Andrew Gourdie: Time to say goodbye to the Blues

OPINION: This will be the last article I write about the Blues for a while.

The franchise just isn't worth writing about, and I don't really think they're worth reading about. 

Last night, in miserable conditions, in front of a miserable crowd at Eden Park, the team put in a pretty miserable performance against the Jaguares. In so many ways it summed up the deep, prolonged malaise that has set in at the franchise.

Earlier this week, Blues CEO Michael Redman fronted up to the media. They arrived like a pack of dogs with gnashing teeth, ready for the kill. But this was a carcass that had been picked over so many times, there's nothing left.

Despite poor results, Blues fans still show up.
Despite poor results, Blues fans still show up. Photo credit: Photosport

And this article is not an attack. It's really more about pity. The reality is that we simply don't need to talk about the Blues as much as we do. The fact that we have done for the last 15 years since they last won a Super Rugby title is more out of disbelief than hope. But it's increasingly hard to justify any sort of focus on the Blues when New Zealand's four other Super Rugby teams are doing so well. The focus should be on their success, rather than the systemic failure of the country's largest and most fertile rugby province.

What's baffling is the feeling that this failure is something that needs to be urgently addressed. That Auckland Rugby and the Blues are in need of rescuing. The only logical answer is that it's a hangover from a bygone era when fans, commentators and analysts were steadfast in their view that for New Zealand rugby to be strong, then Auckland rugby must be strong.

It's a myth. It was formed during an amateur era when Auckland rugby was strong, and the All Blacks were pretty good. But the most successful era in New Zealand rugby history - back to back World Cups for the All Blacks, multiple Super Rugby titles for the Crusaders, Chiefs, Hurricanes and Highlanders - has coincided with the demise of a once mighty province, and the original Super Rugby powerhouse. In the professional era, Auckland has been amateur.

New Zealand's sporting media is based in Auckland, so the Blues attract more attention than they deserve. The same can be said of the Warriors during past seasons, but there's a crucial difference between the two sides. The Warriors are New Zealand's only professional rugby league team. They represent the country. Just like the Wellington Phoenix or the New Zealand Breakers, their continued coverage is warranted regardless of performance. As far as rugby league, football and basketball go, they're it. We owe it to fans of these sports to cover them through thick and thin.

Andrew Gourdie: Time to say goodbye to the Blues

The Blues are the worst of FIVE New Zealand Super Rugby franchises by a long way. The other four are extremely competitive year-in, year-out. We have other successful, well supported, well run franchises to talk about.

Now I'm firmly of the belief that for any sport - anything at all really - It's better to be talked about than not at all. Criticism often means people care. If people don't care, you're irrelevant.

In the grand scheme of New Zealand rugby, the Blues have become irrelevant. The dwindling number of fans in the stands at Eden Park, and those watching on TV at home switching over to watch the Warriors in recent weeks suggest Aucklanders have stopped caring as well. And as someone born and raised in Christchurch, I can safely say rugby fans outside of Auckland really don't spend much time worrying about the plight of the Blues.

I think it's time we just leave them alone to sort things out. So that's it from me - no more Blues until things change on and off the field.

I wish them well, and genuinely hope things can change for them. I look forward to writing and talking about their revival when they rise again.

One day. 

Andrew Gourdie is a Newshub sports reporter/presenter and host of RadioLIVE's Sunday Sport from 2pm. 

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