By STEVE MASCORD
IT’S coincidental but instructive that we are going to Darwin, Mackay and Perth with NRL games the weekend after matches in Sydney attracted 11,167, 5288 and 6,271.
Yes, it was wet and hostile at ANZ Stadium, Leichhardt Oval and Centrebet Stadium – but they were still poor attendance figures which will be easily eclipsed at the three ‘on the road’ venues this weekend.
On page 30 of this week’s RLW, you’ll read how fixtures will in future “jump out” of the draw as ones which invite relocation, and how the NRL will make the arrangements rather than the individual clubs.
Two of the poor-drawing games above – South Sydney-Canberra and Wests Tigers-Melbourne – fit the bill as potentially average crowd-pullers, although Leichhardt Oval is imbued with such romance people would go there to watch almost anyone play.
Make no mistake, we will get the same outcry about shifting games away from traditional home grounds as we got about the death of the shoulder charge and Origin violence.
But when you hear the bleating about robbing the people of their local team, try to remember how few people there were at times.
When Rupert Murdoch swept into our game in 1995, he – or his people – determined there were too many teams in Sydney. At first, they wanted one or two mega-Sydney teams but when they proved too hard, they recruited a few and left the rest to rot.
If another media mogul was looking to invest in rugby league and checked out last weekend’s games, he would have come to the same conclusion: too many teams in Sydney.
We, of course, now realise it’s not that simple. The popularity, history, brands and emotional connections inspired by the Sydney clubs are just not accurately represented by those who show up each week.
We can have our cake and eat it too – especially with $1.025 billion in the bank.
We can keep the Sydney clubs we cherished as kids and still expand the game and this weekend is showing us how – by taking those clubs to people who appreciate the opportunity to see them in the flesh.
If those people show enough interest, then one day they get a team of their own. That’s how it should work and that’s how it will work under the new stadia policy.
And if American baseball and English premier league soccer want to bring their events to us, then the lesson is clear. To stay afloat in this shrinking world, we also have to take ours’ to them.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK