The benefit of a local ground?

  • by Seano
  • August 31 2004 12:00AM

This weekend marks the return of Rugby League to the Moreton Bay Fig trees at old North Sydney Oval, and while expansion has been the talk of the town in recent weeks, it seems that all that is old is new again. Many teams have returned in recent years to their ancestral homes, however questions have invariably arisen not about only the quality of the stadiums, but also the safety and numbers of patrons that can be catered for.

Given the current opinions on small suburban grounds, it is quite surprising to hear the plans of South Sydney ?Patriarch? George Piggins. George has professed to have the answers for a return to Redfern Oval for the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Now anyone who has been to Redfern Oval recently will realise that not only is the ground is a terrible state, but also that the problems are far more endemic than the state of the playing surface and grandstands.

Having an extremely simplistic look, George?s plans seem nice and workable, however delving deeper into the situation it is plainly obviously to most people that it is utterly unworkable, and inherently negative.

To those who are unaware, George?s plan for Redfern Oval includes:

? Selling off the South Sydney Leagues club for a reported $14 million dollars. It was not divulged who would pay this ridiculously high amount for a league club that operates at a loss each year. ? Re-Developing Redfern Oval to include a 14,000 capacity ground along with corporate facilities and an underground car park. ? Build a place where kids of the community can come together and stay off the streets.

It is my personal opinion, that if South Sydney were ever to leave Aussie Stadium, then it would have to be to a stadium that can at least accommodate 20,000 people. It is extremely short sighted to develop a stadium that will only accommodate 14,000 people simply because South Sydney are not travelling well at the moment. Surely George Piggins and his advisors are not assuming that South Sydney will only ever be able to attract a measly 14,000 people to game?

The next aspect of this argument would be finals football. One of the biggest advantages that South Sydney had while playing out of Redfern Oval was the fanatical support of the South Sydney faithful. During the glory days for South Sydney the Rabbitohs attracted many more people than the maximum 14,000 ? however this discussion about finals football could be nothing more than academic after reading that the National Rugby League has questioned St George Illawarra?s right to play NRL finals games at OKI Jubilee Stadium. Surely Redfern Oval would also come under this close scrutiny. Therefore, it would seem logical that if it impossible to upgrade the ground properly, then why bother at all?

The final nail in the Redfern Oval coffin is, in my opinion, attempting to get support of the local community. To anyone outside of South Sydney this may seem to be a very strange statement. However, the demographics of the Redfern area have changed dramatically over the last 30-40 years, gone are the young salt of the earth families that made South Sydney great. In their place the area has gained low-income families on welfare, and also many people who have moved in simply for its proximity to the city ? and have no interest in South Sydney or Rugby League in general.

It is now Tuesday night - two days after the return to North Sydney Oval, which attracted just fewer than 15,000 fans who witnessed a fairly lacklustre game of football. Although it was mentioned in the media as a success, both financially for South Sydney and also for the people of North Sydney, the feeling among Rabbitohs fans is one of reluctance.

Given the relative success of the traditional grounds mentioned above, one could be forgiven for assuming the same success could be achieved in Redfern. However, the main difference is that these grounds required fairly minimal works while Redfern Oval would require substantial upgrades to be even borderline. It is for this main reason that the return to Redfern Oval should be forgotten entirely, or conversely it should be delayed until a suitable financial backer can be found, and a more suitable stadium plan is developed.

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