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Waratahs boss sees Bankwest positives, hopes for strong Brumbies crowd

The Waratahs are yet to win a match at Bankwest Stadium, May 25, 2019 Jason McCawley/Getty Images

NSW Waratahs chief executive Andrew Hore is confident a "decent" crowd will show for the club's final home game of the season to round out what has been a promising beginning at Bankwest Stadium.

And he has hinted the Waratahs may look to play less at the SCG in 2020 and are also interested in a more regionalised fixture that could include such locations as Tamworth or Mudgee.

The Waratahs take to Bankwest Stadium for a date with the Brumbies on Saturday night, the home side needing a win to keep their playoff aspirations alive. It also rounds out the third of their three-game stint at the newly-opened Western Sydney venue which has so far drawn disappointing Waratahs crowds of 10,605 [Sharks] and 13,885 [Jaguares].

But Hore believes the move to Bankwest has been a positive on the whole, one he says will be iced by a strong turnout for the visit of the Waratahs' bitter local rivals.

"We always knew the first one [Sharks] was going to be a challenge because it was outside the school holiday windows, but it would be fair to say we were disappointed with the first one," Hore told ESPN. "A little bit more optimistic in the second [Jaguares], and I think that north-west corridor is very important for rugby in NSW - it's a wonderful opportunity to grow that.

"But with all of this movement away from our natural home base, there's been challenges and there's been challenges there [Western Sydney] as well. But we've done a lot of work, and we've just got to be a consistent presence out there and do the things that show the community that we care and try to invigorate the rugby community out there."

In alluding to the Israel Folau saga -- which took another turn on Thursday when the now-former Wallaby lodged a complaint with the Fair Work Commission -- and inconsistent team performance, Hore said things hadn't quite gone as the club had hoped as it looked to connect with new fans and re-engage lost supporters from a region it had identified as prime for growth.

But he also pointed to the Waratahs' work in the community, including 30-odd school visits, as reasons to be optimistic the turnstiles might turn a little bit more often on Saturday.

"I think the boys [Waratahs players] have been fantastic getting out and about more, promoting the game and being an active member in the rugby community, and if we can just keep doing that and keep trying to help and grow and support this game, I'm sure that we'll get back in return when Israel [case is finally over]," Hore said.

"So there's optimism there that this weekend we'll see a decent crowd - ticket sales are going very, very well actually, so I'm pretty happy."

As for next year's plan, when the rebuild of Allianz Stadium will continue, the Waratahs remain committed to taking the game to a variety of locations. And that could include matches being taken away from the SCG, which was slammed for its poor surface and lack of atmosphere across three separate fixtures this season.

"We've identified areas at this stage that we're ready to go on; there'll definitely be a Western Sydney Stadium mix in there, it's a fantastic place to play footy and view it, as I said earlier," Hore said. "It actually is a first-class facility.

"The SCG is going to be unavailable for February and March because of the T20 Women's World Cup, so there's going to be a real opportunity to take the game on the road and we've really enjoyed doing that. This year was a bit of a rush because we didn't get the final exiting contract from the SCG finalised until late and we couldn't negotiate with other stadiums until we'd done that.

"But there's no doubt taking it to Brooky [Brookvale Oval], taking it to Newcastle, was really positive and we're still really excited about the potential that Western Sydney Stadium holds. Moving it around is bloody positive, very positive. We're a state entity; we're not the Swans and we're not the Roosters, we're a state entity and we represent the whole state."

That could include a truly regional fixture, too.

"Yeah we would, we're looking at a more regionalised game for next year," he said. "There's obviously rules and [regulations] about standards of stadia for Super Rugby, but that is very much on the cards. We'll look at all of those options across NSW, yep, 100 percent."

A crowd of around 20,000 at Bankwest Stadium would be a huge result for the Waratahs, who must win both of their final games to have a genuine chance of finishing inside the playoff spots.

Hore also pointed to his organisation's responsibility to provide the entertainment factor, not just a rugby game between the advertising hoardings, to one day, hopefully, have the Waratahs' attendances return to their lofty heights of the late 90s.

"I think all sports are struggling with attendance, whether it be the A-League, whether it be a rugby league, which may have had a bit of a spike this year because of Bankwest, are struggling with attendance," he said in referencing the challenges of the modern sporting demographic.

"That said, it's up to the sports to accept that and make sure that we develop a product that people want to get off the couch and come along to. The beauty of moving around at the moment is people want one-off events that are special that they'll go to. And you saw that with Brooky; it was special, it was an event that people want to be a part of. So when they're there, what is the entertainment that we can put on for those people so that they're engaged and have a great time?

"We've got to be mindful that we put on a product and if you look at American sport, they've done that. And the new Bankwest Stadium has a number of places where you can socialise."