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Did anyone feel it the other day? You know what I?m talking about. If you?re on the same wave length as me that is.
We are talking about footy at traditional grounds of course! The scenes at Leichhardt last Sunday were something special. A footballing venue that has been around for close on one hundred years. A venue that has seen the bad and the good. Further, a ground that has faced intense lobbying from certain sections within the rugby league community as of late, from those who wish to move away from it.
My first memories of Leichhardt date back to the early days of my childhood, when my grandfather would recall the glory days of the venue, just after World War II. Grandfather Moffo was a brave man who took to the dangerous terrains of Bougainville during World War II. During these years, he became good friends with the great Jack Rayner; a fearless South Sydney player that would later go on to coach some of the most talented players to ever don a jersey.
As a result of this new found friendship, Rayner would often invite Senior Moffo around to the games. And quite often, he would go to Leichhardt. Grandfather Moff always described the ground as being ?made for Rugby League?. I never quite understood the comment until I attended a game at the venue in the mid 90s. At the time, the Balmain/Leichhardt area was quietly entrenching itself in a community where beers had been replaced by lattes and a pasta was preferred to a dogs eye. To the outside observer, it was quite a culture shock. In effect, a suburb that had prided itself on blue collar workers and wharfies had been dragged and pushed into the yuppie era.
But not Leichhardt. Proud old Dawnie was in the crowd, as per usual. The Tigers were struggling, but the fans still piled in for the Sunday game. Truth be known, some of the people on that hill were probably there 50 years earlier. They did not care that the stands around them had turned into termite ridden terraces, they were on the hill and that was all that mattered. I could never understand the allure of a hill, when one could sit in comfort on a chair. How wrong I was. 10 minutes in, the Tigers were up by 6 and the hill was rocking. Crowd was chanting, the kids were absorbed and the beer was flowing. There was no need for a stadium here. This was Tigertown
Tigertown in the middle of a bustling metropolis. In several ways, the new generations took time to adapt to the sporting choices of the area. Many, entrenched in a culture of soccer, struggled to understand how a game could be played without a round ball. However, the Norton street area is well aware of the history that precedes it. The glory days of the late 1960s, when the Tigers roared again. The magic of the late 80s, when Pearce and friends led the Tigers to the finals once more
Tigertown, for all its obvious changes, has not changed much. Fans will still cram into Leichhardt oval on a good day. The place was abuzz again on Sunday
Over 19,000 crammed into the grand old lady, to see the clash of clubs that had quite frankly, seen brighter days. This was no marquee match, all in attendance knew that there would be plenty of dropped balls and squandered opportunities. Further, they also knew that the referee was to blame for all but everything. It is a league thing. In so many ways however, that is the beauty of old grounds like this. One just gets the feeling, that when they get up on the hill, they are going to be part of a gathering of people who are ?league? through and through.
To see Darren Senter do a lap of honour at the end of the game bought back memories of Junior and Sirro walking the same path during the 90s. All proud club men who got a kick out of playing in front of the Leichhardt locals. And lets be honest; the fans love to see the passionate player who appreciates the fans.
It was so much more than an average game of footy. It was a symbol of all that was great in league, and an important reminder as to what is important to the league fan in 2004.
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