Go Wests Magpies, but not forever
Matt Utai scores for the Wests Tigers. AAP Image/Action Photographics/Brett Crockford
I am an unashamed traditionalist when it comes to rugby league. This Sunday, I will head to North Sydney Oval to witness what may well be the last ever clash between the North Sydney Bears and the Western Suburbs Magpies.
It will take place in the 21st round of the VB NSW Cup and if I partake in a little too much of the sponsor’s product, I trust my good friends from Panadol will help me survive on Monday.
The mighty Bears (aligned with South Sydney these days) will be alive and kicking in the Cup next season.
As for the once-mighty Maggies? Well, I think not.
Serious moves are afoot to merge the Wests Magpies and the Balmain Tigers at this level of rugby league for 2013 – and beyond.
I believe it will happen, so bye-bye birdies and thanks for the many, many, wonderful memories.
Wests have had a truly wretched year in the NSW Cup. Zero wins from 18 games. A lousy 208 points for, and a staggering 1006 points against.
But the Magpies have been given zero assistance from parent club Wests Tigers by way of players and playing talent. All who have dropped down from the WT senior squad have been sent to the Balmain-Ryde Eastwood Tigers, currently running equal fourth with Newcastle.
Is there an agenda here? I think it’s spelled out in, um, black and white: The Wests Tigers want Wests to die.
This rag-tag Wests team has been assembled from S G Ball players from last year; there’s a smattering from St George and surrounding districts’ junior leagues, as well as some Wests A Graders and a couple of recruits from Group 6.
Under coach Jason Williams, they have been right up against it from day one. Outplayed, outclassed and out-graded with the opposition scores reading more like a middle order batsman’s tallies in a summer of cricket: 46, 64, 42, 76, 56, 34, 52, 78, 70, 58, 50, 88, 46, 64, 30, 56, 60 and 36. That all equals 1006 in the dreaded Against column.
What caught my eye – so late in the season – was the last score against them: a ‘meagre’ 36.
Last week, Williams’s warriors were reportedly right in the game against the Cronulla Sharks (boasting several first grade reps) at Campbelltown. They trailled 28-32 with just five minutes to go but the Sharks found a try right at the death to seal the contest.
“It was incredible, stirring stuff,” said Daniel Watson-Hayes, a Western Suburbs director.
“We saw the famous Western Suburbs spirit and fighting qualities. Even after 104 years, after all we’ve been through, after almost being kicked to death, these boys battled away and almost produced a win.
“It was easily our best performance of the year and when you take into account what has happened to this team in earlier games, the result was amazing.
“Our coach Jason is a very passionate guy and he took on the toughest job in rugby league in late May. The guys have been flogged heaps of times, but they are still listening to him . . .”
Wests have been a renowned rugby league nursery for decades. I asked Watson-Hayes if there was anyone in the Magpie ranks who might bob up in NRL first grade in the near future?
“We started the year with a stand-out hooker, Dean Parata, and he performed really, really well,” he said.
“He was a shining light and we sent him to the Windsor Wolves where he is now their starting No 9. This guy can really play and we wish him well.”
Watson-Hayes said the future of the Western Suburbs was now at Board level with the Wests Tigers parent club. The Magpies say they will agree to a merger with the Tigers, providing that a number of stipulations retaining their identity are met.
Good luck to Wests in their umpteenth fight for survival.
When they tackle Norths at Bear Park, I’ll be up on the hill whispering and willing the words: ‘Go Wests.’
I really hope they ‘go’, but not forever.