With all the debate about the existence of suburban grounds and there relevancy for the NRL in the future I will throw in my two cents on the issue.
When you consider the NRL is a 100+ year competition the fact is yet to crack a 20k average attendance is a embarrassment when it is arguably the top domestic rugby competition in the world.
With all the history, culture and rivalries of the NRL, in particular in NSW, the attendance of the code should be higher than 20k already but complacency on the fans and administration side has hindered this process for a long time.
Rugby league fans time and time again have come up with numerous excuses as to why they won’t show up at games.
They like to sit at home and say that rugby league is a ‘TV sport’. This mindset is toxic in regards to attendance.
If you really care about your team you show up to the ground, not stay on the couch. There’s also the numerous excuses about geographical and transport issues which can be easily sorted through planning days in advance, thus dismissing that excuse.
On the administration side, the clubs have been too lazy relying on poker machine money and not caring about membership and attendances. This attitude has only changed recently, when the AFL set up a team in Gold Coast and Western Sydney.
All rugby league clubs now finally realise the benefit of membership, something they should have known decades ago.
Now for my solution on the suburban ground issue.
There should be a mixture of suburban grounds and modern stadiums for each of the Sydney clubs.
All the big derbies should be played at Allianz or ANZ. Preferably, Allianz as 25,000 in Allianz looks better than 35,000 in ANZ.
The non-rival Sydney games and out-of town games should be played at the suburban grounds, as I doubt the likes of Cowboys or Storm in Sydney would draw a big crowd.
Through this method the derbies would get the maximum crowds and the suburban grounds would still be packed when taking on the out-of town and non-rival Sydney teams.
Overall, it’s time to move NRL into the modern day. It will require some kicking and screaming in some circles but in the end everyone will benefit once the perfect formula is found.
It will require action from both the fans and administration to make this work, so provided both are proactive and passionate about it, it will be a success.