Where now for the Cronulla Sharks?

Matthew ONeill Roar Rookie

By Matthew ONeill, Matthew ONeill is a Roar Rookie

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13 Have your say

    Greg Bird in action during the NRL Round 24, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Sydney Roosters match at Toyota Stadium, on Friday, August 22, 2008. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Grant Trouville

    Greg Bird in action during the NRL Round 24, Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks v Sydney Roosters match at Toyota Stadium, on Friday, August 22, 2008. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Grant Trouville

    Hidden in the off-field dramas in the last week has been the financial and long term future of the Cronulla Sharks.

    Last week the NRL decided to block any funding plans for the Sharks to move five of their matches to the Central Coast. I have been a long-time critic of David Gallop, but in this instance he made the right decision not to deem it as a relocation move.

    The Sharks are at the cross-roads and have had to endure nightmare after nightmare this season. They are currently sitting last on the premiership table, and are being rocked by the sex scandal involving Matthew Johns and several un-named Sharks players from 2002 when they played a trial match in New Zealand.

    However, the biggest issue for the Sharks is where will they be located in the coming years – if anywhere.

    Is Central Coast really a worthwhile expansion option for clubs to relocate to, or even for a new NRL franchise?

    The people of the Central Coast firmly voted with their feet on Monday night when the Sydney Roosters moved their home match against Melbourne to Gosford. With the hype about the proposed Bears application and their new logo – the general public had the opportunity to build momentum for the bid and they failed to show up.

    When the Gold Coast was looking to field an NRL team prior to their entry in 2006, each game that was held at the run down Cararra Stadium attracted huge attendances and the public got right behind the Titans’ bid.

    Cronulla’s future in the Shire is very bleak and the Shire is an area that is changing to be more like Kings Cross by the Beach and not really an area that is going to be booming with new families in the future.

    The Shire is also a very isolated area and the Sharks suffer greatly from not having a strong identity away from the Cronulla-Sutherland area. Much of that can be attributed to the lack of premiership success, but the culture and isolation of the area plays much to that.

    The Sharks unfortunately are doomed in the cut throat Sydney market as they are surrounded by powerful Sydney clubs the Dragons and Bulldogs, both of whom have well known brands that reach beyond their local areas.

    The Dragons’ Red Vee represents so much successful tradition in the game that saw the great St George side win 11 successive premierships and the Bulldogs, who are the most successful club of the last 30 years, are fortunate to be bankrolled by a financially strong licensed club.

    Where should Cronulla look to move into the future?

    The gold mine in Rugby League is most certainly in Queensland with Central Queensland already putting in a submission to field an NRL side on a full-time basis and the Ipswich and Sunshine Coast areas have expressed their interest in fielding an NRL side.

    The Brisbane market can certainly field two sides with Suncorp Stadium the best venue in Rugby League and not to mention that Redcliffe, Cabolture, Moreton Bay and Strathpine areas are all booming areas north of Brisbane with the highly successful Redcliffe Leagues Club in the past looking at NRL options – stretching back to 1986.

    The South Australian State Government has also looked at the possibility of supporting an NRL side based in Adelaide, but the risks of venturing beyond the eastern seaboard continues to be too large in the current financial climate.

    A move to Queensland offers the Sharks just the escape they need to keep their Sharkies brand and escape the cut throat Sydney market.

    The Central Coast had a chance with the Northern Eagles, but instead of rallying for the side to be permanently based in Gosford the public drove the ‘franchise’ back to Brookvale Oval and back under the name of Manly-Warringah.

    It’s a shame for North Sydney as they feel to this day they were unfairly treated in 1999 and extreme mismanagement killed the club so suddenly, but like Cronulla a lack of premiership success did isolate the Bears into a very small market.

    The Central Coast shouldn’t be looked at as a possible NRL expansion area until the Newcastle Knights are 100% financially stable and progressing strongly. The Knights made a $1 million turnaround in the last 12 months and that is encouraging, but to have a side based in between Newcastle and Sydney could be potentially damaging for the Knights and the Newcastle region is one of the proudest Rugby League areas.

    The primary investment should be into the Knights before placing a team nearby on the Central Coast.

    Queensland on the other hand is fast shaping up as the home of Rugby League. Consolidate Rugby League’s strength north of Tweed Heads; that’s where the NRL’s next expansion targets should be.

    I’m a supporter of 18 teams in a national wide competition, which includes possible teams in Papua New Guinea and a second side in New Zealand down the track, but the NRL must expand into areas of strength and Queensland is most certainly that.

    The Sharks have to bite the bullet and rebuild their shattered brandname as unfortunately for them they don’t have a culture of success, a fistful of dollars or support outside of the Shire in Sydney to fall back on to remain where they are.

    In fact, two Queensland sides, Adelaide, Perth, PNG and a second New Zealand side should all be considered before the Central Coast, as reach into new markets is of greater importance.

    In Edition Five of Discord this week, Rleague.com weekly feature columnist Steve Mascord discusses the Four Corners program aired this week that rocked the NRL and why this may be the best thing that could have happened to the code. You can read Discord here.

    Matthew O’Neill is a Director and Columnist with www.rleague.com.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • May 16th 2009 @ 10:14am
      Paul said | May 16th 2009 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      Add Adelaide, Add Wellington NZ, add Central Coast, add Gosford, add Christchurch NZ, add another brisbane team, bring North Sydney back, add Perth, and Sunshine Coast, add Redcliffe, add Newtown, add Papua NG (based in PNG not westerns sydney) and take the bottom 2 teams on the ladder this year, – put them in a second tier comp and have a relegation promotion system with 14 teams per division allowing for 3 state of origin “bye” weeks. = awesome imo. Obv not overnight – but work towards….

      Keeps the interest in the lower placed teams till the end of the comp with fans filling stadiums to ensure their team doesnt get relegated, and promotes the game internationally which rugby league so desperately needs. Creating more depth internationally is fundamental to the games survival. Papua NG and NZ must be developed and QLD are dying for more league teams… dont let that other ping pong game get a foot up on the east coast.

      just my thoughts – would love to see it happen. Fox would pick up the rights to the 2nd tier definately…..and they could play mid week games…..

      give teams the opportunity to move up and down divisions on performance….

      I would love to see Newtown or North Sydney given the chance to play top flight again…

    • May 16th 2009 @ 10:38am
      znotty said | May 16th 2009 @ 10:38am | ! Report

      if its a national comp then they & other Sydney teams have to go,i know the NRL policy is to let them fall over due to natural attrition but at some point at least 4 teams have to go from Sydney..

    • May 16th 2009 @ 11:35am
      Rabbitz said | May 16th 2009 @ 11:35am | ! Report

      I must correct a couple of points.
      Firstly, the Northern Eagles were never “permanently based” on the Central Coast. They played there begrudgingly, and the people of that region treated the whole thing with the contempt it deserved.

      Secondly, The North Sydney Bears were not “killed suddenly”. We are still about and have a much stronger financial and supporter base than a couple of NRL teams do. So much so that our expansion bid is well advanced and if the NRL doesn’t expand the like of Cronulla are at risk of being replaced.

      Unlike previous teams and the tokenism presented as representing the Central Coast, the Bears are proposing to move to the Coast, to rename to the Central Coast Bears – Lock, Stock and Barrel. We have money, we have support, we have the will. We will be back, so Cronulla better watch out…

    • May 16th 2009 @ 12:37pm
      sheek said | May 16th 2009 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

      I’m sure the NRL would love to have about 20 teams, or even 24 teams, with a couple out of NZ (forget PNG). Thus in Australia, going clockwise, you would have teams from Townsville to Perth.

      However, the reality is that 16 is probably the ideal number for some time to come (5-10 years). Struggling clubs need to be made financial. What could happen is some relocation of clubs, maybe one or two. I’ve never understood why Brisbane, the second biggest rugby league city, isn’t capable of fielding two clubs.

      Obviously, the Broncos have had something to do with that. The SQ Crushers were quickly ‘crushed’ as cross-town rivals to the Broncos. Then there’s Central Coast, & it’s close proximity to Newcastle. it wouldn’t make any sense for example, if the Central Coast Bears got up, only for the Newcastle Knights to fold. Not that the Bears consortium would care!

      As for poor crowds at central Coast Stadium, I wouldn’t worry about. The Coast desperately wants an NRL team, but it’s sick of false promises. So perhaps their attitude is, “until we see some meat on the table, we’re not going to patronise tokenism”.

      Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks have a massive problem both with their brand & livery. There is a stench of failure connected with CSS. And the sky, black & white colours are probably seen as ‘losers’ colours. I don’t know what can be done. There is much about the shire to like, especially the parks, greenery, beaches & waterways.

      But perhaps the natural advantages of the shire, is also its drawback. When there’s so much good surfing, swimming, fishing, boating, picnicing, partying, fun, etc to be had, why bother playing organised, even professional, sport? However, the shire is also very spread out, so it’s difficult to get a sense of community across many little ‘onclaves’.

    • May 16th 2009 @ 12:51pm
      sheek said | May 16th 2009 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

      I’m a dreamer too.

      I would love to see Easts & Newtown do a Wests-Balamain, & become the East Sydney Jets, playing in a predominant royal blue jumper with red & white bands. Still the tri-colours, but Newtown’s royal blue repalcing East’s navy blue. With the Bears relocating to the Central Coast, thus the ’12 tribes’ that played in the Sydney comp from 1967 (when Penrith & Cronulla joined) to 1983 (when Newtown folded) would in some ways be preserved.

      From Central Coast to Illawarra, the 10 clubs would be as follows:

      1. Central Coast Bears
      2. Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
      3. Penrith Panthers
      4. Parramatta Eels
      5. West Sydney Tigers
      6. East Sydney Jets
      7. South Sydney Rabbitohs
      8. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
      9. Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
      10. St. George-Illawarra Dragons

      Purely for reasons of symmetry I would prefer the Bears to return to North Sydney (thus giving the Sydney north shore two clubs) & relocating either the Bulldogs or Sharks.

      How Brisbane doesn’t have two clubs astounds me. It should be Broncos & one other. Throw in a second NZ team also (probably Wellington). Then there’s North Queensland, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Canberra & Melbourne. Then there’s room for one more in a 20 team comp.

      I don’t know if Perth, Adelaide, Central Queensland, Sunshine Coast & PNG are realistic propositions at this stage. Yeah, I know RL is the national game of PNG, but……….

      Anyway, as I said in the previous post, the NRL would be wise to shore up its current 16 clubs before contemplating expansion. No point in expanding to 18 or 20 teams, only to be back at 16 again in 5 years time. Remember what happened during the Super League wars?

    • May 16th 2009 @ 2:56pm
      jason said | May 16th 2009 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

      I would have serious doubts over adelaide or perth NRL teams. Without a doubt Brisbane should have a second or even a third team. 1.8 million people and only one club, that doesnt add up. PNG could never support a team capable of competing in the NRL as no one from Aust would want to play for them and no travelling teams would want to go there because of the health and safety risks. In my opinion the Sharks should move to the Redcliffe-Caloundra area and try and attract support from both the Sunshine Coast and the Notrhern Suburbs of Brisbane.

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