COMMENT By Steve Ricketts, former chief rugby league writer, The Courier-Mail.
GIVE IPSWICH A GO
THE Broncos stand-alone-status in Brisbane is the stuff of envy elsewhere in the NRL, given the club’s impressive membership numbers, financial success and media domination in south east Queensland.
So, yet again, there is talk of another club being set-up in the region, with Australian Rugby League Commission chairman, Peter Beattie signalling that expansion was a priority, while at the same time wishing to consolidate the position of the 16 clubs currently playing in the NRL.
If it is to happen, I believe a club should be based in the Ipswich region, and a boutique stadium built to accommodate the new venture, with the really big games being played at Suncorp Stadium. Ipswich is rugby league heartland, is growing quickly and is next door to the Lockyer Valley, with Toowoomba and its international airport barely an hour away.
My second choice would be Redcliffe. They already have a boutique stadium, and, just like an Ipswich franchise, they could play their marquee games at Suncorp.
Before Cronulla won their maiden premiership, I was of the firm view the Sharks had to go, given they have St George Illawarra and South Sydney as neighbors, and Cronulla started as a St George junior club.
Now that they have a title, they will have attracted fans from around the country.
I can see the reasoning behind ensuring the long term viability of the nine clubs in the Greater Sydney metropolitan area, given it is Australia’s largest population centre.
But the demographics of Sydney are changing so quickly, and it will be a challenge to fill stadiums.
The T20 cricket match from the Sydney Cricket Ground on November 25 drew a 35,000 plus crowd, with most appearing to be people of Indian heritage, which illustrates the point I made about changing demographics.
I don’t think many of those cricket fans would get along to the NRL, not at this stage anyway. When I was growing up at Murwillumbah, in the Tweed Valley, there were two families I knew of Indian heritage – the Sarranahs and the Singhs – and the boys played rugby league and hockey.
When our youngest son, Lliam played rugby league for Norths St Josephs at Virginia in Brisbane, there were two brothers of Indian heritage in the side, and they were keen Cronulla fans, with Mat Rogers their hero.
Peter Beattie is keen to attract a new ethnic mix to rugby league, and it is something that should not be put in the too hard basket.
- The Gold Coast Titans are to be applauded for sending their players to work, to get a taste of the real world. I remember at training in the bush seeing blokes turn up, blackened from cutting burnt sugar cane; covered in grease from mechanical repair work or covered in stains associated with working in banana plantations. In Brisbane, State forward, Des Morris (a product of Ipswich Rugby League), would work all day delivering beer kegs, before reporting for training at Easts. And Ipswich prop, Dud Beattie famously worked a morning shift down a coal mine, and then played a Test for Australia in the afternoon. Titans’ chairman, Dennis Watt has praised the Titans ‘community work’ (not to be confused with work experience) as the best in the NRL. That claim has been supported by several school principals, who have had dealings with the Titans and Broncos.
- John ‘Knuckles’ Connolly’s name has been thrown up again, to coach the Wallabies, after their disastrous northern hemisphere tour left the incumbent, Michael Cheika in grave danger of losing his post. If ‘Knuckles’ was to be appointed, perhaps he could bring along his great punting mate, The Courier-Mail’s Mark Oberhardt, as an advisor. After all, Cheika has had former Channel 7 and Gold Coast Bulletin (rugby league) reporter, Pat Molihan by his side. Oberhardt played first grade rugby for GPS, and knows the game backwards. He and Connolly played rugby league for Queensland Journalists against New South Wales, at different stages, Connolly getting a run because he was a barman at the Journalists Club at Bowen Hills in Brisbane. We were allowed one or two ring-ins. Wallabies Paul McLean and Tony D’Arcy also worked at the Journos Club, but we didn’t call on them. I think there might have been a few protests from the Blues if we had picked McLean, by the way, played rugby league until he was 17 – in Ipswich – only taking up union when he completed his schooling at Brisbane’s Nudgee College.
Photo: Des Morris