Leichhardt Oval. The spiritual home for the Balmain Tigers and now the Wests Tigers. Fans love to go there and players love to run onto the hallowed turf. Well, why is it in danger of fading into the history books?
Four games a year; that’s the number of games each year at the ground. However, earlier this year after coming into financial times, the Balmain side handed back the ownership of the ground when they could not afford the maintenance of the field.
This meant that the council took over the field and left Wests Tigers games at the ground up in the air. Not long ago the club announced that they would commit to their four scheduled games for this year at least.
But, where does it leave for the future?
The Wests Tigers are obviously a business. There has been full of off-field turmoil at board level for years. The in-fighting between the Wests Magpies and Tigers side has been seen since the joint-venture in 2000. The sad thing with the whole situation is that it is 15 years later. The club should be united or risk losing both Leichhardt and Campbelltown Stadium for the more financially viable ANZ Stadium.
ANZ Stadium promises the organisation $100,000 a home game. On the other hand, the club has to pay to use their other home grounds. From a financial point of view it’s a no-brainer but it takes away the atmosphere. Unless ANZ Stadium is full, it’s lifeless.
You go to Leichhardt Oval and yes the seats are falling apart; the toilets are basically a dark hole in the ground and the parking is horrendous but that is the beauty of it! What is the point of a home ground advantage if three teams all play out of the one ground?
The AFL has moved away from the suburban grounds but their membership numbers are double and as much as it pains me to say it, people from Melbourne will go to any sport they can whether it’s raining, hailing or sunshine.
Until Dave Smith and the NRL can guarantee that the teams can attract members/fans with cheaper ticket prices and cheaper food prices then the NRL will struggle to get fans through the gates.
Leichhardt is an anomaly. It is one of the best and worst fields in the competition and the fans of the Wests Tigers and myself wouldn’t have it anyway. Simply… it’s the ninth wonder of the world.