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The Olympic Sharks are set to abandon Shark Park for the 2003/2004 NSL season and have made an ambitious bid to relocate to Jubilee Oval. It is understood that the perennial nomads of the NSL competition have made a formal application to the St.George Leagues Club for the use of the venue. While a decision on the application is imminent, the appropriateness of having Olympic based at Kogarah needs to be investigated. In recent times Olympic have played at a variety of grounds such as Barton Park, Leichhardt Oval, Belmore Oval and Shark Park. While playing out of Kogarah may be beneficial for Olympic, there is no guarantee that Olympic is willing to commit long-term to the St.George district and contribute to the maintenance and improvement of Jubilee Oval.
After the Olympic rumours began to surface, R2K caught up with Ian Baddock from the Fraser Park Dragons. Fraser Park is a Sydenham based side that plays in the NSW Winter Super League. They represent the Sydney Portuguese community and were formerly known as the Fraser Park Jets. However, due to Baddock's influence, Fraser Park changed their emblem to a Dragon and has adopted a predominantly red and white strip. The team now plays a number of their home games at Jubilee Oval and have been well accepted by the St.George community since their transition from being the Jets.
Baddock questions the logic of Olympic relocating to Kogarah. “St.George needs a team that truly embraces the district. St.George needs a team that will look to the long term and commit to a future at OKI Jubilee Stadium,” Baddock said. “Olympic didn't represent the Sutherland community as they compromised an idea. They were meant to be the Sharks and yet couldn't let go of their old Olympic ties. It's about having a St.George team that represents St.George.”
In a further show of faith to the St.George district, Baddock confirmed that the Soccer Dragons would contribute towards the improvement of Jubilee Oval once established in the NSW Premier League. Baddock stated “We have every intention of donating a certain percentage of our gate towards funding a long-term lighting solution at Jubilee Oval.”
The Fraser Park Dragons have gained some powerful backing since their move into the St.George district. The Club patrons include Cherie Burton (Member for Kogarah) and ex-Socceroo Captain Paul Wade. According to Baddock, the Member for Kogarah “supports us as being the Club at Kogarah Oval.” St.George-Illawarra Red V members have also backed the Fraser Park Dragons at Kogarah and have enjoyed a 50% discount on general admission tickets.
Baddock believes that Olympic need to make compromises to their identity if they are to be considered as part of the St.George community. “If they embraced the community and wanted to become a true part of St.George, I would accept it. They would need to adopt the red and white colours and should seriously consider dropping the name Olympic. They should also make a 5 year commitment to Kogarah.”
While Olympic need to adopt the St.George culture if they are to succeed at Jubilee Oval, there are obviously some positives if their application to play at Kogarah is approved. Having an NSL side at Kogarah may help attract Government funding for additional improvements such as permanent lighting. The St.George district has around 6,000 junior soccer players and a Kogarah based NSL side would provide those juniors with a local side to aspire to that competes at the highest level. The St.George district has a high percentage of Greek Australians and it is likely that the locals will be able to relate to Olympic at Kogarah, as they did when Olympic were based at Barton Park. It is clear that Olympic would benefit from the move to Kogarah but it is also essential that Jubilee Oval benefits in the long-term. The Fraser Park Dragons adopted Jubilee Oval at a crucial time when the venue needed to be promoted as a multi-purpose venue to help obtain State Government funding. Perhaps Olympic should have expressed an interest 12 months ago instead of continuing on with their failed Shark Park venture.
* The Olympic Sharks were contacted by R2K for a comment on their Kogarah plans. However, no comment was forthcoming at the time of this release.