June 16, 2024

The most important report on a club in the NRL era ignored the most important factor in its future and the growth of the code in Sydney.

The independent report released last month on the perennial failure of Wests Tigers included over 50 recommendations for change, yet only one related to the club’s failure to capitalise on potentially the richest vein of talent in the game.

The chief executive resigned, the entire board, including the chair, and other important employees were let go as a result of the study, but the necessity of nurturing talent in the region it served—the southwest of Sydney—was mentioned in just one sentence.

NRL news, 2021: Wests Tigers must relocate to Campbelltown, Paul Gallen and  Phil Gould say

The West Tigers’ territory spans from Liverpool to Mittagong, encompassing the expansive Macarthur zone and the former Country NSW Group 6. Despite this, the report authored by former NRL CFO Tony Crawford and businessman Gary Barnier suggested less than twenty words for future investment in this expansive area.

Crawford said, “It wasn’t our brief,” but he understood the irony of his transformative report on the club’s current while omitting the essential component of its future.

Indeed. The Holman-Barnes group claims that their brief to Crawford-Barnier was about governance. The Holman-Barnes group is essentially the board of Wests Ashfield Leagues Club, the owners of the NRL licence and commissioners of the report.

Crawford does, however, acknowledge that a common topic across the numerous stakeholder interviews was the club’s inability to control the southwest part of the city.

“West Tigers have never stamped their foot down on their footprint,” someone remarked.

After years of scouting the area for talent on behalf of the Roosters and Sea Eagles, the Bulldogs, an enclosed district with an unrestricted budget, have come in and are now giving contracts to school-age players.

The way NRL clubs secure schoolchildren has an air of callous practicality.

Private health insurance is unaffordable for many families in the south west, especially the Polynesian community in the Macarthur region, which runs from Liverpool to Campbelltown.

Therefore, a $5,000 contract would cover $2,500 for private health insurance and an additional $2,500 for the player and his family for a promising 15-year-old.

The Wests Tigers development budget includes a sizeable amount for medical insurance, which is essential in a family budget that is tight for funds and required in a sport that is prone to serious injuries.

The Wests Tigers’ catchment is a postcode that is overpopulated by the impoverished and overvalued by the rich as a means of fostering character.

However, cash by itself won’t secure the area. If you drive past Campbelltown, you’ll notice that more cars have stickers of the Rabbitohs, Panthers, or Bulldogs on the back window than Wests Tigers ones.

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