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The Roar


'It’s pointless us playing here': Richo's grave warning on Leichhardt as Tigers take aim at 'gold urinals' Panthers

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25th March, 2024
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Shane Richardson and Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne have made an emotional plea to the NSW Government to fund renovations of Leichhardt Oval, with the new Wests Tigers CEO insisting that the club may not play at the historic stadium if ground improvements were not forthcoming.

While Leichhardt has long been imperilled, this is the first time that the Tigers and the local council have been on the same page with the media, presenting a united front in an attempt to convince NSW Premier Chris Minns to give the club’s spiritual home a fraction of what they are currently giving Penrith to build an entirely new stadium.

“I don’t see how we can,” said Richo when asked if the Eighth Wonder could continue to host NRL games beyond this year.

“Leichhardt has lost the double headers in the NRLW because there’s no facilities to change here. If we don’t get the sort of corporate facilities and membership facilities that we require, it’s pointless us playing here.

“I’ve grown up with this, the Panasonic Cup and all that, and if it becomes that ground where the money is spent for upgrading for the historical value, I get that. That doesn’t help us, though.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about if it’s a historical ground, it’s about if you can play quality NRL fixtures here. To be brutally honest, you can’t.

“We have to make decisions fairly quickly about what we plan to do going forward with the new independent board. Those decisions might be harsh but they’re not based on us not wanting to play here, they’re based on we can’t play here.”


Byrne took aim at the Panthers’ stadium reno, which is set to cost $309m, far less than what it would cost to improve Leichhardt for both the Tigers and the plethora of other events that take place there across the year.

“For 10% of the funding that’s been given to Penrith, we can secure the future of Leichhardt Oval for the next 50 years,” he said.

“Leichhardt hasn’t received any funding from the state government since Benji Marshall was in nappies.

“We are the only suburban ground alongside Campbelltown that is yet to receive any funding at all from the NSW Government.

“There’s no good reason that Penrith Stadium should have gold-plated urinals while famous Leichhardt Oval is forced to close through demolition by neglect.

“We fought for a decade to have Wests Tigers play five games a year here and this year, they made that decision.


“The Government’s that in the past as an excuse, to say that the Tigers aren’t playing enough here. We hosted 83 sporting events here (per year) from all different codes, men’s and women’s, five Tigers games. How much content do we have to have before we get our fair share of funding?

“Why is Penrith, that only hosts 11 games a year of men’s rugby league, getting so much funding when we get nothing at all?

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: The Tigers celebrate a try by Alex Seyfarth of the Tigers during the round three NRL match between Wests Tigers and Cronulla Sharks at Leichhardt Oval, on March 23, 2024, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

The Tigers celebrate a try by Alex Seyfarth. (Photo by Jeremy Ng/Getty Images)

“What we have said is what Shane’s said: if we don’t get funding to make amenities safe and decent, the ground won’t be safe.”

The Tigers pulled off a stirring victory over the Sharks on Saturday night at Leichhardt, but Richardson insisted that great nights such as that shouldn’t cloud the decision making on where the club goes in the future.

“It’s a great rugby league ground but it’s decayed,” he said.

“I went out to the ground to watch the lower grades at the weekend and it’s better than this.


“It’s not as if we don’t want to be here, but at the end of the day, the decisions have to be made on what’s best for the club in the long term.

“It’s a profitable ground, but it’s not about profit.

“We want to encourage families, wives and kids to come here. We want to encourage better toilet facilities, correct RSA, quality corporates.

“Our team did a great job on Saturday night but you can’t control in this environment with what the ground is.

“We’ve got to do something to fix it and one of the ways is just not ot play games here. If we can’t fix that challenge with 16,000, we’re going to have a real problem fixing it long term in the future.

“16,000 should be a minimum crowd for Wests Tigers. We should be shooting for 20-22,000 and members of 30,000. Where are they going to fit?

“We want to play at these grounds, I love the tradition and the history, but if they’re not going to be supported then we have to make a decision on where we play.”


He added that the Panthers were getting state investment thanks to their political support, and that all the Tigers wanted was equal treatment.

“(Penrith) will be as happy as a pig in muck because they’ve already got their kick, haven’t they?” said Richo.

“The Liberal Party member out there got it all for them, and good luck to them.

PENRITH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 02: Penrith Panthers team celebrates after winning the minor premiership during the round 27 NRL match between Penrith Panthers and North Queensland Cowboys at BlueBet Stadium on September 02, 2023 in Penrith, Australia. (Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

(Photo by Izhar Khan/Getty Images)

“It’s great for them, I was CEO at Penrith so I know all about it, it’s great for them. But having said that, it’s not a bad stadium as it is. $300m? I’m looking forward to the gold taps.

“They’re going to have a facility that’s going to improve their corporate and membership, and all we’re asking for is the same.”

Byrne was also quick to mention the ongoing issues that were required merely to host community events, let alone the five games of NRL that the Wests Tigers bring, as evidenced by the wall collapse in a schools rugby union game that left several people in hospital.


“What we have said is what Shane’s said: if we don’t get funding to make amenities safe and decent, the ground won’t be safe,” said the mayor.

“We saw that two years ago with the collapse – two people broke limbs and we were lucky nobody was killed. Obviously, Leichhardt Oval will not be able to host professional and international sport with huge crowds if the facilities are going to result in someone being injured.

“These dressing sheds can only be described as archaic. This is a fantastic gorund that is loved by people around Australia, but the simple fact is that if we don’t get funding to make the facilities decent and safe, it’s not going to be able to host professional sporting events into the future.

“On Saturday night we saw just how good the atmosphere at Leichhardt Oval can be, and there’s 16,000 people who can testify that this is still the best suburban ground in Australia.

“On the next night, Sydney FC’s women’s team played here and the atmosphere was just as good. This is the spiritual home of the Wests Tigers, but it has also become a hub for women’s sport.

“Today, we are calling on the NSW Government to redistribute just a fraction of that $309m that they’ve handed to Penrith Stadium to make sure that Leichhardt Oval can be saved.

“There’s no good reason that Penrith Stadium should have gold-plated urinals while famous Leichhardt Oval is forced to close through demolition by neglect.”