The population and demographics of western Sydney have evolved significantly in this century but the development and nurturing of rugby union talent hasn’t appropriately responded to capitalise on this prospect.
Despite being a rich heartland of ex-New Zealand and Polynesian talent, the stranglehold of rugby league has lured passionate rugby union-loving families towards it, in lieu of a bereft rugby union landscape in the region.
Big, ball-running speed machines and athletes that have idolised their fathers and grandfathers in the rugby union format have been left to pursue rugby league, the dominant and flourishing game in the region, despite harbouring deep-seated roots and desire for the 15-man game.
The folly and finger-pointing of this sorry state is disappointing and should be acknowledged but resolved in a reshaped, forward-thinking perspective.
The continuous debate of who is responsible is an argument made ad nauseam and is akin to the longstanding division of powers in Australian politics.
Rugby union more broadly is going through a renewal process that was sorely needed and now is more appropriate than ever to undergo a phase of reform.
The announcement of the reinstatement of the Penrith Emus to the Shute Shield is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise bleak social and economic circumstance.
This is a critical moment in time for the players – past, present and future – to rise up and demand representation and support to make rugby union flourish in western Sydney.
Every young player who has passion and desire should become involved and see this immense opportunity as a pathway to future success.
The appointment of John Muggleton as head coach is of great significance. He is a man with a deep understanding of the challenges of the region and insightful optimism about the size, scale and scope of the opportunity.
Any player that wants to challenge their ability against the best in Sydney should not hold back on their fight for first-grade representation to prove it.
We are in uncertain times and the brave will succeed.