There is one very good reason why the Souths Rabbitohs
need to fight to the end to try and retain access to Redfern Oval, the scene of
many of its titanic struggles over the years. If the Rabbitohs lose their
“home” ground – apart from the SFS or Telstra Stadium – then the club will be more
vulnerable to a “forced” relocation, or, even worse, a “forced”
merger.

The club deserves every backing for the campaign that is
gathering momentum to reverse the Sydney City Council’s decision to effectively
rule out Redfern Oval for Rabbitohs
matches. It now has the support of trade unions, local aboriginal
groups, schools and even the local police. With such broad support, the NSW Government might just
be able to be persuaded to overrule the Lord Major and her
Council.

The Rabbitohs are not asking
for Redfern Oval to be turned into a concrete jungle stadium. They want an
upgrade to a 12,000 seat stadium and no more.

I worry that the era of clubs playing matches at major
stadiums – especially in Sydney – has a limited future. There is already
evidence of it. The situation is not comparable with the Brisbane
Broncos and Lang
Park – the Broncos have no
“history” of playing at boutique suburban stadiums. It’s either been Lang Park or ANZ Stadium.

With even greater television coverage of the game from
2007 onwards, and the growing popularity of pay television, clubs are going to
have to be more innovative than ever to attract fans – and
sponsors.

In the 2006 season, there were record crowds at
Brookvale Oval (Sea Eagles); Jubilee Oval (Dragons), Leichhardt Oval (Tigers):
Dairy Farmers Stadium (Townsville) and even the redeveloped Energy Australia
Stadium in Newcastle.

If the Rabbitohs have to
choose between the SFS and Telstra for their “home” ground, their vulnerability
to re-location and/or merger will grow massively.

I have nothing against either venue, but the reality is
that teams playing at these major stadiums find their crowds drop off when the
teams are not at or near the top of the premiership table. Yet the Knights managed to attract excellent crowds all
season – as did the Sea Eagles – even though the season was less than
spectacularly successful for both.

The Rabbitohs campaign
deserves the support of all rugby league fans who believe, as I do, that the
game needs its traditional teams just as much as it needs the new breed like
the Gold Coast Titans. It might seem a lost cause but it is well worth the
effort!