Brushing Brookvale for blockbusters makes sense
View of Manly vs South Sydney from the stands at Brookevale Oval (Image: WikiCommons)
Suburban grounds are one of the most romantic parts of rugby league. There are few things better than walking through the streets of Balmain as the floodlights and the smell of sausages cooked on street corners tell you that Leichhardt Oval is getting closer.
Brookvale Oval means the same thing to Manly fans. It’s where the rest of the world meets the fortress.
The stereotype says people from the northern beaches of Sydney don’t like to travel far from home. Why should they? Sun, sand, restaurants and ‘Brookie’ are sewn into the local fabric.
On Friday night, 23,000 will pack onto the hill or fight for a seat in the stand. It doesn’t matter that they’ll queue for the toilet or a hot-dog. That happens anywhere.
What matters is that one man’s decision to defect from Brookvale to Belmore has turned this fixture into a blockbuster. Des Hasler used to sit in the home coach’s box and rant and rave, but now he comes back an outsider to the empire he once ruled.
His side no longer flies under the radar, but rules over the rest of the league.
The first time these two sides met was in round eight. It was also a Friday night game, but with the Dogs still finding their feet under their new leader, just 24,743 turned up at ANZ stadium to see them go down swinging 12-10.
It should’ve been more. It deserved more. This time around, at a bigger stadium, it probably would’ve got more.
Apart from the fact a couple of thousand people won’t be able to get a ticket there’s also the fact there’s a dollar to be made. Financial compensation is something that most NRL clubs can’t afford to miss out on.
Can you imagine how much money either of the two major stadiums in Sydney would pay to get a game like this? Add it to the ARL Commission’s growing to-do list.
This isn’t a call to end suburban football. In fact, if that were to happen, then those in charge of the game would’ve made a major mistake.
But it’s also a concern that a giant financial opportunity goes missing when premium product is undersold.
The ARLC and the clubs should come up with a list of games that fall under the blockbuster banner. It would then be up to the chief executive of the home club to sell those games to either Allianz Stadium or ANZ Stadium prior to the season.
This wouldn’t be the end of suburban rugby league, but instead, a way of making sure it continued. It would only make sense to move games when another high profile Sydney club is involved.
Manly playing Brisbane or Melbourne at Brookvale would be fine, but this game has the potential to be huge. The neutral is almost as interested as the die-hard.
It deserves a bigger stage.
You can follow Luke Doherty on Twitter @Luke_Doherty and on Sky News Australia.