Rugby League Planet

By Matthew Brown, Date: 14/12/12

Recently there has been a lot of discussion of the allocation of grounds for NRL clashes. The one that always seems to occur is classic grounds such as Leichhardt Oval, Kogarah Oval, Centerbet Stadium, Brookvale etc are trying to be phased out to make way for bigger grounds such as ANZ Stadium and the Sydney Football Stadium. It really is a classic argument of keeping with tradition versus the changing of the times.

Many people like the classic Sunday afternoon footy game where you watch your team on the hill side yelling and screaming for your team to score that final try whilst the sun sets in a small suburban ground. They also like waiting 20 minutes for a hotdog and taking half an hour to get a parking spot. It may sound like a trek for many fans…however when their team wins they go home with memories filled with making the massive journey to go watch the home town boys beating the visiting team. To many it may seem like a crazy afternoon, but it adds to the adventure of going to a Rugby League game on a Sunday afternoon in Sydney!

The counter argument however effectively comes down to $$$. The NRL is at a crossroads where they are unable to compete with AFL where their average crowd attendances are much higher. The NSW government is planning on cutting back on funding for suburban grounds and the ARLC want to increase the average attendances to 20 k by 2017 by moving games to bigger grounds (which is fair enough). However…to do this suburban grounds must either be;

1. Abandoned or;
2. Miss out on big blockbuster weekend games and moved to bigger grounds!

This would upset many loyal devoted fans as some of their best memories are at suburban grounds. It is a very controversial issue and one which has really divided fans and the public right down the centre.

Dragon Verdict?

Look to me this is a VERY hard issue. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of going to the footy at Kogarah Oval, getting off at Carlton Station, walking down Jubilee Avenue to get to the stadium before the footy started! Clashes against teams such as the Western Suburb Magpies and the Sea Eagles are just a few of the many memories I have of going to the footy. I loved the atmosphere of the smaller ground as it made it feel like a carnival atmosphere and this was your teams’ fortress where no one could beat you there!

Also there was a major hiatus where the Dragons didn’t play at Kogarah for two years which upset me greatly as a kid. When they moved back it was as if all of my Christmas’ had come at once! I also had the privilege to play at the ground for Hurstville United U/10s in the St George RL grand final, which to me felt like I was playing at ANZ stadium!

My story is just one of MANY stories from people who can remember great and fantastic afternoons at suburban grounds. Although I would NEVER take any of those days back…I must however take a back flip and say that I am neither for nor against the removal of suburban grounds! My idea is simple and could probably work. It is where you can still have “Sunday afternoon Football at Suburban grounds” but also use bigger stadiums too!

Let’s look at the grounds which are considered “suburban grounds” and the teams, who play there,

• Leichhardt Oval & Campbelltown Stadium (West Tigers)
• Kogarah Oval & WIN Stadium (St George Illawarra)
• Brookvale Oval (Manly)
• Centrebet Stadium (Penrith)
• Toyota Stadium (Cronulla Sharks)
• Paramatta Stadium (Parramatta)

So let’s take the Tigers for example, they play at Leichhardt and to a lesser degree Campbelltown. If there was a big derby match such as Souths vs West Tigers, these kind of games would be played at the Sydney Football stadium. However, if there are teams travelling from interstate, then the Tigers have every right to play at Leichhardt Oval. So there’d be two kind of games, Sydney derbies and Interstate games.

The Sydney derby games would be games where games would HAVE to be brought to bigger stadiums due to geographic locations. They would include teams such as;

• St George
• West Tigers
• Cronulla
• Parramatta

Due to large distances, Manly and Penrith are very far away from the Eastern and Inner-Western Sydney Stadiums which is a bit of a problem. So because of this they would play their games at Brookvale and Centerbet throughout the regular season. When a major semi-final occurred then it would have to be brought to ANZ or the Sydney Football stadium.

So basically my solution is this. Apart from Manly and Penrith due to geographical reasons, all other Sydney teams MUST play at a bigger stadium when a local derby is on! Canterbury vs St George or Souths vs Cronulla must always be played at the big stadiums. The only time Suburban grounds can be used is if a team such as New Zealand or Melbourne come to Sydney, then teams have every right to play at suburban grounds to help boost the attendance of that match.

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