- Lloyd Rothwell
Allianz Stadium – NSW Waratahs
Photos by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Allianz Stadium Driver Avenue Moore Park, NSW 2021 Australia
Year Opened: 1988 Capacity: 44,000
Waratah Experience Continues to Improve at Allianz Stadium
Allianz Stadium is home to the Waratahs, who have been the NSW state rugby representative team since 1882. When Super Rugby began in 1996, the ‘Tahs commenced operation as a professional franchise. Super Rugby has grown to include 15 teams across three conferences, with 5 teams each from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The competition will expand again to 18 teams in 2016 with the addition of another South African team plus franchises based in Argentina and Japan. Previously known as perennial underachievers, the ‘Tahs broke through to win their first Super Rugby championship in 2014.
The stadium, originally known as the Sydney Football Stadium (SFS), opened in 1988 and is situated next door to the Sydney Cricket Ground. The SFS was built as Sydney’s main rectangular stadium to replace the old Sydney Sports Ground, a multi-purpose venue which served as the home of the Eastern Suburbs Roosters rugby league club. The Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust, a NSW State Government entity, manages both venues. Current tenants include the Waratahs, Sydney FC and the Sydney Roosters (NRL).
After ANZ Stadium opened in 1999, many major events have shifted west, although Allianz Stadium also still hosts occasional NRL finals games, club rugby union finals and other one-off events. These have included Sydney 2000 Olympic football, Rugby World Cup 2003 and Rugby League World Cup 2008. Up until then Allianz Stadium hosted many major footballing events including rugby league grand finals, rugby union tests and football internationals.
Despite a relatively short history, its high usage has meant Allianz has been home to many historic moments across each of the football codes. One of the most storied moments in Australian rugby occurred at Allianz in 1994 when a last-minute George Gregan tackle on All Black flyer Jeff Wilson ensured Australia retained the Bledisloe Cup.
2015 sees the beginning of some welcome upgrades for Allianz. For starters, new video screens are being installed at either end. At 27m by 10m, these so-called ‘super screens’ are said to be the largest in Australia for the sports of rugby union, rugby league and football. Further upgrades said to be on the way include upgraded seating, improved food outlets and a clear membrane roof. The Waratahs recently signed a deal that will see them based at Allianz for a long time to come.
Food & Beverage 3
The area of the stadium most in need of improvement is the food and beverage. The current offerings are of average quality and high prices that continue to rise and simply can’t be justified. Hot items available include hot dogs ($5.90), meat pies ($5.30), chicken souvlaki ($10), beef burger ($8.80), sausage rolls ($4.80), hot chips ($5.80), and tempura fish and chips ($10.50). Under the “healthier choice” maxim are sushi pack ($10), wraps ($10) and sandwiches ($7.60).
Single serving pizzas are available from Domino’s for $9, with Meatosaurus, Hawaiian and Margherita options. There is also a gourmet sausage outlet, with prices set at $10.
Snacks include crisps ($5.20), chocolate bars ($4.20) and ice creams (from $3.60). Drinks are via Coca-Cola and include 600ml soft drinks ($5.40) and water ($4.70). The various bars serve draught beer ($7.40), light beer ($6.60), house wine ($7.30), pre mixed spirits ($10), and cider ($7.50). Note that a carry tray will cost an additional $1.
Be sure not to leave your decision to purchase food too late as once the halftime rush is over the various outlets will begin to close.
When it first opened, Allianz Stadium was described by commentators as “space-age” due to its unique curved roof design. Most punters will only have access to the lower seating bowl as the upper deck is normally reserved for members and corporates. Most seats still offer a good view, although the general admission sections at either end are fairly average.
The new video screens will be a good addition once installed (March 2015) as the previous screens were quite small. The player’s tunnel is on the western side of the ground and as the television coverage is from that side, the sponsor’s logos on the playing surface face in that direction. The light towers and MA Noble and Don Bradman Stands of the SCG are visible from your seat as you look south. The eastern stand is named the Nick Shehadie Stand, after Sir Nicholas Shehadie; former Lord Mayor of Sydney, Wallaby, Chairman of the NSW Rugby Union and President of the Australian Rugby Union.
While the venue will not be filled for a Waratahs match (average crowd is around 20,000), the stadium still provides a good experience with plenty of noise and a fun atmosphere.
During the later years of the amateur era, NSW Rugby called Concord Oval home. Concord was often decried for its location in Sydney’s inner west, particularly the lack of atmosphere surrounding the ground. One of NSW and Australian rugby’s great warriors, Simon Poidevin, once said that the allure of playing at Concord which backed onto Parramatta Road opposite the Burwood Bus Depot could never compete with the pubs of Paddington surrounding Moore Park.
Indeed, “Poido” was right. Allianz Stadium is centrally located minutes from the Sydney CBD, right next door to the Sydney Cricket Ground and Fox Studios / EQ. Within the EQ are many cafes, restaurants, and bars. PJ Gallagher’s is a popular option. The surrounding suburb also features impressive parklands including Centennial Park. Venture further afield and you will find a plethora of dining and drinking options in the nearby suburbs of Paddington and Surry Hills.
Of course, Sydney is one of the great cities of the world and if you are from out of town you will definitely be doing sightseeing trips to see iconic landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Sydney has world famous beaches. Bondi Beach is close by or catch the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach for the day.
Sydney is a notoriously difficult sporting market to crack. The casual fan is fickle and attaches themselves to a winning team, yet happily jumps ship should the team’s on-field fortunes nose dive. However, the ‘Tahs have a solid base of supporters who focus their attention on the game rather than being distracted by any kitschy attempts at crowd engagement. The noise is in fact louder than expected, but there is no pointless chanting to be experienced here.
Accessing the Moore Park venues can certainly be a headache. Without a direct train line, many from the northern and western suburbs are reluctant to utilise public transport. If you do, the walk from Central Station is 20 minutes (uphill), however, on the positive side, there any many good pubs to stop at on the way.
Many fans choose to drive. Traffic is always an issue so plan accordingly, especially if there are other events in the precinct. Parking is available across the road in the parklands or in Fox Studios for $25.
Entering the stadium is easy with a pleasant concourse. A number of the SCG Trust Walk of Honour statues are here, as well as a team store selling merchandise for the Waratahs, Roosters, and Swans. There are no issues with moving around inside the stadium. Bathrooms are big but many need upgrading. Ushers guard the rows leading down to the more expensive reserved seats for the entire game.
Return on Investment 3
A Waratahs game at Allianz is certainly not a cheap day out. General admission for adults is located at either end of the ground and will cost $22. Reserved seating in the corners is classified as the Silver category and will set you back $35. The somewhat mislabelled Gold category is basically sideline within the in goals and is priced at $50. The majority of sideline seating is classified as Premium and priced at $70. There are discounts for children and pensioners, with family passes also available. Sure the product is good, but once you throw in parking and food, you’re up for plenty.
With Allianz Stadium right next door to the Sydney Cricket Ground, there is often the potential for a double header with the Sydney Swans – or even maybe cricket early in the season. Programs are available at the entrance for $5. The Waratahs have a mascot known as ‘Tah Man. There will often be a guard of honour as the two teams run out comprised of junior clubs from around the state. Also, there is likely to be a short game or activity at half time to keep you entertained during the break.
The Waratahs seemingly turned the corner in 2014, putting to bed the old Horror-Tahs tag. Playing an exciting brand of rugby won the team many admirers. Fans can only hope the team can recapture that form for 2015 (they didn’t start well). We’re also interested to see whether further improvements to the stadium infrastructure improve the game day experience.