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David Campbell, the Minister for the Illawarra, has unreasonably called for WIN Stadium to maintain at least seven Dragons? home games from 2006 onwards.
Campbell?s comments are contained in today?s edition of the Illawarra Mercury and his remarks could be described as insular, selfish, misinformed and not in the best interests of the longevity of the Dragons? joint venture.
Campbell has conveniently forgotten that St.George based supporters were forced to make a major sacrifice to ensure the construction of the northern grandstand at WIN Stadium.
However, instead of appreciating that sacrifice, he wants the same sacrifice to be made again so that WIN might have a better chance of securing Government funding for a new western grandstand.
?The Dragons must retain seven as their absolute minimum of home games in Wollongong. Many people, including a number of players, would like them to play more than seven,? he said.
He also stated, ?I can?t see that anyone will commit to new projects while the Dragons have not given a commitment to playing a significant number of matches here in Wollongong.?
It is unreasonable to suggest that the future of Oki Jubilee Stadium should be compromised and that the original terms of the joint venture should be abandoned in order for Wollongong to upgrade their grandstand.
The Illawarra Mercury reported last week that the western stand had just undergone a $500,000 facelift including a new roof and additional safety refinements. This fact highlights that there is no pressing need for the western stand to be demolished and replaced.
Wollongong Trust chairman Bill Barnetson has recently stated that the NRL regard the corporate facilities at WIN as the best in the competition. Barnetson?s comments confirm that there is no necessity for the western grandstand to be replaced and certainly not at the expense of Oki Jubilee Stadium gaining 50% of St.George-Illawarra home games.
Campbell also made the erroneous claim that the previous State Government funding was provided to WIN on the basis that the Dragons were going to play at WIN in the long-term.
?That money was given on the basis the Dragons were going to be there. The community has an expectation and the sportsground an expectation that the Dragons will continue to play a significant number of games.?
Campbell?s assertion is incorrect as the current lease that guarantees seven fixtures at WIN concludes at the end of this season. There was no agreement that the Government funding was granted on the Dragons playing a perennial minimum of seven games.
If a decision was made to grant WIN a minimum of seven games going forward, it would be illogical, irresponsible and would undermine both the future of the Dragons? joint venture and rugby league in the greater St.George District.
Granting WIN a minimum of seven home games could mean that Oki Jubilee Stadium could be left with as little as three home games per year.
It is expected that the Dragons will continue to participate in the ANZAC Day game at Aussie Home Loans Stadium and there are strong suggestions that the NRL will reduce the number of home games going forward.