Unite, Commit, Achieve? Hard to accomplish when respect is non-existent in what still is a one sided @wests_tigers Joint Venture Club #WestsTigers #UniteCommitAchieve #NRL #RugbyLeague #NRLSouthsTigers

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(2015 Slogan of Wests Tigers Photo courtesy of http://www.twitter.com/wests_tigers)

Unite, Commit, Achieve. That’s the 2015 slogan of Wests Tigers Rugby League Football Club. A 16 year entity, that has forever struggled to forge its own independence and personality. Not through any fault of its own. It cannot be guilty of being portrayed, seen and viewed as something it is most certainly not. However, the rest of the Rugby League fraternity including players, both former and current, media commentators, journalists, coaches and ignorant fans, those that refuse to accept reality. Last week was a week to forget for Wests Tigers. I am not referring to the loss to the Premiers in a error ridden performance, but more so from a holistic perspective, a perpetuity which continues and never seems to evaporate or subside, much to the Joint Venture club’s detriment.

It all started last Wednesday evening on Peter Sterling’s ‘Sterlo on the coach’ Rugby League television program. Guest host, well travelled journeyman Willie Mason whilst posing a question to young Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco muttered the words “James, you have played all your career with Balmain, coming up through the Balmain juniors and lower grades and now into First Grade, it must be a pretty rewarding feeling?” Mason copped a barrage of angry tweets and feedback and later sent out an apology claiming it was a slip of the tongue and meant no offence by it.

However Big Willie is not alone. Former Easts and Souths backrower Bryan Fletcher, a regular on Fox Sports Matty Johns respective programs is synonymous with referring to Wests Tigers as Balmain. As is Gordon Tallis. Does it help when Matthew Johns, whenever referring to the Tigers, constantly rolls out old footage of Balmain from past era’s time and time again whenever the Wests Tigers club comes up against traditional teams namely in Souths and Canterbury? The NRL’s own social media #hashtags do not include Wests Tigers. Whilst most utilise the animalistic or mascot identity, some use the geographic location, namely in Souths and Manly. Wests Tigers however, is just Tigers. Not WT, not WST, not WestsTigers, but simply Tigers.

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(The neglected foundation club and partner in the Wests Tigers marriage – Photo courtesy of http://www.foxsports.com.au)

Peter Sterling, a media commentator who is usually rather diligent when it comes to respecting football club’s sovereignty and history also had a case of ‘foot in mouth disease’ yesterday claiming that Wests Tigers were formally Balmain Tigers, with no mentioning of Western Suburbs, a foundation club, the other half, the seem to be forgotten half of the Joint Venture club who has as much history as South Sydney or the Sydney Roosters, who helped pioneer the game of Rugby League in Australia, having played in the first ever 1st Grade game back in 1908.

Rewind back a week, a Sterling’s former colleague and good friend Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin and co-panelist Darryl Brohman, both referred to former Wests Tigers winger Beau Ryan as former Sharks and Balmain player. Are you starting to see the trend here? The consistent pattern of blatant mistaken identity. Constant references and overall perception that Wests Tigers is still very much the Balmain Tigers. Daily Telegraph Rugby League editor Phil Rothfield is another serial offender, as is the NSWRL who recently in a press release last week, promoting their NSW Cup fixtures for last weekend’s round ‘mistakenly’ had Balmain Tigers instead of Wests Tigers in the online team list. And theses are just a handful of instances that have occurred this year.

But the greatest kick in the guts and insult came yesterday (Sunday 22nd March 2015) at the South Sydney Vs. Wests Tigers game at ANZ Stadium. Rabbitohs officials prior to kick off thought it would be a nice gesture to show the history and rivalry between the ‘two clubs’ by showing a video montage. Footage of the memorable clashes from over the years. The only thing, it did not feature Wests Tigers. Instead it featured Balmain Tigers. Balmain’s clashes with Souths and how special the rivalry is as they’re both foundation clubs. What’s wrong with this picture some may ask? Plenty. Balmain is not, has not and never will be Wests Tigers in any form or capacity. Nor is Western Suburbs for that matter. Yet unlike Balmain, Western Suburbs does not feature, figure or even gain a mention when it comes to being a equitable partner in a company they co-own.

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(Old Western Suburbs Wests Tigers fans have been disenfranchised and have walked away by the constant dominance and referencing that the Joint Venture club is still seen and viewed as Balmain – Photo courtesy http://www.westsmagpies.com.au)

The perception, the association the view that the Tigers are still Balmain is a significant reason as to why the club is yet again struggling with membership numbers, with gate receipts, with merchandise (which is heavily Black and Gold dominated, the traditional colours of Balmain) and with many affiliated supporters from the heritage club of the Magpies, having walked away because of the dominance and continued referencing and identity by almost everyone in the game that it’s still very much the Balmain Tigers in every facet and aspect. Which is a very hard to hear and see after years and decades of generational support supporting a team, a football club, that is in no way now a representative of the love once had for the club they fell for and the reason they started supporting Rugby League initially.

But the question has to be asked, where is the damage control, risk management resolution and proactive nature from the supposed leaders of the Wests Tigers? The Wests Group Representatives from Ashfield and the District Football Club? Wests Group Directors on the Wests Tigers Board? Wests Tigers Chairperson Marina Go and CEO Grant Mayer? 16 year generation Wests Tigers fans and old Western Suburbs Wests Tigers fans (the small minority who haven’t walked away that is) are yet to hear or see from the Joint Venture club’s leaders, demanding a please explain, an apology for the continuous gaffe’s and brand association of a club that has not graced the NRL First Grade Football paddock since 1999.

As it has been well documented, the NRL along with the financial Wests Group (Wests Ashfield Leagues Club and District Football Club) are the current shareholders of the company known as Wests Tigers. With Western Suburbs being a viable partner in this company, why aren’t the directors, officials and elected representatives up in arms about the continued disassociation of the Western Suburbs identity, heritage and legacy not being acknowledged and respected by continued referencing and brand association to the non-financial partner in Balmain? Is it that they simply do not care? Is that it? Constant references that Wests Tigers as Balmain, Balmain this, Balmain that, the Black and Gold’s, the team from Leichhardt etc etc. How can the Wests Group and Wests Tigers leaders sit back and not even flinch? They seem content to let it slide by, just as it has done for the past 16 years.

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(Wests Tigers Chair and fellow Directors don’t seem to care that their brand is being seen as an extension of one that was retired 16 years ago which is alienating fans and members – Photo courtesy of http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au)

Can you imagine if it was South Sydney, Sydney Roosters or Newtown Jets? There would be an almighty uproar from their respective hierarchy demanding that the wrongs be righted. These clubs, unlike Western Suburbs seem to be proud of their illustrious history, their heritage and preserve it better than any other NRL Club and to some degree, most professional sporting clubs across all codes. Western Suburbs since 1908 have always been the runt of the litter. The second-class citizen. That relative that no one likes or wants to sit next too at Christmas or other respective family gatherings. The Magpies have always copped the rough end of the stick. Known as the perennial battlers of Rugby League for many an era. Not much has changed, even in their new life as a Joint Venture. The forgotten entity, the neglected partner, the oppression is so loud, it is deafening.

Respect. Respect is all that Western Suburbs want and has only ever wanted. Not to dominate. Not to get one up on or over the now struggling Joint Venture partner. That respect it longs for and seeks comes easily and simply. How? By calling the company it co-owns as a viable shareholder as its registered business name. The name of the Joint Venture Club; that it has had since its inception back in 2000. That being ‘Wests Tigers’. It’s time that leaders of the Wests Tigers came out and were accountable, visible, fought for and demand the guilty culprits respect the name of Wests Tigers and heritage of it’s origins and stress the importance of the damage being done by the constant and continued referencing and association of Balmain and negative impact it is having on all areas of it’s business. Perhaps it’s time to re-educate the uneducated, the ignorant and those in denial. Maybe then, just maybe, the slogan of ‘Unite, Commit, Achieve’ will actually stand true and become a reality.

Why #RugbyLeague needs and owes the Gold Coast @GCTitans #ThruNThru #NRL #iwillneverwalkaway #Titans

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(From Rugby League, to Basketball, AFL and Soccer, all codes and forms of sport have struggled to endure and survive on the glitter strip – Photo courtesy of http://www.sportal.com.au)

Beautiful one day, disastrous the next? No it’s not a new slogan or marketing campaign for Queensland tourism, but one could be forgiven thinking it’s the catch cry of the Gold Coast Titans. After enduring hit after hit, knock after knock, blow after blow, the Titans finally raised the white flag on Tuesday, surrending themselves at the hands and mercy of the NRL. The Titans, the youngest NRL expansion franchise placed itself into administration, unable to financially commit to growing debts. This had many thinking that now the NRL can once and for all euthanize the ailing football club and set up a new franchise in Brisbane effective immediately. However, contrary to what many experts, media commentators and lounge chair and bar stool warriors want to happen, the NRL reaffirmed its support and its unwavering commitment to both the Titans brand and persisting with Rugby League on the Gold Coast. NRL CEO Dave Smith personally flew to the tourist strip on Wednesday to meet with Titans officials and the executive to suggest as much and show solidarity towards a club that’s sustained more hits than Elvis in recent times. But why would he?

Three decades of failure. The Giants, the Seagulls, the Gladiators, the Chargers have all tried, tested and failed. The Gold Coast in their new life as the Titans seemed on course to join them. That did not seem to matter to the Games fearless leader. Addressing the media with a robust determination. Fielding multiple questions about the future, about the debt, about taking over the club, new structures and of course the allegations of drug supply and trafficking with it all being linked back to the impending death of the Titans as a Rugby League club. Smith and the NRL know how important the Titans are to the Gold Coast and how important Rugby League is in this part of the world. Giving up and walking away would virtually hand the AFL with a monopoly of the region. When you consider the Gold Coast junior nursery and catchment begins at Coffs Harbour and ends at Logan, just south of Brisbane, the Titans have one of the largest junior bases and pathway systems in Australian sport. 7,000 plus juniors playing ‘The Greatest Game of All’. But beyond the turf war, there is a much bigger battle the NRL and the Titans have to win, that it still hasn’t won over the community at large.

Rugby League is yet to capture the hearts and minds of its inhabitants of South East QLD’s Gold Coast. By leaving, it will be a region lost to the sport forever with Queensland as a whole not being able to shore up the entire east coast without it. The demographics, the second fastest population growth in the country, the juniors, the business community and dare we say, the tourists. They are all variables and in somewhat vital participants in the Titans and Rugby League’s long term future, viability and success. Success. Something that has been few and far between for the Gold Coast for far too long, which is not entirely their fault. Poor management both by the club(s) and the Game has resulted in mixed results and an ability to fend off continued uncertainty. No other sporting franchise has had as many brands and name, colour and jersey designs. It has been shambolic to put it bluntly.

Coincidence? Just bad luck? Or was it always destined to fail? – Photo courtesy of http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au)

Although, with the NRL now effectively owning them, there is air of optimism and renewed faith that the Titans wont follow suit of its predecessors who have been and gone before them. The NRL had to act. It had to step in. Whilst the NRL endeavours to have all of its licensed NRL franchises sustainable going forward into the future, the Titans is a perfect example of the difficult of how hard it is to keep an organisation prosperous in a volatile market and a weakening economy. But that does not mean it can never or will never work. It takes a tremendous amount of hard work and a little bit of luck (which could also be deemed as on field success) The Game could not sit back, idly by and see the Titans sink for two main reasons. The first, the $1.025 Billion Broadcast deal. Channel 9 and Fox Sports forked out huge biscuits for a product that it demands to show a minimum 8 Games a week via free to air and subscription television. If a 16 team competition suddenly becomes a 15 team comp, the contract is null and void and the NRL’s bank account is looking extremely dubious. Smith knows he couldn’t dare risk that. The Game depends on its broadcast rights deal as a fundamental revenue stream which all various stakeholders, departments and tiers benefit from as well as participant NRL clubs rely on as funding.

The second, the Gold Coast just like Nth QLD, Brisbane, Melbourne are a vital element in the game’s long term strategy. That strategy is seeing the ‘National’ in National Rugby League actually come to fruition. Franchises like the Titans, the Cowboys, the Storm are crucial for Rugby League to have a strong national footprint, securing market share, capturing new audiences and continuing to see generational growth in these respective markets long term. The Gold Coast shores up the NRL’s presence along the east coast of Australia. Which spans from Townsville to Wollongong. No other sporting code in the country covers as much ground and territory. That is a lot of terrain and with it comes a lot of interest, fans and members which keeps the sport salient. Salience is the key. Being pertinent and visible is half the battle. So whilst the naysayers and pessimists will death ride Rugby League on the Gold Coast, the NRL won’t be turning off the life support now, nor in the future. The Gold Coast are here to stay, as in the lifeform of the Titans, remains to be seen, but Rugby League will persist, it will endure and it will succeed with the right plan, the right strategy and with the right people in place to take the club and the game forward.

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The legion of loyal Gold Coast fans and its growing community deserve a successful Rugby League team of their own – Photo courtesy of http://www.couriermail.com.au)

Despite the skeptisim and many death riding Rugby League and the NRL’s continued perserverance of having a Rugby League presence and representation of the Gold Coast citing failure and comparing it to urinating in the wind, the Gold Coast were actually building towards a stable, successful future during the Super League war. Aligning itself with the ARL and taking on new ownership as the Chargers in 1996, the Gold Coast made the Finals in 1997, with a no name roster compared to their counterparts. However, a political compromise ended its lifespan with the News Corp owned Super League killing off the Hunter Mariners, Perth Reds and Adelaide Rams whilst the ARL pulled the plug on the South QLD Crushers and inevitably the Gold Coast Chargers. The history of first-grade teams on the Gold Coast is indeed a chequered one former Gold Coast Chargers player, son on South Sydney’s legend John Sattler, Scott Sattler who soon would call Penrith and Wests home, was quick to point out the reasons behind the demise of the Chargers, and insisted the area can run a successful club. “Everyone keeps saying that the Chargers was a failure, which it wasn’t,” Sattler said. “It was collateral damage from Super League and was a club that financially finished with money in the bank, which a lot of clubs can’t hang their hat on.”

Should the Chargers have not been killed off, one tends to think “what might of been?” and if they would have been able to build on what they were developing and establishing both on the field and off it. Future Origin players, a future Dally M player and a clubman who pulled off one of the greatest tackles in Grand Final history for the Panthers in 2003. Throw in strong financial and commercial viability moving forward with money in the bank in an era where NRL clubs were leaking money and being propped up by News Corp and the ARL’s benefactor of Optus. No one disputes that the history of Rugby League on the Gold Coast isn’t pretty. But the Game was responsible for turning away fans, members and the community for ending the Chargers life as a Rugby League Football Club. It must accept the blame for that. The NRL owes the Gold Coast for making the wrong call, a horrendous strategic decision which deprived the region of Rugby League for 9 long years and it is indebted to not let the community, fans and members of the Gold Coast Titans ever feel abandoned and that their support for the club and Rugby League is not valued ever again.
SattlerFormer Charger Scott Sattler knows how important a Rugby League ‘presence’ and representation is needed on the Gold Coast, now and in the long term – Photo Courtesy of http://www.nrl.com)