The Wests Tigers have wasted no time in capitalising on
their grand final victory by securing the joint venture club’s medium term, if
not long term, future. And what a remarkable turnaround it has been. During the
2005 season, there were many rumours – and rumours not comprehensively denied by
the club – that the Tigers (as I prefer to call them, and apologise to former
Wests supporters for doing so) were really struggling
financially.

The joint venture imposed on Wests and Balmain in 2000 in the
aftermath of the Super League War peace deal began as an unhappy
“union” and was bedevilled by financial problems, given that News
Limited did not tip a cracker into the joint venture, unlike the untold
millions it tipped in the Storm, Raiders, Cowboys etc.

But what a difference winning a grand final
makes. And what a difference getting the
right coach makes as well. Yesterday the Wests Tigers signed a two year sponsorship deal worth more than half a million
dollars a year with the Malaysian car maker, Proton.

The club gained a windfall from the surge in public
support as it made the semi finals, playing the kind of football fans love,
and reportedly took a massive $600,000 in merchandise sales in the run up to the
grand final. Plus, it picked up a very handy $400,000 from the NRL for
winning the premiership and if it wins the World Club challenge early next year
another $100,000 will hop into the clubs coffers.

And for my money the financial stability that is
descending on the Wests Tigers is well deserved and well timed. The NRL needs
its joint venture clubs to be financial stable and successful on the field.

The Wests Tigers can also look forward to bigger crowds
next year – after a very impressive outcome this year – with average home crowds
of 18,700, the third highest in the NRL. And as fans continue to applaud the Wests Tigers success
this year, they should not forget to thank the club’s administrators, led by
CEO Steve Noyce, for their wisdom in signing up Tim
Sheens in 2003.

The fact that the club has now won a premiership, and has one of the
best coaches in the game, will be a magnet for young, and even not so
young, players the club will now be able to afford to sign up. Provided
the club can retain Scott Prince and Benji Marshall when their
contracts expire at the end of the 2006 season, it can look to the
future with confidence. And that is very good for rugby league.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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