The Footy Almanac
The AFL season - one game at a time
Malcolm Knox in the Sydney Morning Herald interviews some NRL Footy ‘Nac-cers about the season ahead. A good plug for the Nac!
Born into rugby league, found aussie rules, dabbles with soccer and union.
Author of 'Maroon & Blue - recollections and tales of the Fitzroy Football Club' (Vulgar Press, 2006).
Not every day you have Malcolm Knox write about you writing project. A big thank you to one of Australia’s best – and one who understands from the depth of his own experience the of place of sport in people’s lives and in the culture.
Interesting to discover Malcolm’s a Manly supporter. Said to me he couldn’t help thinking Manly’s just two bad seasons away from oblivion.
While I’m not quite that pessimistic, do think Manly’s longterm future in the NRL is shakey. Which is weird when you consider how successful the club has been – 8 premierships in the last 40 years, including 2 since the failed merger with Norths.
Down to several factors:
1. major demographic changes on the Peninsula. The area is now so soaked in upper middle class wealth, meaning rugby has become far more popular there. There’s still strong support for the Sea Eagles but it’s not as embedded or strong as it was twenty, thirty, forty years ago.
2. The decrepit state of Brookie Oval. It has not had a major upgrade for more than 25 years (and all that did was fill the space between the two 1970s grandstands). Many of us love Brookie’s old, timewarp familiarity but the reality is many people don’t want to sit on soggy grass at the footy anymore. It desperately needs covered seating on the Hill!
3. The increasing push for ground rationalisation for Sydney based NRL clubs.
Might have worked for Melbourne based AFL clubs though that doesn’t mean it will translate across to Sydney RL clubs easily. Melbourne VFL / AFL clubs were / are centred on old inner suburbs while Sydney RL clubs reflect the growth of the city – as the place grew, each district got a first grade rugby league club. This has been one of the strengths of the code in Sydney.
Plonking Manly at the SFS or Penrith at Homebush doesn’t automatically mean supporters will follow the team to the new ‘home ground’. Particularly as distances, traffic congestion and narrower public transport options in Sydney affect individual decisions to go to a game regularly. The situation in Melbourne with two inner city grounds very well-serviced by trains and trams is very different.
4. The push by the NRL for more teams based in QLD, non-traditional RL states, even NZ and PNG. It’s about building on the strengths (Qld and PNG) and taking on the other codes in a highly competitive market. If that means some Sydney clubs have to fold, so be it – it’s never stopped RL administrators in the past. Just ask Newtown, Norths, Balmain, Wests or Illawarra supporters about it.
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