While the tradition and history of foundation clubs, Western Suburbs and Balmain, must forever remain in the DNA of the Wests Tigers, the joint venture club is in urgent need of a knock-down rebuild.
The current incarnation has surely run its race. The crude stapling together in 1999 of two under-threat entities has been an abject failure.
They’ve played semi-final football on just three occasions across 22 winters. Beleaguered fans cling to the club’s 2005 ‘My Sharona’ moment.
However, beyond those two months of Benji Marshall brilliance, the Wests Tigers have totally lost the knack, and for over two decades they’ve been consigned to one-hit-wonder status.
The Wests-Balmain divide has never been adequately papered over and continues to fester below everything the club attempts.
Former Balmain fans blame the 90 per cent ownership of Wests Ashfield. Former Wests fans blame the full tiger-isation of the club’s identity and bemoan Wests Ashfield for not addressing the imbalance.
Meanwhile, the burgeoning league communities of Liverpool, Campbelltown and Macarthur and down to Group 6 have been largely left behind.
The major problem is that the club’s financial life force, Wests Ashfield, is just a hefty punt kick away from Leichhardt, but it’s a cut lunch and long drive away from the Magpies’ post-1987 heartland.
During a halftime address delivered to nonplussed teenagers one windy Saturday afternoon in Sefton, former Berala Bears D-grade coach Alby Einstein observed, “Boys, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result”.
The Bears had no idea what their coach was trying to say and continued on to yet another heavy defeat. However, the Wests Tigers need to listen.
They need to start again. They need to forget the emotional and financial pull of the inner west and move holus-bolus out to Sydney’s burgeoning south-west.
Wipe the slate clean and rebrand. It’s time to introduce the Macarthur Rugby League Football Club. Nickname: the Afterthought. Colours: black, white and gold (not garish orange). Home ground: Campbelltown Stadium (for all home games).
The Liverpool-Campbelltown-Macarthur region has over the years produced a hall of fame list of footy talent: James Tedesco, Brad Fittler, Jason Taylor, Tim Sheens, Jarryd Hayne, Junior Paulo, Israel Folau, Jamie Ainscough, Ryan Hoffman, John Skandalis, the Minichiello brothers… it’s so fine, the salary cap gets blown many times over.
The newly branded Macarthur Afterthought will aim to embody the passion and spirit of foundation club legends Tommy Raudonikis and Laurie Nicholls, while mixing in the unerring drive and will to win of Steven Bradbury.
The local Camden hero battled past the world to claim Olympic speed skating gold at Salt Lake City back in 2002. Bradbury was a classic afterthought who simply refused to lie down.
And like Steven Bradbury in those years leading into his famous victory, the Macarthur region has been battered, bruised and discounted for far too long.
The combined inner-city interests of the Leichhardt Oval Appreciation Society and Wests Ashfield Leagues Club has consigned the area’s footy fans and junior league nursery to that of a second-tier concern.
Macarthur RLFC shall provide a full and heartfelt focus on the region. It will aim to become a genuine community club, taking an obvious lead from the neighbouring powerhouse the Penrith Panthers.
The Afterthought also provides the club with the most uniquely existential nickname in the league. Built upon a historical ache, the Afters will feed off this wound, having risen to big time footy not through any fuss or fanfare, but via a begrudging reconsideration.
It offers up a psychological position not dissimilar to the fibro culture introduced so successfully by Roy Masters back in the firebrand days of the late 1970s.
After 22 years of drifting about Sydney like a homeless Uber driver, the newly crafted club will put down roots at Leumeah.
They will play their hearts out for the people of the south-west region and in doing so, they will inspire the next generation of Fittlers and Tedescos to want to play for their local club – the mighty Macarthur Afterthought.
Carn the Afters!