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Kogarah's OKI Jubilee Stadium will host only five out of twelve St.George-Illawarra home games in 2006 following a joint announcement between the Wollongong Sportsground Trust and the Dragons regarding a new lease agreement at WIN Stadium.
In 2006 there will be six home games at WIN Stadium, five at OKI Jubilee Stadium and one at Aussie Home Loans Stadium for the annual ANZAC Day match against the Roosters.
Although WIN Stadium's number of home games has been reduced from seven to six, the Dragons have managed to keep seven fixtures in the Illawarra by allocating a trial to Wollongong at the beginning of next season. However, the number of fixtures at WIN Stadium next year is likely to increase to eight through another home final if the current form of the Dragons continues.
While the new allocation of home games again favours WIN Stadium over OKI Jubilee Stadium, the 2006 split is more equitable for the St.George District than when the Dragons last hosted the ANZAC Day match in 2004. In that season, WIN Stadium hosted seven home matches compared to Kogarah's four.
Despite the fact that Kogarah has achieved superior crowd averages over WIN Stadium for three consecutive seasons since the Dragons returned to the venue in 2003, the success of OKI Jubilee Stadium hasn't been tangibly recognised.
Although Kogarah is more cost effective than WIN Stadium, the St.George District is again being forced to wear the sacrifice so St.George-Illawarra can host the ANZAC Day match outside its key communities.
The decision suggests that there may not have been enough reflection on the inequitable 7/5 split in Wollongong's favour from 2002 to2005 and that the decision makers could become more adept at drawing a distinction between the St.George District and the greater Sydney metropolitan area.
WIN Stadium gained an impressive northern grandstand through the 7/5 contract over four years at the expense of OKI Jubilee Stadium and St.George based supporters. It is disappointing that the Dragons were unable to conclude negotiations with a new agreement that reflected that sacrifice.
With a fixed number of matches guaranteed for WIN Stadium, there is no equitable way through which the Dragons could consider the previously mentioned `swinging blockbusters' in 2006. It would be a disgraceful outcome if any Kogarah matches are switched to venues such as Aussie Stadium and Homebush next year.
R2K has consistently called for a 50/50 split of home games and for WIN Stadium to match Kogarah's sacrifice every four years inrelation to the ANZAC Day game.
Despite the merit of the 50/50 argument, today's announcement indicates that the St.George District may never gain 50% of home games unless the fans reignite a campaign with increased vigour to protect the best interests of the St.George District and ultimately the St.George Illawarra Dragons.