Footy turf wars: it’s game on

By Doug Conway,

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12 Have your say

    Football’s undeclared war is on. The combatants aren’t describing it that way, but that’s what it is.

    The opening shots have been fired in the battle between Australia’s top two winter codes, Australian Rules and rugby league, for the hearts, minds and pockets of the two million-plus people who make greater western Sydney the nation’s third biggest marketplace behind Sydney and Melbourne.

    Two publicity cannonades in Sydney this week set the stage.

    Rugby league launched ticket sales on Wednesday for its lone Sydney State of Origin match in June, just as the AFL was preparing for Thursday’s first-ever season launch outside Melbourne.

    The NRL not only staged its event on the eve of the AFL’s extravaganza but at ANZ Stadium, the very arena where the Sydney Swans and newcomers Greater Western Sydney Giants get the AFL season underway on Saturday.

    It reminded some of a dog marking its territory.

    AFL’s multi-million dollar push into rugby league’s western Sydney heartland seems to have provoked a welter of activity behind the league barricades.

    League suddenly has an ambassador for western Sydney in the form of Parramatta captain Nathan Hindmarsh.

    Hindmarsh’s team hosts Penrith in a western Sydney derby on Friday, the night before the AFL’s opening match.

    Penrith will host another innovation on April 21, an under-20s version of the hugely successful State of Origin brand.

    The NRL also has a blockbuster lined up in direct opposition to Saturday night’s AFL match, with St George Illawarra hosting premiers Manly.

    Asked if he viewed the rivalry between the codes as war, NRL boss David Gallop told AAP: “There’s no doubt it’s a competitive landscape. But we are concentrating on what we do. And what we do is pretty unique in Australian sport.”

    Asked if the under-20 origin match was a response to AFL’s push, he said: “We are conscious we need to keep reminding people of our dominance in western Sydney.”

    Asked if he had anything to fear from AFL, he said: “We’re pretty comfortable with how we’re travelling.”

    Gallop did not directly mention league’s great rival during his official remarks, but said: “With three rounds under our belt we can unabashedly brag that this is the most exciting and unpredictable sporting competition in Australia.”

    The accepted order of things is definitely under challenge, what with the first Origin match in Melbourne and the AFL season launch in Sydney, to be attended by league chief Andrew Demetriou and all 18 captains.

    It’s as topsy-turvy as the situation Tiger Woods and Eminem once created – a black guy being the world’s top golfer while a white man was its biggest-selling rapper.

    But western Sydney league stars say they’re not worried by AFL’s incursion into “their” territory.

    “I think our product does the talking on the field each weekend,” Hindmarsh said this week.

    “The AFL is obviously tipping a lot of money in,” said Parramatta prop Tim Mannah, “but we have a product that is so great to watch and be a part of.”

    Their terminology may betray another big change in football. What was once a sport is now a product.

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • Roar Guru

      March 21st 2012 @ 5:33pm
      SportsFanGC said | March 21st 2012 @ 5:33pm | ! Report

      Some aspects of the NRL behaviour seem to come across as desparate and its all in resposnse to GWS actually starting their AFL life this season. If anything GWS has kicked into gear the teams of West Sydney to not take the population and their fans for granted.

      For instance why is their now a Western Sydney Rugby League ambassador? Why have they not had one for the past 10 years?

      The State of Origin is huge for NRL, why they needed to launch the Origin Season (which starts in Melbourne at the end of May, I will certainly be going) today at ANZ Stadium is just a bit bizarre, especially considering that NSW have struggled the past few years to fill that particular stadium to capacity in any case. There is almost 3 months before the Sydney game is played!

      The St George v Manly match will be huge on TV and no doubt take eyes off the GWS v Swans game, but from a crowd perspective and people turning up to the game its not really in competition, one is way out West and the other is South.

      The NRL have a great product, there is no need for all these knee-jerk reactions everytime the AFL decide to do something. Gallop says that they focus on themselves but the comment is total BS. They look at the AFL constantly and its obvious.

      The best example was last year on the Gold Coast – the AFL have a schedule produced 12 months in advance, all clubs know when, where and who they will be playing. The NRL tried to schedule games directly in competition to the Suns and the Suns ended up getting bigger crowds – embarrassing to say the least.

      Now with the NRL floating 6 week draw they are doing the same with regard to GWS.

      The code war rubbish is purely Sydney media and more particularly Sydney Rugby League Media driven. Perth is a good example of this – the NRL fans and media are adament that a team must be placed there in the near future. How many code war articles have been written about Perth considering its an AFL dominated city and state – the answer is zero. It is rubbish journalism, lazy journalism, and hypocrisy from all invloved in the rugby league media.

      Time to grow up and accept that some people might just like watching more than one sport -even if they live in Western Sydney!

    • March 21st 2012 @ 6:36pm
      TW said | March 21st 2012 @ 6:36pm | ! Report

      Also your comments about Perth and the new NRL club +1

    • March 21st 2012 @ 7:01pm
      NF said | March 21st 2012 @ 7:01pm | ! Report

      The code war is indeed rubbish but GWS/GC Suns forced the NRL to be more proactive about memberships and attendances something they should of focus on 30+ years ago and only start to push it now due to the ‘code war’. RL admin with the IC needs to be more pro-active but not openly aggressive on AFL just focus on there own business, GWS will carve there niche in Western Sydney and won’t take over it by any stretch of the imagination. It’s correct if a RL was placed in Perth there be no code war nonsense, I’m sure the Rams in SA were welcomed with open arms despite there brief tenture down in SA.

      It’s obvious code war sell papers and it’s easy cheap hits on websites too such as the Roar which tends to have there fair share of code war articles.

    • March 21st 2012 @ 7:15pm
      Norm said | March 21st 2012 @ 7:15pm | ! Report

      SFM – that is the best response I have heard to all this Sydney code-war rubbish. And the most honest. There is no talk of code-war in Perth & there certainly wasn’t in Melb when Storm & Rebels started. But wait for all the angst from the trolls like JVGO, CCer, etc!

      • March 21st 2012 @ 8:19pm
        Matt_S said | March 21st 2012 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

        Norm, your war with other sports starts in the boardroom of channel nine. A AFL president and former AFL lawyer isn’t a conflict of interest. Victorians have driven Nine into the ground so they can make decisions based on protecting the Victorian code.

        Why is it any different now that Nine are talking about live FTA coverage into Victoria after all this time?

        The Storm, regardless of salary cap scandals, are one of the best sporting teams in modern Australian sport, yet where has the open Victorian generosity been? This is a club, with the likes of Slater, who have attracted the following and praise of the likes of Malthouse, Hafey ( who takes his grandsons to Storm games), Billy Brownless, and a host of AFL admirers. This is what the AFL fears. If the likes of these people start following the NRL what will happen when consistent coverage is given?

        Consistent coverage of AFL in northern markets and AFL lackies in media (David Koche, editors etc) have brought their code into our homes and the level of support is still not matched by the hype.

        AFL needs millions of dollars to buy friendship, league just needs the product on the field.

        • March 22nd 2012 @ 4:47am
          Norm said | March 22nd 2012 @ 4:47am | ! Report

          “Product on the field” – yeah, right ! Check attendances at the field. NRL people don’t like talking about crowds because their’s are lousy, apart from Broncos. Storm have good figures if they were in Sydney, but they are pathetic for Melbourne. It indicates the interest & is why 9 won’t show NRL at peak times. AFL would suffer the same in Sydney – except they made it part of the TV deal.

          • March 22nd 2012 @ 12:52pm
            JVGO said | March 22nd 2012 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

            The fact is Norm that AFL fans can dish it out but they simply cannot take it. Look at the code war tripe you just went on with. Talk about calling the kettle black.

        • March 22nd 2012 @ 10:01am
          me, I like football said | March 22nd 2012 @ 10:01am | ! Report

          Is Eddie even at boardroom level for Channel nine?

          “Victorians have driven Nine into the ground” is just laughable when you consider that Melbournes share of CH9 viewing is higher than the 5-city average

          So the Sydney media hype up these code wars, but it’s the Melbournes media fault?

    • March 21st 2012 @ 7:34pm
      NF said | March 21st 2012 @ 7:34pm | ! Report

      Crosscoder is not a troll he’s far from it if anything he one of the best rugby league posters on this site.

    • March 22nd 2012 @ 9:31am
      Chop said | March 22nd 2012 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Another garbage article about the ‘code war’ it’s getting massively tired.

      Both sports are businesses who are trying to increase their market share within a limited sporting market.

      Administration from ALL codes are trying to do what they can to get more people watching their game live and on TV, that makes their clubs and business more successful.

      That’s the very nature of business.

      Isn’t is both logical and tactical to attempt to keep people interested in your code (or business)?

      All the snipers on this site who try and take cheap shots at people who follow other codes just reduce the credibility of the discussion and the quality of the site. In the end, you get more and more of these ‘Code War’ articles because people it’s attracting the same snipers generating comments every week which means the ‘jounalists’ writing them get more income and status.

      Frankly I’ve had a gutful

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