With the Raiders set to restart the 2020 NRL premiership with home matches at Campbelltown Stadium, we look back into the history books to see how the Green Machine was almost thwarted by a team from the West of Sydney as they looked to enter the NSWRL in 1982.
In the recently published History of the Club – Absolutely Bleeding Green – author David Headon discusses just how close it was to the Raiders missing out on a place which started their proud history in the big league. Below is a shortened version of Headon’s telling of the tale.
The NSWRL looked to expansion to set up the game for the future, with President Kevin Humphrey’s outlining a plan to take the game outside of Sydney for the first time.
When Illawarra was announced as the game’s ‘13th team’ at an event in December 1980, it was also announced that the game would look to further expand to 14, with submissions to be entered prior to the official vote on March 30, 1981.
The three main submissions for consideration came down to teams from the Canberra/Queanbeyan, Campbelltown and NSW Central Coast/Newcastle areas. The Canberra/Queanbeyan submission was spearheaded by Queanbeyan Blues Chairman Les McIntyre and ACTRL President Don Elphick.
To add extra impetus to the bid, the committee added long-term Federal politician Fred Daly to help with the politics of submitting such an ambitious plan.
With the submission date rapidly approaching, the race for the 14th position came down to two, when the Newcastle bid withdrew from the race, leaving just Campbelltown in the position to challenge the Canberra/Queanbeyan bid.
The Canberra/Queanbeyan bid was further boosted when it was announced that they were happy to incur traveling expenses for rivals, which would allow the league to circumvent the likely expenses associated with a team outside of the Sydney region. In fact, it was believed the proximity of Campbelltown to Sydney would work against the Western Sydney bid, with the game at the time keen to begin the expansion which would eventually see the game become a truly national product.
Fred Daly was joined by Federal politician Ros Kelly in presenting the submission to the committee, with the use of such high profile and well-rounded politicians a masterstroke in impressing those who were to make the final decisions.
The final hurdle was not one relating to geography rather climate, with the Campbelltown bid led by solicitor John Marsden, again raising the issue of travel expenses. When Les McIntyre countered by offering payment of both their and opposition airfares the argument looked dead and buried, before Marsden produced the evidence which almost skittled the bid at the eleventh hour.
The cunning Campbelltown lawyer provided statistics that Canberra’s airport had been closed 39 times between March and September of the previous year, which in his opinion would impact greatly on the regions ability to secure travel for teams in and out of Canberra.
However, the Raiders bid stood firm and with a vote of 24-18 the Green Machine was born, and the Raiders had their place in the premier competition.