It’s the debate in rugby league that arises every season – should we move all clubs to big stadiums? In simple terms, the answer is no.
Only eight suburban grounds remain in the NRL – Brookvale Oval, Campbelltown Stadium, Shark Park, Kogarah Oval, Leichhardt Oval, Pepper Stadium, Pirtek Stadium and WIN Stadium. These grounds represent the foundation of professional rugby league in Australia, with Brookvale Oval being the home of the Sea Eagles since they entered the competition 70 years ago.
If these grounds mean so much in context of the history of Australian rugby league, it would be ridiculous to make all teams play at the proposed venues of Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium.
Don’t keep using the excuse that suburban grounds don’t bring in enough revenue – maybe if the state government put in more funding to refurbish these grounds to make them more appealing, more people would want to attend rugby league games at these places.
On a personal level, there is nothing I love more than watching football at a suburban ground, especially at the home of the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles – Fortress Brookvale. Only a five-minute drive from home, a walk across the road for some others, and a seat that is extremely close to the action. There is nothing better than watching rugby league on the hill in the afternoon sun, or even under lights, with thousands of other passionate supporters. 15,000 people packed into Brookvale Oval is has a million times better atmosphere than 15,000 sparingly spread at ANZ Stadium.
Instead of putting money into already sufficient grounds such as Allianz and ANZ Stadium, put the majority of the proposed $1.6 billion budget to upgrade venues, into the eight suburban grounds. Use the money to upgrade the availability of undercover seating, food choices and overall quality of the experience of being at the game, however still contain the history of the ground.
Suburban grounds are the heart of rugby league and have been for generations. Preserve tradition and culture in clubs and let them stay at their beloved suburban grounds. It’s more than just a venue, it’s a home.