Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says it’s up to his charges to play rugby that brings fans to games, regardless of the code’s off-field games.
Just 13,583 people turned up to AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon to watch the Wallabies take on Fiji, down from a record 29,871 who filled out the ground for last year’s England Test.
A number of fans voiced their frustration towards the ARU in the lead-up to the Test, suggesting they’d be boycotting the game over the uncertainty around the 2018 Super Rugby competition and the Melbourne Rebels’ fate in that.
Cheika admitted the small crowd was a side effect of the drama, that has dragged on for close to nine months, and only putting in a good performance would
“It was disappointing. I think it’s just that’s what happens when you get into off-field dramas, on-field gets hurt,” he said.
“What we want to do is play as good a footy as possible so people want to come watch the game and keep what footy’s all about, which is on the field.
“(We need) keep that in a place where people want to be there no matter what.”
Wallabies camp has been somewhat of a mental refuge for players from the Rebels and the Force, who have been in the midst of the Super Rugby uncertainty.
A win against Fiji was another morale boost but Cheika said it was just the beginning for the team.
“What we want to do is give them something tangible to put around what the attitude is to get us to become winners,” he said.
“It’s not that you just think one day, well, I’m going to start winning today’, and all of a sudden it happens.
“It comes through some tangible habits that you need to practise.
“That’s why they weren't all there for us on day one obviously and they’re not going to be there week two or week three but we keep building those habits and getting them instilled and they’ll keep coming to us as the weeks build up.”