FRIDAY marks the dawning of a new era for rugby union.
Not merely the kick-off of the 2021 Super Rugby AU season, but the launch of a new broadcaster - and more importantly - a new way of consuming the game they play in heaven.
The Queensland Reds versus the NSW Waratahs at Lang Park will be the first match to appear on Stan Sport, Nine Entertainment Co's ambitious push into the live-streaming sports market.
The match will also be broadcast on Nine's free-to-air channel Gem.
Optus Sport has already carved its own niche in soccer with the English Premier League and Foxtel's Kayo Sports is making headway with it's multi-sport offering.
Rugby devotees are spoilt for choice. Stan Sport offers every match of the Super Rugby AU, Super Rugby Aotearoa and Trans-Tasman tournament, the Rugby Championship, Bledisloe Cup, Shute Shield, Hospital Cup, Currie Cup and New Zealand's National Provincial Championship, plus Super W, Wallabies and Wallaroos test matches.
Stan Sport and Nine have also unveiled a star-studded commentary team to lead their push into the 15-man code.
Roz Kelly and Nick McArdle, will serve as hosts, while former Wallabies David Campese, Tim Horan, Morgan Turinui, Drew Mitchell and Justin Harrison, ex-All Black Andrew Mehrtens, dual-code international Allana Ferguson and former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika provide the analysis.
Sean Maloney and Andrew Swain will handle play-by-play commentary duties.
To make Stan Sport a success, the streaming service requires more than die-hard rugby followers to sign up, which costs $10 per month on top of the regular Stan subscription.
Maloney said Nine's Wide World Of Sports production will guarantee rugby has never looked better, but the on-field content is key to making Stan Sport a success.
"It's all down to the players, it depends on what they want to do," Maloney said. "It's about how they want to play the game.
"All indications across each of the five teams [Reds, Waratahs, ACT Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force] is they're really going to have a crack. They know themselves how important it is to throw their hands up and put something on TV, which is good to watch, and will be for the rest of the year and worth subscribing to.
"They get that. I reckon we're in for some real exciting stuff this weekend."
Maloney is rugby to the core. He played in Sydney's Shute Shield with Manly and Warringah and professionally in Italy and New Zealand before beginning his commentary career at Fox Sports in 2012.
He's called three world cups - the under-20s, sevens and Japan 2019 - and is known for injecting humour into his commentary.
Maloney has also benefited from learning from Australian rugby's two most recognisable commentators in Gordon Bray and Greg Clark. He understands it'll be big boots to fill.
"Gordon Bray has always been giving of his time and Clarkie the same as well," he said. "Rugby people are good people.
"I feel honoured in many ways to continue on and pick up what both of those men have put down in the last 25 years."