Great Western Divide: how the Wanderers have split Sydney

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    The Sydney Derby always brings out the best in the Wanderers and Sky Blues. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

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    The A-League has come of age. Tomorrow’s derby at a sold-out Parramatta Stadium is perhaps the most anticipated domestic fixture in Sydney since the competition began in 2005.

    I was there the evening Sydney hosted its first ever A-League match, when ‘All-Night Dwight’ lit up the Sydney Football Stadium before one of the competition’s best-ever players in Archie Thompson equalised.

    Having grown up in the Hills District and spent a fair amount of my early adulthood in nearby Parramatta, I never felt like Sydney FC was anything but the club for me.

    I listened to a lot of local punk bands at the time – still do, in fact – in an era when bands with strong western Sydney roots like Last Nerve, Strength Within and Means To An End were dominating the local scene.

    I still remember picking up Last Nerve’s eponymous 7-inch EP and being surprised to see the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the cover, because to me those bands always represented the deep-seated sense of alienation at growing up in western Sydney.

    Those bands are all long gone – replaced in the perpetually churning cycle of Australian punk music – but many of the main protagonists are still kicking on.

    Likewise the addition of the Wanderers has changed the dynamic of the A-League for many football fans in Sydney.

    “Geographically and by my own set of rules, I’m now a Wanderers fan but my heart is yet to be won over,” former Last Nerve and current Vigilante vocalist Dave Immerz told me.

    Immerz, once a Sydney FC fan and a man of strong convictions – a quarter of the pre-order proceeds from Vigilante’s debut album “Quality Of Life” were donated to Sydney homeless shelter The Station Limited – is not an easily persuaded figure.

    His dilemma is echoed by ex-Strength Within guitarist and current Boneless bassist Matt Sourdin, who is still agonising over which club to support.

    “Having grown up in the western suburbs of Sydney, and playing for nearly 10 years for my local club, I was absolutely stoked when the A-League began and I had a team to barrack for – Sydney FC,” Sourdin said.

    “They were my local team and growing up amongst a European family, tradition stated that there was only one option when barracking for a team – the team representing your home town.”

    As a Sydney FC fan, it’s a sentiment I appreciate. You can change your wife, as far as I’m concerned, but you can never change your football club.

    But for Sourdin, who grew up in Werrington and still calls the harbour city home, it’s a difficult decision to make.

    “Questions of loyalty to my beloved Sydney FC seemed to start arising as I saw a lot of my close childhood friends switch immediately to their new found ‘home team’ the Wanderers,” he explained.

    “I never questioned their decision, as it really is a sport that gets you involved in your community and your town, but I wasn’t so sure. I couldn’t just drop what I had built and invested into my team, could I?”

    For Immerz, who has seen plenty of false dawns in more than 20 years of attending domestic fixtures, his allegiance to the Sky Blues wasn’t quite so steadfast.

    “Sydney FC is constantly changing, as expected to a degree, but not (to the extent of) eight coaches in nine seasons and a rotating chief executive position,” he said.

    That’s not to say he’s become a Parramatta Stadium regular, instead observing the Wanderers warily from a distance.

    “Once bitten, twice shy is my reluctance to dive in with the Wanderers,” he said. “I also want to see what they do for the fans.”

    Plenty of fans have already jumped on the bandwagon, though I’m certainly not one of them.

    I’ll be in the away stand supporting the Sky Blues on Saturday, just one of many football lovers from western Sydney somewhat bemused by the emergence of a wonderful club that will simply never represent me.

    Mike Tuckerman
    Mike Tuckerman

    Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he settled in Brisbane, and has been a leading Roar football columnist from December 2008.

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    The Crowd Says (74)

    • March 22nd 2013 @ 4:22am
      Johnno said | March 22nd 2013 @ 4:22am | ! Report

      Perfect reason or case study the WSW, of why sydney is a city of micro cities. And stand alone teams, like Sydney FC, the NSW waratahs, the sydney kings don’t work in today’s sydney market.

      T20 cricket ditched state teams , and went for city teams, and had 1 team in west sydney too, the west sydney razorbacks basketball team another example that was a west sydney team.

      But by having WSW , it has allowed sydney FC or Bling FC, as fans call it to focus on strategic heartlands east sydney, the shire.

      I’d still like a Northern spirit for the passionate sokah fans of the North shore. The spirit , got good crowds too, at North sydney oval, and I think the 4.5 million is big enough for 3 teams,.

      WSW is such a a good case study in, the sydney is made of micro-cities process, that sydney in reality operates on.

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:33am
        Christo the Daddyo said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Your first sentence is correct Johnno, but your second is just plain wrong. Sydney FC’s crowds are bigger than WSW (and in fact are the second biggest in the A League), the Waratahs problems are caused by their on field lack of success (go back a few years and the support was great) and the Kings’ support is fantastic considering their lack of on field success.

        The Northern Spirit got a OK crowds at the start of their existence, but they faded pretty quickly. Not sure there’s much evidence that they could run an A League level team now.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:47am
          striker said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:47am | ! Report

          Christo gotta agree northern beaches have alot of rugby union-league supporters dont think this would work with another A-League team there.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:58am
          Keyless sky blues fan said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report

          Well firstly, I’d say the waratahs’ lower crowds are simply reflective of the change of interest in sydney, away from union and toward football, afl and nrl. The interest in ru here even in the northern suburbs where I live which gets huge coverage of ru and is seen as a heartland is dying off quite a lot. As for northern spirit, I don’t see why averaging 14,500k in the nsl is anything to sneeze at.. There are no good grounds to play out of up here yet, but once the nw rail link comes in a northern sydney team would ad a brilliant rivalry with particularly the mariners and SFC and wsw. Should definitely happen, if you got manly and the whole beaches wharinga area involved, all of chatswood ryde gladesvile Hornsby out to castle hill involved, there are an enormous amount of football people in that catchment, the club would be massive. But as its stands we don’t even have an npl team, facilities to work with or any desire to get it up and running.

          My stupid dream, is in 2016 the season before the new tv deal, the comeback of spirit and fury making their returns to the national league. Would be brilliant!

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 11:20am
        Kasey said | March 22nd 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

        Sprit were the shiny new thing for a year or two, but once the new car smell wore off, their crowds dwindled – evidence of the fickle nature of Sydney sporting crowds. IIRC Spirit ended up playing at Pittwater Rugby Park in front of sub-3k crowds. My understanding is that there are some Mariners fans that caught the football bug by being Spirit fans back in the day. With the North Shore having access to Gosford via a train line, I think a HAL Northern Spirit would cannibalize both SFC and CCM fan bases and would end up like the Cronulla Sharks in the NRL, geographically isolated and unable to grow to a sufficient size to be sustainable. I think 2 BIG strong stable clubs in Sydney (WSW & SFC) with CCM catering to the Northern beaches crowd and Wollongong to the Southern areas should be the aim for football. Those of us not from Sydney do NOT want to see too many Sydney based clubs in the A-League.

    • March 22nd 2013 @ 8:30am
      steggz said | March 22nd 2013 @ 8:30am | ! Report

      It’s something that I’ve struggled to comprehend, how people can jump ship just like that. But good luck to them, it just enhances the derby.

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:33am
        Jukes said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:33am | ! Report

        Everyone needs to choose the team that feels right for them. Those people who “jumped ship” if they were given the opportunity to support a Western Sydney team right at the start of the A-league in 2005, they would never have been your fans in the first place.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:44am
          Souwalker said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:44am | ! Report

          Exactly. I too live in the hills district and so called supported Sydney FC. I went t a few home games but getting there was always an issue distance wise. I did not feel part of Sydney FC . Whenever there games were on tv, I barracked for them. With WSW, I immediately became a foundation member. I was just over a thousand mark as a member number so I was keen. It now feels great to belong to a club. Driving to parra stadium from the hills takes me 20 minutes. Easy peasy! If WSW was in the a Leafue from the beginning, I would not be barracking for Sydney FC.

          • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:54am
            Simmo said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:54am | ! Report

            I have a 3-digit SFC membership number and have lived in Canberra for the club’s entire existence. Some people are just lazy and want a club on their doorstep

            • March 22nd 2013 @ 11:09am
              Keyless sky blues fan said | March 22nd 2013 @ 11:09am | ! Report

              This, it’s an hour plus travel for myself and a couple mates to Allianz, we’re members and have missed one game because it clashed with our indoor game al season. I didn’t miss last season any matches at all. Props to coming from Canberra, I feel humbled by that – but some of these urchins have no club loyalty because of an extra twenty min trip? You can have em wanderers, we averaged our best season by a little way this year, and hopefully next with a team that doesn’t get thumped to destroy our momentum we can push 20k which I suspect we will given you’d expect 2 Allianz derbies to both pull 35k now that the rivalry is matured a little.

              As for the in the beginning stuff, SFC would never have gotten the same support if wsw had been in from the start, we needed 7 years to establish a club good enough for this rivalry. There, I admit it even as an SFC nutter wsw were always going to dominate us, plus the derby wouldn’t be anywhere near as big if it had begun in s1, it would have been stale, now it’s a massive and passionate affair rivalling nrl clashes decades older. Would love to crack 200k viewers for the first time ever for a regular season football match in nsw tomorrow night. Get keen both sets of fans!

          • March 22nd 2013 @ 11:35am
            oly09 said | March 22nd 2013 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            I’m with you Souwalker. I went to SFC games over the years, but was always waiting for a WS team. When Sydney Rovers didn’t get up I decided to try and commit to SFC, but despite going to most home games last season I never felt a connection with them. I never walked away from Allianz after a loss with that feeling of disappointment.
            I became a WSW member the first day they were available and after the first game against CCM already felt a connection with the club.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 2:13pm
          Kasey said | March 22nd 2013 @ 2:13pm | ! Report

          exactly, a lot of the NSL teams were great football teams, but for a lot of football fans including me; no team felt right for them, hence why the NSL needed to be replaced by the HAL. As soon as I walked into Hindmarsh Stadium on October 19th 2003 I fell in love with Adelaide United and have been madly in love (with all the ups &downs of any relationship) ever since!

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 2:20pm
        nickoldschool said | March 22nd 2013 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

        I would agree with you steggz and the author if we were not talking about two new clubs, with one just happening to be slightly newer than the other.

        Completely understand the supporters who have found in WSW what they were looking for and didn’t get, maybe, with Sydney FC.

    • March 22nd 2013 @ 8:51am
      Dave said | March 22nd 2013 @ 8:51am | ! Report

      I’ve heard the “change your wife but not your team” one before. Also how about “if you used to be a fan you never really were a fan”? haha.

      I think its difficult as an adult to become as deeply emotionally attached to a team as you could when you chose a team as a child. However I am still surprised by the number of people who professed to love SFC who just dropped them and chose another team. I suppose its more understandable under these circumstances though with the whole east/west, fibros/silvertails thing that has long been a part of the city’s sporting culture.

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:00am
        Realfootbal said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        Perhaps for many in the west it was a case of Sydney FC or nothing, and they never really attached to the sky blues. Then, suddenly, along comes a team that directly represents their community. I can understand that. I have supported Brisbane Roar since game 1, but I live 2 hours away. If an A League team appeared representing my local community, the Roar would forever stay my heart as my second team, but my allegiance would stay with my community first.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:23am
          Dave said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:23am | ! Report

          True Realfootball, that feeling of representation would have to be a huge part of it. And just re-reading my own comment I have to admit I don’t actually know how many people actually changed from SFC to WSW as opposed to how many were brought in new to the HAL who hadn’t really been fully engaged before (eg. old NSL supporters).

          And yet….

          If the number is as big as some make out I still find it slightly hard to understand. Perhaps with the new representation of West Sydney we are seeing a shift from having a greater number of ‘football fans’ who just wanted to watch live football, to more ‘Insert team fans’ who are football fans but more importantly fans of their team. Can only be a good thing for the future of the HAL really I suppose.

          Then again that’s stating the obvious to say the WSW are a good thing for the future of the HAL. haha.

    • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:15am
      Richard said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      Great article Mike. In a way, this is quite typical of the Sydney sports fan and the reason why its so hard for teams to get a foot-hold in the Sydney market when it comes to sport. The chopping and changing of allegiance and the “follow the winning team” mentality in our kids, is in my opinion to blame for lowly crowd numbers and club memberships in all codes in this city.

      I was born in the UK and I remember when I first took an interest in football, I picked Man United as my team, however my Dad quickly corrected me and told me I was born and raised in Middlesbrough and took me to the old Ayresome Park for my first experience. I was hooked ever since then and knew even if the Boro will probably never win the Premiership in my life time, I would still follow them through thick and thin. Call it brain washing by my Dad, I don’t care cause its the generational hand-over than needs to happen for a team to really be successful in maintaining support.

      There should be no reason why every so often I see young kids wearing Melbourne Storm jerseys in this city (well unless of course they were born there). Yes I know the child welfare people on this forum will say I’m wrong but we really need our Dads to educate our sons in what it means to support a local team when they pick a team.

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:26am
        Dave said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        Fully agree with this comment Richard.

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:47am
        brisvegas said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        It’s not necessaily dads that pass on the mantle, it’s more the community itself, at least in my case.

        My father was a Sunderland fan, as was my mum and grandad. They all grew up near Wearside. I was born a stone’s throw from the Tyne and lived all my life within 6 km of St James’ Park. I grew up in a Sunderland household and emerged from my childhood a Newcastle fan. How or why, I can only guess – most likely it had to do with the kids in the street and at school, and seeing nufc news on telly and in the papers every day.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:02am
          Richard said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          Wow, must have been a difficult household on derby match days! 🙂

          I agree with you though, however its more in the blood over in the UK, where as here its not as much, especially in Sydney. I remember when I arrived here from the UK when I started in high school, all of my mates followed a different NRL team and I don’t know who to pick myself!

          Not sure how they have done it but it seems its more in the blood in Melbourne for the AFL. They are now reaping the benefits because memberships and crowd numbers are so much higher than NRL in Sydney. Thus, it can’t only be marketing, friends and a winning team, who get to influence which team you follow. Dare I say it, but sporting teams in Sydney need to become more ‘religious’.

          • March 22nd 2013 @ 3:35pm
            clipper said | March 22nd 2013 @ 3:35pm | ! Report

            Sydney very much runs along geographic and demo graphical lines – more so than most other cities in Australia, especially the southern ones. Thus, a snapshot of sports fans in Blacktown or Waterloo where league and channel 9 are king will be completely different to ones from Surry Hills or Rose Bay who will follow a range of sports and will have a higher percentage watching ABC. Although Football would have a pretty even spread over these disparate areas, and the popularity is increasing out west, which is something that Rugby and AFL struggle with.
            I do fear that the strong emotional attachment to your towns team in the UK will diminish over the years as the stranglehold of dollars stays in just a few clubs and the sense of community lessens as chav culture increases.

            • Roar Guru

              March 22nd 2013 @ 9:53pm
              Griffo said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:53pm | ! Report

              It’s interesting what you say about Sydney clipper.

              From my own experience I’d say Sydney may have changed somewhat over the past few generations.

              My father was born in Sydney and because of the area he was born and raised in it was South Sydney for league, and later when he was old enough, played for Randwick. Supporting some other team was not on.

              Even though I was born and raised in Sydney only a few short years before moving elsewhere, it was picked up from my father’s sense supporting the community you were born in that I had a soft spot for Cronulla Sharks.

              Although we later moved and settled in Newcastle, my father always was Rabbitohs first, Knights a close second. I’d lost interest in league by my teens but was always good to hear the Knights win.

              I still remember how weird it was though hearing some of my mates as kids choosing a league team solely because they were winning – you can pick roughly when they started following that sport by whether they were Eels, Manly or Bulldogs fans. Use to rip them off but really, there was no team representing where we lived at the time.

        • Roar Guru

          March 22nd 2013 @ 2:26pm
          NUFCMVFC said | March 22nd 2013 @ 2:26pm | ! Report

          My congratulations on seeing the light…

      • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:52am
        Luke said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Go the Boro!

    • March 22nd 2013 @ 9:27am
      Brian said | March 22nd 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Really looking forward to Saturday. Might put this quote on the tombstone:

      “You can change your wife, as far as I’m concerned, but you can never change your football club.”

    • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:13am
      Midfielder said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:13am | ! Report

      Off topic for this post … just some comments about yesterday … the SBS BS story… some great posts on our forum…from MrCelery & Forum Phoenix

      Ok so…

      Perform wonders with the lowest funded “smallest” club in the league… Tick. Sell off best players mid season… Tick. Engendering end of season slump… Tick. Fail to pay players and staff, Tick. Club on edge of total collapse, Tick. Media gets stuck in, PFA goes nuts, unfounded and brutal rumours abound, crows circle, and the knives come out… Tick.

      Rise from the ashes to new heights defying all odds and sticking it to the haters and doubters, TICK.


      Business as usual as a CCM supporter.

      Let’s go win the f**king toilet seat.


      • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:29am
        Realfootball said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:29am | ! Report

        Great news. The “Melbourne option” read like weird sci fi. TWG does some odd stuff sometimes. Very unreliable.

        But you still need more fans – your average flatters you; the attendances have been sliding and are now struggling to hit 7K. Does the Central Coast value its team? I would say that his doubtful right now. The team in dire trouble and the attendance v the Roar was anything but a statement of community support.

        Time to show that the fabled “community engagement” actually counts for something more than rhetoric on the Coast.

        • March 22nd 2013 @ 10:58am
          Midfielder said | March 22nd 2013 @ 10:58am | ! Report


          Could talk forever and accept what you say … but we will never beat the Beach on the coast during the day …. day matches V night matches depending on the team 2 to 4 K difference ….

          Its an issue Sunday afternoon matches for most teams brings their lowest crowds and it is by a long way the worst time for ratings…

          Not sure how they will schedule next year but the early Saturday and Sunday afternoon matches are our lowest crowds …

          • March 22nd 2013 @ 12:18pm
            Realfootball said | March 22nd 2013 @ 12:18pm | ! Report


            Living up at Byron where the beach also rules, I sympathise BUT I don’t believe that the beach offers a valid excuse, given the time slots of the games and, if anything, it reinforces the fact that you have a problem. CCM’s support is tissue paper thin in terms of commitment, and the trend as this season goes on, is relentlessly down – with a team that has led the comp for most of the season. Something is going wrong: support is falling away when it should rise, given the circumstances. The ACL crowd was, frankly, embarrassing, and the crowd for the Roar game, with the Premiership and the club’s survival on the line, was little better. As I have noted, CCM’s average attendance is misleading.

            Now that the ownership issue is resolved, the club urgently needs to convince its community to demonstrate that it is worth the investment. At the moment, objectively, I would say that is highly questionable.

            • March 22nd 2013 @ 1:39pm
              Midfielder said | March 22nd 2013 @ 1:39pm | ! Report


              Not saying you are wrong and in many ways agree … simply saying our crowds after 19:00 or 7 O’Clock PM are 2 to 4 K more …

              BTW are you going to Bluesfest … I Ieave on Wednesday …..

              • March 22nd 2013 @ 8:12pm
                Realfootball said | March 22nd 2013 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

                Great lineup this year, but no. I don’t mind football crowds – I love the theatre of football – but in other contexts I avoid large milling groups of people. Occupational hazard of writing – you spend probably more time alone than is healthy.

                Please don’t misunderstand me – I am over the moon that CCM are alive and well. Mainly I’m puzzled by the uneven support and the reasons for it. Perhaps it is just time – that it will take a generation, time for these kids to grow up, to rust the Mariners on to the local culture.

                I have great affection for the Coast. As a young surfer I spent a lot time surfing at Avoca, where a mate of mine had a place on the beach. Beautiful part of world, and if I didn’t live up here, I’d be down there with you.

            • March 24th 2013 @ 1:37pm
              Football Nation said | March 24th 2013 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

              You a have to give them time the area is still new to football… And football is the only sport at can survive up there as there population is small and a league clubs have less costs than other sports….. But if there is one thing the swans prove ,,, you have to support you expansion clubs long term… Then the pay great benefits….you,ve got to admire the Marinators….

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