A lack of parity exists between the Western Suburbs Magpies and Balmain Tigers in the joint venture.
This lack of parity exists in deed and in fact, on and off the playing field and includes the quality of games allotted to each home ground.
It exists also in the media with commentators referring to them all too often as ‘Balmain’, and extends down to merchandise, with little if any including the Magpies logo.
This Tiger-dominated situation exists despite Balmain being in voluntary administration and is something that Magpies supporters generally find extremely egregious.
This letter is in response to the polite brush-off given to an inquiry I made of the club. It is not just about Magpies supporters. It is about the future of the game in the Macarthur region and, by extension, the game generally.
It is fully understood that the clubs are ‘independent businesses subject to their own corporate governance’. It is also understood that relying on this as any sort of satisfactory response is a cop-out.
The NRL issues the licences allowing clubs to participate in the competitions it administers. The NRL also licences merchandise. But most importantly, as peak body, it has a responsibility to ensure the health and long-term viability and growth of the game.
We are all aware that Wests Ashfield intends to keep harvesting talent from the Macarthur region for its largely inner-city team through its alleged gateway program, while continuing to pay lip-service to the region in terms of time and resources.
Meanwhile, the Magpie logo is slowly being stripped away, extending now to the juniors.
The Wests Tigers, at least under the current board, will never be a team of and for the Macarthur region.
The region deserves better than this. It deserves a team it can truly embrace as its own.
If this is not done, the far more forward-thinking men and women of the AFL and A-League will step in and the region will become a rugby league backwater.
If the NRL supports the Wests Tigers remaining as a team, then consideration should be given to restricting that team to the Ashfield and inner-city areas and actively seeking an individual or group willing to financially support a new franchise for the Macarthur Region, to be known as the Macarthur Magpies. This should be done in time or season 2022 – the year earmarked for possible expansion.
The tone and language of the response I received from the club is not one responsive to a fan.
It is one keen only on pushing the idea that the NRL and the teams within it, are corporations and that ‘the brand’ is everything from a sales point of view. The fan who made the inquiry is totally left out of the reply and the equation – except as a source of revenue – if only he would get on board with the program.
At least the NRL is not even attempting to hide the fact the game no longer belongs to the average punter.
But I challenge the NRL to prove this wrong.
I challenge the NRL to commission a poll in the Macarthur region asking the simple question: “Would you prefer to have the Wests Tigers inner-city team play here three times a year or have a team based here and known as the Macarthur Magpies?”