Down Under Blog: #65 Home and Away

Pommy Rich gives us all the mis-dealing's in the NRL in his world famous Down Under Blog.

Happy New Year to you all. I’ll do my 2019 predictions next time, as this week I’ve got a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Stadia.

Those of you lucky enough to come over last year for the two games, saw games at two very different Aussie Stadiums.

WIN Wollongong is an old school stadium that was first used in 1911. It was always an oval shape and multi purpose for AFL, Cricket, Soccer and both codes of Rugby. When the Illawarra Steelers were in the NRL, they managed to persuade the showground trust to convert the field into a             rectangle and now it’s a specialised Rugby League field. Standing on the Hill that backs onto the ocean is a real bucket list thing for a lot of fans.

However, with the merger of the Steelers and Dragons, the club is now based in South East Sydney at Kogarah and WIN Wollongong is criminally underused. It stands as an example of what can be achieved by renovating an aged facility bit by bit over decades. I always get that “what if” feeling when I look at WIN, thinking of how great it could’ve been if we’d had somehow stayed at the Boulevard and gradually renovated it to a great standard – impossible now of course, but wow, just   imagine for a moment or two.

Then of course we moved onto ANZ Stadium. Of course this behemoth was purpose built for the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and when it opened had a running track around it. Post Olympics it’s slowly been changed into a multi purpose stadium – its home to the NRL Grand Final, State of Origin and is shared as a home ground by the Bulldogs, Bunnies, Tigers and (until their new place is finished) the Eels too. It’s a great stadium, although seeing it 15% full on a cold Thursday night when the Bunnies play the Titans or the like is depressing and doesn’t do the image of the game any good – especially when you can switch TV channels and watch two mid table AFL teams battle it out at a packed MCG in front of 90,000 people.

Now the reason I’m on this subject is due to the current demolishing and rebuilding of the Sydney Football Stadium at Moore Park in Eastern Sydney. This is the Stadium that is right next to the    historic Sydney Cricket Ground and home to the Roosters, NSW Waratahs in the Yawnion and   Sydney FC in the A League Soccer. It was only built in 1988 and was always seen as Sydney’s premier rectangular venue. Before the Olympic stadium was completed it was home to the NRL Grand Final, internationals, Origin, Soccer World Cup Qualifiers and Rugby Union internationals. It’s definitely my favourite stadium to watch RL in too – it was built solely for rugby league and union and the sight lines are perfect to watch a game.

It was starting to look a little tired, as a ground built in the late 80’s would be, but in the opinion of plenty of commentators and fans would have benefitted from a WIN-Style gradual overhaul rather than something as drastic as a knock-down-rebuild. It was feted to be rebuilt a few years back, but a public outcry led the then Labour state government to scrap the plans. The new plans are to make it into a 55,000 seater, and the cost is AU$2.3 BILLION. The decision to do this is likely to get the Liberal Government thrown out at the next state election, as people are quite rightly pointing out that spending that amount of money when the existing venue wasn’t broken, rather than putting that cash into education, or transport, or even into water preservation when more that 50% of the state is officially in drought would have been a better use of taxpayer cash. Its scheduled to be     completed in 2022, and you can bet that the cost will blow out.

Sydney of course has an embarrassment of riches with great stadiums – Parramatta’s new stadium will be complete in mid-2019 and looks incredible, Penrith is a great ground, and the Suburban grounds like Kogarah, Leichhardt and Brookvale are incredible places for the rank and file to watch a game, although attract nothing in corporate money as they don’t have great facilities. Then look at Brisbane and Suncorp Stadium, North Queensland ground is great too, as is Melbourne’s…. the problem is that rather like the KC, they are all concrete jungles, and anything less than a full house is a depressing sight.

Talking of depressing, and late 80’s built stadiums – how’s Caravan Park going eh? I know we all joke about it, but can you imagine the carnage if that floodlight had come down during a match? Surely there should be a regular check where a structural issue like this should be picked up? The New Craven Park is no stranger to controversy either. I remember the rumours going around when it was built – People saying that a bespoke boardroom carpet with inlaid club crest motif cost more than the dressing rooms and training facilities, leaving the coaching and playing staff furious. Then there were rumours of skimping on materials during the build – a mate of mine called it “Breeze Block City” – and the way it was designed left open at both ends meaning it’s basically a glorified wind tunnel extension of the River Humber. Time will tell – but don’t be surprised if our neighbours go cap in hand to the council YET AGAIN for some financial aid……

Until next time, Up the Cream, Gerremonsard and Come on you ‘Ull.

Rich – Twitter @pommyrich

Rich’s blog was first found in Issue 65 of the Up the Cream fanzine – to get your copy click here

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