The ACT Brumbies are expected to report a profit for the second year in a row, signalling a major financial turnaround despite crowd figures dropping to their lowest point in the club's history.
The Brumbies will be playing to save their season when they clash against long-time rivals the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
They need to secure a bonus-point win to be any hope of making the play-offs and also rely on results going their way in two other matches this weekend.
But the Brumbies are already expected to enjoy a win off the field, chief executive Michael Thomson revealing the club was in a solid financial position.
The Brumbies are set to report a profit of between $30,000 and $50,000 for this year. The Canberra club was the only Australian franchise to make money last year, pocketing $14,361 for the first profit in six years.
"I think it's nice to be quietly confident that we're going to turn a profit again, and it's due to a lot of things," Thomson said.
"We've watched the bottom line, acting responsibly and doing what we can do develop alternate revenue streams.
"One of those revenue streams is the Brumbies Foundation, which is something we want to grow into the future and invest that back into our academy.
"I think there's been a slight attitude turnaround in terms of being associated with the Brumbies. We try to do the right thing on the field and off the field and I think people in Canberra appreciate that.
"While the crowds haven't been quite where we would like, some our corporate hospitality has gone very well."
The Brumbies used money raised by the Brumbies Foundation, which was set up by the Australian Sports Foundation, to invest in developing junior Canberra players as part of the reinvigorated academy.
The Brumbies created a "game-day 23" initiative to find 23 Canberra rugby supporters to make tax-deductable donations to then fund coaching, small contracts and the overall set up of the academy.
The club is set to promote several players from the academy system into the extended Super Rugby squad for the 2019 season, including rising hooker Lachlan Lonergan.
The Brumbies will farewell 10 players when the team's season ends, including Isi Naisarani, Andrew Smith, Kyle Godwin, Robbie Abel and Richie Arnold.
But the core of the squad will remain in Canberra and recruits are expected to be finalised in the coming weeks, with back-rower Pete Samu already locked in for the next two years.
It is hoped the Brumbies' form revival at the end of the year will help win fans back next season after crowd numbers dropped away. The average attendance at Canberra Stadium was 8391 this year – the lowest since the start of Super Rugby in 1996.
Crowd numbers usually have a massive impact on the profit-loss margin for sporting organisations, but the Brumbies found a way to make money.
"But it feels like there's a good groundswell about rugby at the moment," Thomson said.
"I think we're about three-and-a-half percent up on participation growth … it's a pretty good spot in that regard.
"But as I keep saying, we're not the finished product. We're still working on it and we need to reconnect with our community and hopefully drive attendances at games and growth for rugby."
SUPER RUGBY ROUND 19
Saturday: NSW Waratahs v ACT Brumbies at Allianz Stadium, 7.45pm. TV time: Live on Fox Sports.
Brumbies: 15. Tom Banks, 14. Henry Speight, 13. Tevita Kuridrani, 12. Kyle Godwin, 11. Andy Muirhead, 10. Christian Lealiifano, 9. Joe Powell, 8. Isi Naisarani, 7. David Pocock, 6. Blake Enever, 5. Richie Arnold, 4. Rory Arnold, 3. Allan Alaalatoa, 2. Folau Faingaa, 1. Scott Sio. Reserves: 16. Connal McInerney, 17. Nic Mayhew, 18. Les Leuluaialii-Makin, 19. Sam Carter, 20. Lachlan McCaffrey, 21. Matt Lucas, 22. Wharenui Hawera, 23. Lausii Taliauli.
Waratahs: 15. Israel Folau, 14. Cam Clark, 13. Curtis Rona, 12. Kurtley Beale, 11. Taqele Naiyaravoro, 10. Bernard Foley (c), 9. Nick Phipps, 8. Michael Wells, 7. Will Miller, 6. Ned Hanigan, 5. Rob Simmons, 4. Jed Holloway, 3. Sekope Kepu, 2. Damien Fitzpatrick, 1. Tom Robertson. Reserves: 16. Tolu Latu, 17. Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18. Paddy Ryan, 19. Tom Staniforth, 20. Brad Wilkin, 21. Jake Gordon, 22. Bryce Hegarty, 23. Alex Newsome.
Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.
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