Daniel Nichols – The Charity Shield Is Off To The ‘Gong’

For the first time in it’s history, the NRL’s most illustrious trial game, the Charity Shield will be heading south to Win Stadium in Wollongong.

The reason it is not being played at ANZ Stadium or Allianz Stadium, as it has been in the past, is due to an Eminem concert at ANZ Stadium, and the World Club Challenge being played at Allianz Stadium.

When I heard the announcement that a game that has actually captured the attention of fans outside of the Bunnies and Dragons in recent years would be taken to Win Stadium, my reaction was … ‘umm, what?’

I understand the move, the Eminem gig is going to pull tens and tens of thousands more than the Charity Shield’s expected 15 to 20,000 people, it’s simple business. The World Club Challenge is fighting for credibility and needs to be the main act on the day, and the Roosters have earned home advance, but Win Stadium?

For anyone who hasn’t been to Win Stadium, it’s a boutique stadium with 2 bars and 2 demountable toilet blocks, that wrap around a shoddy pitch. Recently it underwent an upgrade, or so we are told.

Don’t get me wrong, there are far worse facilities in the land, but a game of this supposed ‘magnitude’ should be shown more respect. I understand the move, it’s too encourage Dragons fans to make the short trip from their ‘base’ in the Gong. Typically South Sydney fans HEAVILY outnumber Dragon’s fans at the fixture, so we may see an evening up of fan numbers to to speak.

I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t play the game on a Friday night before the World Club Challenge and hold it at Allianz. Yes, the 9’s tournament will take place a week before, however what’s 24 hours? The game will now be played earlier in the day and will act as a curtain raiser for the World Club Challenge so to speak.

NRL starved fans will lap it up, but there’s a good chance 5 to 10 thousands fans will miss out due to Win Stadium’s limited capacity. Souths had a brilliant year last year and their membership numbers continue to grow, while the Dragons will be excited about their prospects this season on the back of a heavy recruitment drive.

I don’t want to turn this into something that questions the legitimacy of this fixture but honestly, outside of Souths and Dragons fans, how many people can tell me who won the 2013 Charity Shield without hitting up our old mate Google? What was a score? Who’s won the most Shields in the history of the pre-season event?

The decision to move the game to a substandard ground, and position it as a warm up to the World Club Challenge makes me think the NRL certainly doesn’t care. The Charity Shield, when I was growing up, was seen as the start of the NRL season. It was the first televised game of the season, and would attract NRL fans who wanted their fix.

Now the fixture will go largely unnoticed and most people will miss parts of the game as they line up for twenty minutes to use one of the two demountable toilet blocks. Oh yeah and they sell XXXX at the ground instead of you know … beer.

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