a large slice of southeast Queensland’s Kiwi population who have not had the chance to view their teams live, in some cases for almost two years.
For much of the last decade, the moniker of Queensland Rugby’s flagship side the Reds was not just a team name but a description of their financial status.
Rugby Queensland CEO David Hanham said the most rewarding part of the final for him was “to see so many Queenslanders loving their team and loving the game in Queensland”.
Reds fans turned out in huge numbers for the Super RugbyAU final at Suncorp Stadium. Picture: Bradley Kanaris/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
But he confirmed the combination of a championship-winning Reds side – what he called Queensland Rugby’s “shopfront” – combined with the redevelopment of the organisation’s Ballymore headquarters could help set the game up for the next decade.
“Obviously a winning team plays a significant part in turning the financial performance of the business around – both in people through the gates but also investment from sponsors and donors,” Hanham said.
“And Ballymore has been a $1m loss a year, so (the redevelopment) is the first step in us turning that around financially.”
Depreciation costs on the ageing facility had been a financial millstone for Queensland Rugby, but the injection of $30m in state and federal government funding for a redevelopment of the inner-north Brisbane site will help ease that financial burden.
“The financial turnaround of those two elements will set the union up for the next five to 10 years and really gives a great foundation for Queensland Rugby – including the Reds – to be a really strong union globally,” Hanham said.
Well before COVID-19 impacted the financial health of rugby, the Reds had financial woes of their own, and the organisation has got by on the smell of an oily rag at times since its last title win.
“There were some pretty dark places, I’ve got to be honest, that we went through over the last four of five years, just getting through month by month,” Hanham said.
It’s why Hanham and his team is determined not to drop the ball now.
“The real success of this organisation will be reflecting back in five and 10 years’ time looking at how long we’ve been able to sustain a successful football program, how well we’ve been able to deliver the Ballymore master plan and that it’s financially delivering for us as well as being a home for our high performance and events.
“It’s not a one-off, it’s got to be over a 10-year period and then we’ve really got a successful organisation and a successful game.”
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