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In September 2018 Andrew Johns and Brad Fittler both came out and said there are too many Sydney teams, and they are right.
Like anyone criticising something they also came up with a solution. Fittler’s idea of a team from the Harbour Bridge to the Central Coast makes great sense, but Manly and Norths have tried working together before, and it didn’t work then, and is unlikely to work now.
Andrew Johns’ idea was good. Lift the salary cap to a figure that would put a strain on clubs, the strong would survive and the weak would die. Survival of the fittest.
Let’s however look at clubs that can shift out of Sydney.
The Sydney Roosters are going nowhere. Whilst Nick Politics is looking after the club they will remain strong. They’ve made seven grand finals since 2000 and won three. They know what they are doing.
Similarly while Russell Crowe is around, Souths must stay. Like Easts they were here at the start and should be here at the end, whenever that is.
Parramatta have a big junior base, a brand new ground and a big supporter base. Safe. Penrith is a similar story but just a bit further out west. Safe as a bank.
The Sutherland shire need a team and even though we’ve been to the moon five more times than they’ve done laps of honours, rugby league needs them. And what else do shire people do besides surfing and complaining? They also need rugby league.
Canterbury are fine. They’ve been strong for a long time and even though the last few years have been badly managed out at Belmore, they will get through it, though that bit isn’t exactly around the corner.
That leaves us with the two logical choices, the Wests Tigers and the St.George Illawarra Dragons.
The Dragons have the whole of the south coast at their mercy. Rugby league heartland. These people deserve better, not just a club that comes down to Wollongong six times a year.
This should be their permanent home. They are no longer needed in Sydney. Their presence in Australia’s largest city is only wanted by Dragons fans unwilling to travel to a new home.
The other team not needed in Sydney are the Wests Tigers. This year they will have three home grounds. They’ve had three home grounds for too long. A home in the inner west, Parramatta and Campbelltown just means they remain virtually homeless – and virtually soulless. Maccarthur deserve a team, and it’s time they got one.
The Wests Tigers have been a confused club for a long time. They are 75 per cent owned by Wests Ashfield and not Wests Campbelltown. Balmain went from the strong partner to the weak.
The Balmain dominance when the joint venture started has evaporated and now the Tigers don’t quite know what club they want to be or where they truly have come from. Their best option is to adopt a community, and the huge South West region of outer Sydney will embrace them if given a chance.
To reduce the amount of Sydney teams doesn’t reduce the problem of having 16 teams, where some teams play each other once, and others twice. This type of uneven competition is far from ideal, and borders on the ridiculous.
In the midst of a season, where the focus is normally on your next match, this gets lost. But each season some teams get softer runs than others, its just the way it is with competitions that are uneven, and it should not be the case. This is where Johns’ idea ultimately makes a huge amount of sense.
The movement of Sydney teams doesn’t need to be across the country to Perth. With two clubs a trip on the highway should be enough. To reward rugby league heartlands like the South Coast and the MacCathur areas, should always be on rugby league’s radar.