The sleeping Wanderer has awoken
Western Sydney Wanderers strip (Image: Twitter)
1977 was a momentous year in Australia’s sporting landscape. It was the year that football set itself as a standard bearer in the battle of the codes by creating the first national sporting competition in this country.
Not enough kudos is given to those people and their clubs that first embarked on the journey. Perhaps it was because as the years past and the other codes caught up and surpassed, that we lost that pioneering philosophy, and subsequently our premier competition got branded as a “basketcase” (probably with good reason).
The birth of the A-League was supposed to put us back on the map, and to a degree it did. As with all fledgling businesses mistakes have been made, but like those pioneers in 1977, we are continuing to move forward.
Bold moves were made into North Queensland and the Gold Coast which didn’t turn out so well. The Heart were added into Melbourne which has been more successful.
The glaring issue in all this is the fact that while we were chasing the other codes in their strongholds, we literally left out own backyard unguarded and have watched these codes conduct a brawl in the middle of it.
Rugby league is what it is, a Goliath that everyone in Western Sydney has at least a small interest in. As shocking crowd numbers indicate, these people don’t care enough to go to games but they do watch from the comfort in their own homes in record numbers.
The other Goliath is the AFL. Most of Western Sydney actually holds the game in contempt. As rugby league fans, this is more born out of frustration that the AFL seems to be a pretty good product when given a chance and they just seem to do everything better than their blundering counterparts at League HQ.
The base of memberships, stadium arrangements and even the junior development seems to be light years ahead of the NRL.
This battle has seemed to force the A-League’s hand into the creation of what will be the true Western Sydney team – The Wanderers. To put them together in such a short time (not to mention finally waking up and putting them in at all) has taken us back to the pioneers of 1977.
It is the boldest move that has been made since the creation of the A-League, taking football back to its roots. Some may say that Sydney FC was there all along, but as a former FC member I think I can comment that no genuine attempt was ever made to pursue the heartland.
It may have been a case of “if we just build it they will come”, or more than likely fans were still hurting after the demotion of their former NSL teams. Regardless, the fact is that that backyard was left empty and even though we won’t be able to own the whole thing, it is a massive yard in which we can carve out our own niche.
I attended one of the forums and was thoroughly impressed with the process. The fans were not only consulted but based on the forum I was at, they were listened to and the majority’s thoughts were bourne out in the final selections. The colours, strip and logo are all fantastic (in fact the logo is the best going around in my opinion).
It would have been very easy to try to build this club to specifically chase those disenfranchised ex NSL fans (such as myself), I in fact previously thought that this was the way to go. However the forum changed my mind, it would have been the pandering option that would have never provided a solid enough foundation.
The club has to be Western Sydney’s team – and everything that the area entails. It is the most multicultural region in the country. Every one of these communities have football at its heart, and not only the ones that had teams in the former NSL, but every one of the over 100 communities represented in just Fairfield alone, let alone Blacktown, Bankstown, Liverpool etc.
Most of these communities will follow teams such as the Olympiakos’, Red Stars, Dinamo Zagrebs, Juventus’ as well as an English Premier League team, but will also support the Bulldogs, Parramatta, Wests Tigers, or Penrith.
We are in a unique position, to get all of these people behind one team. Rugby league cannot do that. Combined with the fact that the AFL is not ingrained in the culture as much as football, it is plain to see that we are on the cusp of something that no other code nor A-League team in the country can match.
If the Wanderers can get this right, it will blast the A League into the real mainstream of Australian Sport.
Western Sydney is basically a microcosm of Australia. It has an industrial and population base that is larger than South Australia and that of the ACT, NT and Tasmania combined. It has over a third of its population under the age of 24. It is, to use a political term, a bellwether area of the country, an area for the future.
Just as Burke and Wills headed west in 1860, and the NSL was created in 1977, Messrs Buckley and crew have led the pioneering path again – bring on the Wanderers!