NRL venue Hunger Games

Illawarra Mercury

HOWEVER mischievously, Gareth Ward makes a very good point.

Penrith are somehow exempt from the NRL’s major stadium master plan and Manly want their pockets lined to move, yet Wollongong edges closer to the abyss? Spare me.

Like District 13 in The Hunger Games, eventually a stand has to be made.

In fighting to keep NRL games on the south coast, the state Member for Kiama couldn’t resist a shot at his colleagues, including Liberal leader and Premier Mike Baird.

“Perhaps I could cheekily say that the Premier’s side of Manly and the Sports Minister’s (Stuart Ayres) side of Penrith don’t seem to be moving to Allianz and ANZ,” Mr Ward told the Mercury.

“Perhaps they could look at those as well.”

We are all thinking it, Mr Ward, we’re glad a political insider put it into words.

Wollongong has endured a lot in the past couple of decades.

The end of the Steelers, the NRL taking away finals games from WIN Stadium because we’re a “Sydney club”, as part of the St George Illawarra joint venture.

The region even copped on the chin the Dragons cutting home games back from six to four, because of the club’s financial pressures and the incentives to play at Allianz or ANZ Stadium.

But a further reduction in games should not be on the table, under any circumstances.

Bringing the Charity Shield and a Four Nations game in 2014 –  and possible next year’s All Stars clash – does little to pacify footy fans down here.

If now NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg needs a quick refresher course, take a stroll down the walk of Test players outside the Steelers Club. Take a peek at the team lists and see how many Illawarra players are in the NRL – and not just in the Dragons lineup.

This city, this region, is not just another far-flung outpost to obey the whim of those in metropolitan ivory towers.

In an interview with the Mercury on Thursday, St George Illawarra chief executive Peter Doust disputed the figures for the number of games to be shifted to major Sydney stadiums.

Fairfax Media has reported the state government is increasingly frustrated with the bickering among the NRL and its clubs – and has given ARLC chairman John Grant an April 1 deadline to gain a 65-game commitment.

Of those, the Roosters, Parramatta, South Sydney and Canterbury are earmarked for 42, leaving the other NSW clubs to make up the gap.

If the Dragons took four more to Allianz or ANZ, it would likely leave Wollongong with just two games per year.

Doust argues the numbers being negotiated aren’t that high. 

And he maintains the Dragons have already made a valuable sacrifice by taking games away from Kogarah and WIN Stadium two years ago. Meanwhile, Penrith are exempt from the state government discussions because of the prospect of a new stadium in the greater wild west in future. 

Needless to say, it’s gone down like a spilt Gareth Widdop bomb among rival NRL officials and the political class.

So to, should it with the punters on the WIN Stadium hill on Sunday. 

A potential stadium makes Penrith exempt? 

There’s already been $30 million recently spent on a real Wollongong venue, so use the bloody thing.




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