Steelers cautious about the

THE Illawarra Steelers are looking to the future with cautious optimism after posting mixed results on their 2004 balance sheet. While the Steelers Club posted an encouraging profit of more than $498,000, the company overall, which is also responsible for football and other operations, returned a $648,400 loss.

Steelers chairman Peter Newell at this week's annual general meeting reported the club spent $780,000 on their contributions to the St George Illawarra Dragons joint venture, the Steelers junior representative teams and the Illawarra senior and junior competitions. The Steelers' debt to National Rugby League partners St George still hovers around the $8 million mark and Newell said the club was hopeful of making inroads into that total in the near future. Newell, who is also the chairman of ClubsNSW, reiterated his disgust with the State Government's controversial poker machine tax hike which has cast a pall of gloom over the Steelers' hopes of increasing their revenue.

"The leagues club arm of it (the Steelers) went reasonably well and our net loss was a hell of a lot better than last year but it's still not acceptable," he said.

"I still hope the Government sees sense in this or there's going to be bodies on the floor everywhere."

Newell and fellow incumbents John Thirlwell and Graeme Gulloch were returned to the Steelers board at the AGM ahead of Wollongong waste collection businessman Arthur Baker. Former chairman Brian Kurtz was awarded life membership. Meantime, former Dragons five-eighth Steven Price, who coached St George's Jersey Flegg side last season, has been appointed St George Illawarra's coach for that division in 2005.

Courtesy Illawarra Mercury