Charm, Conquer, City. Three simple words that should be printed in bold somewhere on the front page of the NRL business plan for the next 1,000 years.
Let me hit you with reality. Sydney is a league town. However, the CBD area is up for grabs. It is no longer fashionable to be a league fan in the city. It?s trendy to talk about the Wallabies or the latest efforts of the Swans. I see it every day in the city. So much casual sporting conversation revolves around those codes. If you don?t believe me, walk into the Cargo Bar on a Friday Night or mingle with the accountants at PriceWaterhouseCoopers on a Monday-Friday.
Perhaps this has always been the case amongst some small groups within Sydney. Perhaps so. But a new breed is emerging, a breed that is happy to openly say that they dislike league and quite confidently proclaim the emergence of Rugby and AFL to anyone that will listen.
This is no dream. How dare these people even think this within a 400km radius of Sydney. But the reality is that this is a challenge that beckons us all. League and Sydney go back to 1908. League was a game respected by all pre-1995. Its time to get it back, which gets me back to my original point. Three words?.
The heart strings of our grand city are torn. A decade of trauma and change has seen the harbour city become the subject of a fierce bidding war between the three major football codes in Australia.
Alas, what do we do? The grand old lady, the cornerstone of sport in Sydney, the only game to the enlightened, Rugby League, is under intense pressure. The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Australian Football League (AFL) have money to spend and have come to the realisation that Sydney is the place to be. The centre of trade in the south pacific has become quite a lucrative market. With a booming population showing no signs of slowing, rugby league has a fight on its hands.
Let me take you back. April Fools Day, 10 odd years ago. The birth of Super League. To many, the birth of the third-antichrist. To put it simply, rugby league was on the fast road to national success. The competition was in its early stages of expansion into Perth, Adelaide and Auckland. To put it even more simply, league had no competition. The Swans had all of 9,000 people attend rabbles at the SCG once a fortnight and the rugby code was still coming to terms with its recent move to professionalism. An age of professionalism that must be questioned when the game still rewards those who are fat, round, and talentless
Anyway, not to stray. The winds of change rolled in quite quickly. The competition split, the game was dragged through the highest of courts and if it were not for the heart and soul of those who love it, the game would?ve been confined to the history books long ago. In many ways, it was a means to a change. A clash of the old versus the News. A challenge from the new to dethrone the old.
All of a sudden, many clubs in the heart of Sydney were no longer guaranteed of an existence. Come the new millennium, Souths, Balmain, Wests, Manly, North Sydney and St George ceased to exist as those entities. For Souths and Manly, the cessation was thankfully brief. However, for the other clubs, they have either merged or only continue to exist in second division competitions. Many long term footy fans were disillusioned. Make no mistake, each of those clubs had, and still have massive followings.
Disillusionment led to resentment and change. As the history books will show, the AFL and ARU pounced on these opportunities and successfully marketed their products to this new audience. In reality, much of this change occurred in the city (given the location of the Swans and Waratahs). All of a sudden, it was hip to be a Swannie fan or cheers on the Tahs. Oh, the humanity I hear you say?.
Which leads me to one brief summation. Its time to charm those who were lost, conquer the threats that would dare to challenge the great game and reclaim the city as ours. We all know Sydney is a league town, let us be quick and decisive in informing these would-be challenges that they will not succeed.
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