It’s not the NRL but the Western Suburbs Magpies will make a return to the state’s second tier competition next year.
Wests Tigers announced the Magpies would act as the club’s feeder side next year in the Intrust Super Premiership (ISP).
In a media release, the club said the “decision is designed to strengthen the club’s position and continue to cultivate a robust pathways system in the Macarthur region”.
Former Wests Magpies chairman and the inaugural deputy chairman of the Wests Tigers, Jim Marsden, said the Magpies move did not compensate for the Wests Tigers only playing three games – instead of four – at Campbelltown Sports Stadium next year.
He said the club needed to play more, not fewer games at the Leumeah ground.
“I don’t like commenting on management but I still hold the view that Wests Tigers should be at one ground and that should be based at Campbelltown,” he said.
“(The three games) is extremely disappointing.”
Mr Marsden – who took former NRL chief executive David Smith on a tour of Macarthur in 2014 – said he wasn’t aware of the full details regarding the Magpies move into the ISP, though he didn’t know whether it was in the best interests of the joint-venture.
“I’ve always held the view that Wests Tigers should have been one brand. I’m not sure if this dilutes that,” he said.
“I love the Magpies but we had to make a deal (to merge with Balmain) to save us.”
He also said he could understand if Balmain fans were disappointed about the Magpies decision.
In the same media release, the club acknowledged the Macarthur region was bursting with talent.
“The Macarthur region boasts one of the richest pools of rugby league talent in the world,” it said.
“The Western Suburbs Magpies have been inherent to the Macarthur region since 1987 and Wests Tigers involvement in the region stems almost two decades.
“Wests Tigers is dedicated to ensuring the region remains a rugby league stronghold, with the game of rugby league being the chief beneficiary.”
Macquarie Fields product and former Magpie and Wests Tiger, Brett Hodgson, will be head coach of the ISP team and a Wests Tigers assistant coach.
He said he was looking forward to the challenge.
“I am absolutely thrilled to come back home to where I started playing,” he said.
“It’s a great opportunity to come back to a club that is clearly on the improve both on and off the field.
“I’m looking forward to developing as a coach and working under (Wests Tigers head coach) Ivan (Cleary).”