Could the Wests Tigers become the Magpies thanks to the Balmain Leagues Club’s woes? (AAP: Brendan Esposito)
The Balmain Tigers played in rugby league’s first premiership match at Birchgrove Oval on April 20, 1908. Fast forward 110 years, and one of rugby league’s foundation clubs could be about to take its last breath.
- Balmain and Western Suburbs joined forces in 1999 to become the Wests Tigers NRL club
- Balmain Leagues Club owns 25 per cent of the joint venture, but has gone into voluntary administration
- Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne has proposed major shareholder Wests Ashfield takes over the club
The Balmain Leagues Club, which owns 25 per cent of the Wests Tigers joint venture, last week entered into voluntary administration, and there are now calls for the other joint venture partner, Wests Ashfield, to take over.
The Leagues Club is also the Balmain Rugby League Football Club’s main financier, and with vital funding drying up, it could ultimately kill off the century-old icon.
For more than a decade, Balmain Leagues Club’s flagship venue at Rozelle has sat dormant and increasingly overgrown, as a slew of developers tried and ultimately failed to get applications through the Inner West Council.
As part of a Land and Environment Court ruling, there is now a requirement for a Tigers Leagues Club to be located in any new development on the Victoria Road site.
Given the club is now broke, Mayor of the Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne tabled a Mayoral Minute in Council on Tuesday night, calling on Wests Ashfield to take over.
“I’m proposing that we write to the shareholders of the Wests Tigers, which are Wests Ashfield and the Balmain Leagues Club,” Cr Byrne told council.
“That we write to the administrator of the Balmain Leagues Club seeking clarification about the state of the club’s assets, the likelihood of the board being reformed, and the potential for Wests Tigers shareholders to take up ownership or management of a Tigers Leagues Club within any approved development.
“The only shareholder of Wests Tigers which has any decision-making agency, if you like, is Wests Ashfield,” Cr Byrne said.
For Orange and Black-clad Tigers fans, the result of Wests Ashfield taking total control could be unthinkable.
The Northern Eagles saw rivals Manly and North Sydney combine — but the joint venture only lasted three seasons. (AAP / Action Photographics: Daniel Berehulak)
In 1999, the same year that Balmain and Western Suburbs joined forces, another merger was taking place on the north side of the harbour.
Sworn enemies North Sydney and Manly Warringah jumped into bed and became the Northern Eagles. But just two years later, the marriage broke down, and Manly took off with the house and kids. North Sydney was left with nothing at the elite level, as the Sea Eagles moved on alone, to two more premierships.
While it is too early to say for sure, if, as expected, the powerful Wests Ashfield club comes in and bails out its joint-venture partner, it could be goodbye Tigers, and hello Magpies.
There’s no secret that South West Sydney is a huge growth area, and moving the NRL club out of the suburbs to Campbelltown wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility. Manly had no hesitation in cutting the Red and Black and returning to the Maroon and White.
Council has also previously supported a charitable foundation to support the rugby league operations in the community, and will write to the ARL Commission and the New South Wales Rugby League in an attempt to garner support for a charity to continue supporting the sport in the area.