For those who haven’t yet read Ms. Wilson’s ‘article’ yet, the basic premise was that The Sharks were undeserving of their position in the NRL and should be kicked out or relocated. She sighted the fact the club was in crisis, along with ‘terrible crowd figures’ and a fan base that simply doesn’t care.
17,000 + turned up to see the embattled Sharks take on the Titans in their opening game of the 2013 season. Just to repeat that figure was 17,000. The Titans, being an interstate team are not known to draw huge crowds in Sydney so it’s safe to say at LEAST 15,000 of those fans were there to support the Sharks.
South Sydney, the Pride Of The League, have 23,000 members. 14,000 people were at ANZ Stadium to welcome them onto the park in their first home game of the season against, you guessed it, The Sharks. It would be a fair and educated guess to estimate 2,000 Sharks fans would have made the short trip to ANZ Stadium to support their side. If a crowd of 17,000 on the first 6:30 kick off on a Sunday night, a school night, against an interstate team isn’t good enough then how bad must The Pride of The League look attracting only 14,000 against a local team in an established 7pm Monday night kick off time slot?
The Western derby between The Tigers and the Panthers, too teams with successful pasts and a great rivalry, attracted less than 10,000 fans to Campbelltown Stadium. 2011 premiers Manly attracted far less than 15,000 to their Sunday Night game against a team much closer to their home base than the Titans to the Sharks.
The Bulldogs first home game, albeit one that was surprisingly taken to the Central Coast against Premiership contenders The Cowboys couldn’t top the Sharks home crowd, neither could World Champion’s Melbourne’s first home game. Keeping in mind that the Sharks are a team whose existence cannot be guaranteed, without a premiership in their history, and with a makeshift coach … 17,500 fans. South Sydney, amongst the premiership favourites, 23,000 members … 14,000 fans.
Forgetting the week one crowd figures for a moment we must address the club’s future if relocated. Perth, Central Coast and Brisbane bids have already rejected the idea of the Sharks being relocated. It has been made very clear that these regions want their own team to support; they do not want to support a relocated club. In short, they want a team, not a franchise.
Let’s say for a second the Sharks are forced to relocate. There will be those diehard fans who will continue to support their side; however it’s probably safe to say that most fans would be so disheartened by what had happened that they wouldn’t continue to support the Sharks. The majority would likely take to another sport (i.e. AFL, Rugby or Football) rather than support another NRL side. Those fans would be lost to the game, and the Sharks would surely struggle to gain a huge fan base in a region that has already made it very clear they do not want a relocated side representing them.
Relocation would do neither The Sharks nor the NRL any good. Geographically the Cronulla side makes sense. The Sutherland Shire is an area that could be bordered off with ease, as you have to cross a Bridge to enter and exit. Without the Sharks there would be no local side for those between Kogarah and the Illawarra areas to support.
South Sydney as a club does not make more sense than the Sharks. Their ‘area’ overlaps with The Dragons, The Tigers, and The Roosters etc. One could argue that Cronulla is South Sydney, not Redfern, where the Bunnies fan base is centred. The West Tigers are also another club that make less sense geographically. The inner city area is Roosters territory and the western suburbs are Penrith’s target area. This is not to knock on these clubs but instead a simple observation.
Ms Wilson also mentioned the lack of success felt by the club. It is worth noting that The Sharks have the same amount of premierships as The Cowboys, The Warriors and Titans, all teams that escaped the wrath of Wilson’s comments. St-George Illawarra has a single premiership to their name yet they were not mentioned. Although these afore mentioned clubs have not been in existence for as long as the Sharks, one could argue that gives the Sharks have a much deeper culture.
The Sharks have the same amount of Wooden Spoons as the Melbourne Storm, yet Ms Wilson did not ask for the Storm to get kicked out. The Storm were proven to be systematically cheating the salary cap for a number of years, and whilst the Sharks are facing the darkest days in their existence, the Storm came through it with shining colours, who’s to say The Sharks won’t achieve the same success?
If it were up to Ms Wilson, they would not be allowed to take that journey, certainly not in their home of the Shire. Relocating The Sharks is not good for the club, the fans or the NRL. Rebecca Wilson writes first and foremost to sell papers, and it must be noted that she has made NO secret of disdain for the Sharks after the Matthew Johns saga of a few years ago. I take her opinion here with a grain of salt although it has fired Sharks fans up. Maybe that was her aim, or maybe she needs someone to hate on. Either way, she was wrong in saying that The Sharks MUST be relocate to survive.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com
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