Willow | Australia
Give us Kogarah and we will give you an army!
In the land of internet forums, the passionate sport fan reigns supreme. Sometimes it's a straight up heated debate, other times a diatribe develops into raw fanaticism resembling a matter of life and death. But sometimes, the heart of a true believer can be expressed in just a few words.
"Give us Kogarah and we will give you an army!" - DaSuperhero2
In round one, commentator Phil 'Gus' Gould took a swipe at the smaller-than-usual Dragon Army. The Homebush match was supposed to be a home game for St George-Illawarra Dragons. Gus seemed to have little time for a notable protest brewing amongst a number of supporters.
In 2013, the NRL announced its 'Right Game, Right Venue' strategy. Four games would be taken away from Kogarah's Jubilee Oval and Wollongong's WIN Stadium for four years. One-third of 'home' games would be played at the SFS, the SCG and Homebush.
The reasoning was somewhat opaque. They said this would increase crowds and gate takings... this in exchange for home ground advantage. The top drawcard matches were immediately scheduled for these neutral venues, Kogarah in particular was left with the dregs.
In round one, Dragons vs Wests Tigers played to mostly empty seats in the 80,000 capacity stadium. The match was promoted with free tickets to bolster numbers, but it was not enough to fulfill the dreams of the promoters and broadcasters. Reportedly, 19,860 turned up... not too bad. But not a good look for TV, sparking Gould's criticism. While 19,000+ fans at Kogarah would have provided a tremendous atmosphere, there were those with vested interests who felt the fans (aka consumers) had let the game (aka promoters) down.
Of course, the Dragon Army has history. Born out of St George and culminating into a radical force to be reckoned with in the 1990s, the Dragon Army had a reputation of snapping at the heels of club officials.
In his book, Saints: The Legend Lives On
(published 2001), Ian Heads writes, "[The Dragon Army] represented the club's cutting edge - and were a sometimes prickly pressure group whose relationship with Saints administrators tended to ebb and flow."
While the modern Dragon Army may have mislaid some of that edge, there are those still willing to take up the cause when front office starts making decisions fans don't agree with.
Enter R2K (Return to Kogarah). R2K's prime objective is to see games being played at Kogarah Jubilee Oval. Saints' home ground since 1950, Kogarah was abandoned by order of the newly-formed NRL in 1999. R2K were instrumental in getting the Dragons back to Kogarah in 2002. That should have been the end of the matter, but recent events have seen the re-emergence of R2K.
While the issue has been simmering away for some time, matters probably came to a head in round five when Saints apparently played a 'home game' at the SCG. Their opponents, Souths, were treated to pre-game celebrations of past and present Rabbitoh greats. Plus, South Sydney members were allowed free entry, much to the delight of their crowd. And if that wasn't enough, the ground announcer continually rallied fans to get behind the Rabbitohs. With home ground advantage all but extinguished, Saints supporters would have been excused for leaving the SCG in a state of bewilderment, and anger.
Other supporter groups are also getting the rough end of the proverbial pineapple. Despite the 'strategy', crowd numbers are down. This is largely due to a lack of consistency in home ground allocation.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph
, Channel Nine's David Gyngell (Gould's boss) noted the crowd figure of 6,456 at a recent Tigers v Cowboys match.
The Wests Tigers are at Campbelltown, ANZ, Leichhardt Oval. St George are at Homebush, Wollongong and Kogarah. How would you know if you are a punter where your team is playing? Gyngell said.
"Families going to the football like consistency.
R2K founder Lachlan McLean wants to remind the club of its obligations to the spiritual home of St George.
"We want to highlight to the club that the fans want to be at Kogarah." McLean said.
"They want better quality games, including the local derby."
The traditional St George vs Cronulla clash hasn't been played at Kogarah Jubilee since 2011, a point that hasn't been lost on Saints or Sharks supporters.
Indeed, when arch rivals start to agree with each other, it's time for the game's officials to take notice.
Words | 750
Ref | Petition: http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/a-better-deal-for-kogarah.html
Ref | http://leagueunlimited.com/news/give-us-kogarah-and-we-will-give-you-an-army/
Ref | http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/showthread.php?t=433754
Ref | Ian Heads
Ref | DaSuperhero2
Ref | News Ltd