Kogarah, Brookvale woes highlight danger of political wrangling

Manly officials no longer have to walk across Lottoland stadium before matches to clear the field of dog faeces and hazardous objects left by members of the public, but the playing surface is still causing concern.

Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, which is the only other council-managed ground used for more than three NRL matches per season, doesn't have public access issues but overuse may put St George Illawarra's long term future at Kogarah in doubt if the venue isn't ready for their round two clash with South Sydney.

The inability of the Sea Eagles and Dragons to play trial matches at their home grounds last weekend highlighted the problem facing the major sporting codes in Sydney if political wrangling continues to delay the rebuilding of Allianz Stadium.

"It needs to be done and it needs to be done now," one senior official told NRL.com.

If not, there is the potential for the problems experienced recently at Sydney venues to continue for years.  

With the Moore Park venue out of action since the end of last season, Kogarah, Brookvale and Leichhardt Oval have borne the brunt of hosting Sydney FC A-League and Waratahs Super Rugby matches which would have otherwise been played at Allianz Stadium.

The increased scheduling of games at those venues also has the potential to have a long term impact as sunlight needed for growing grass will begin to diminish after summer ends on Thursday.     

Manly's home ground, Lottoland.
Manly's home ground, Lottoland. ©NRL Photos

Sydney FC have played eight A-League matches at Kogarah and are scheduled to use the venue for their upcoming Asian Champions League fixtures, while the W-League grand final was also held there.

Like Manly, who moved their trial against Cronulla to Shark Park, Sydney FC have already shifted their next A-League home game from Brookvale to Leichhardt, which will also host Thursday's Cup of Nations double-header featuring the Matildas after the FFA shifted it from Netstrata Jubilee Stadium.

It [a rebuild] needs to be done and it needs to be done now

A senior NRL official regarding Allianz Stadium

WIN Stadium, which hosted St George Illawarra’s trial against Newcastle on Saturday night after the playing surface at Kogarah was deemed unsafe, now appears set to be the venue for the March 21 clash with Souths – despite initially being unavailable due to construction work on the northern grandstand roof.

Scheduling of other events at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium had also been the cause of frustration for the Dragons as they were forced to host consecutive games at WIN Stadium in Rounds 15, 16 and 17, and then play three home games at Kogarah in four weeks between Round 20 and 23.

St George Illawarra's agreement with Georges River Council to play home games at Kogarah expires at the end of the season and there is the possibility that the club could look elsewhere from next year. The new Bankwest Stadium at Parramatta is likely to be an option.

The Round 6 clash between Parramatta and Wests Tigers which will open Bankwest Stadium is headed for a 30,000 sell-out and the Eels have set new membership records this season, despite finishing last in 2018.

The stadium debate dominating the lead up to the NSW election is in direct contrast to the attitude in Melbourne, where government spending to maintain the Victorian capital's reputation as one of the world's greatest sporting cities is widely supported.

Allianz Stadium remains a political minefield.
Allianz Stadium remains a political minefield. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos/NRL Photos

The NSW Land and Environment Court last week agreed to an injunction delaying further demolition of Allianz Stadium and the Labor Party is threatening to halt the $1.3 billion spending on Allianz and ANZ Stadium if it wins the upcoming state election.

Yet while suburban grounds have appeal because of the atmosphere generated by a crowd of about 15,000, the bigger stadiums will usually offer a financial guarantee for clubs to play their home games there.

In contrast, it is believed to cost the Dragons about $100,000 just to open the gates at Kogarah and they suffered a financial hit by having to relocate the Knights trial and a fan day to Wollongong with just 36-hours notice, as the crowd was below initial expectations and corporate functions had to be cancelled.

St George District RLFC previously maintained Jubilee Stadium but their $600,000 per year lease expired in 2018 and Georges River Council took over management of the venue, enabling it to book more content.

Brookvale, Leichhardt and Campbelltown Stadium are also managed by local councils while ANZ Stadium, Bankwest Stadium, WIN Stadium and Newcastle's McDonald Jones Stadium are part of the NSW Stadia Network.

Member for Kiama and Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast Gareth Ward said at Monday's announcement that the end-of-season Kangaroos-Kiwis Test would be at WIN Stadium that the venue was available to host more Dragons matches if they could not be played at Kogarah.

St George Illawarra CEO Brian Johnston said the club had requested further meetings with Georges River Council representatives to decide whether the Round 2 clash with Souths at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium can go ahead or has to be moved to Wollongong. 

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.