‘I wouldn’t have allowed it’

Heyday: A packed house at a 1999 game between the Wests Magpies and Balmain Tigers at what was then called Orana Park in Campbelltown.
Heyday: A packed house at a 1999 game between the Wests Magpies and Balmain Tigers at what was then called Orana Park in Campbelltown.

A Macarthur identity instrumental in securing the joint venture between the Western Suburbs Magpies and Balmain Tigers has spoken out against the Wests Tigers decision to play one fewer game in Campbelltown next season.

Jim Marsden – prominent Macarthur lawyer and former Wests chairman – said the club made the wrong decision to lessen their interaction with the region.

Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe told the Advertiser the move was about growing the game of rugby league outside Sydney.

However, Mr Marsden felt the decision would have “quite the opposite” effect and said it was more important to nurture an already existing fan base than to potentially new base out of town.

“There should be a focus on the growth of support and popularity for Wests Tigers in Macarthur, and to achieve that they have to invest more of their resources here,” he said. “I’m sure moving the game outside Sydney has some economic benefit, but you’ve got to have both the local supporter base and economics for the club to prosper.

“The need to grow the game of rugby league is a matter for the NRL. What we need to do is grow support back here in Macarthur.”

Mr Marsden said he couldn’t have imagined the decline in the number of games being played at Campbelltown Sports Stadium when he fought for the partnership with Balmain almost 20 years ago.

But even knowing the pull out was coming would not have made an impact on his decision to fight for the joint venture.

“Yes, I still would have fought as hard,” he said. “But if I was still involved now, I wouldn’t have allowed this to happen.”

Wests Tigers fans on Facebook also vented their frustrations at the move away from Campbelltown. William Blake questioned where the club’s loyalties laid.

“Who does this team represent,” he asked. “For example the Penrith Panthers, who play 12 games at Penrith, obviously represent the Penrith area. The nomadic Wests Tigers are a team trying to please everybody and ultimately are impressing nobody.”