In light of the new tv broadcast deal, the game of Rugby League is awash with money and the players are being compensated accordingly. Hooray I say.
However, what is the NRL going to do when it comes to the state of some of the suburban grounds teams currently play out of? Some teams have been pro-active in upgrading their grounds and facilities but some grounds are simply not fit to play on.
Kogarah, WIN (Wollongong) and Newcastle have all been given facelifts and significant upgrades to make them suitable for NRL fixtures. When full, they are a magnificent sight.
Some day in the distant future, the Eels will be competitive again. They have a great set of fans and Parramatta Stadium has been an excellent suburban ground for almost 30 years but its capacity is far too low for Rugby League, both now and into the future. New stands are needed at either end to increase capacity to at least 25,000 with a view to catering long term for 30,000.
Penrith is borderline with its facilities and they have the room but not the funds to continue to upgrade the ground. If Gus gets it right, they could start to outgrow the ground in a few years.
The Wests Tigers face the biggest dilemma with a dilapidated ground in Leichhardt Oval. Many fans love the historic look and feel of the ground but to me, it looks like termite infested dump! I’m not sure what is holding the stands together at the moment. Belmore would be a more suitable suburban ground and that’s saying something.
Campbelltown is not much better. A small suburban ground that has the potential to be something much better than that in an area that is booming when it comes to population growth. I still see Leichhardt as a far more pressing issue though.
What does this say about the mindset of Rugby League fans? Are they clinging onto a bygone era? I believe they are. Professionalism in sport is here to stay and with that comes the inevitable change or as I like to call it, progress. Roll with the times people and embrace where we are heading, whilst acknowledging the past.
Rugby League is steeped in history but so are many other sports and they have managed to move to state of the art facilities to accommodate not only the needs of growing fan bases, but also the corporate support that is essential for clubs to survive in a fiercely competitive market.
It pains me to say it, but taking a leaf out of the AFL’s book and centralising games to the major grounds in Sydney (ANZ and Allianz) is the way to go. The AFL only use the MCG and Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. We must follow suit to remain relevant in the Australian sporting landscape.
Ultimately, I would like to see the NRL develop its own state of the art ground in Sydney and lease it out to other codes, giving us an income producing asset for generations to come.
Forward thinking. It’s not too much to ask is it?