It’s been a turbulent 18 years for those involved with the Western Suburbs Magpies.
But the club’s general manager, Leo Epifania, said 2018 signalled the start of a new era.
Before the 2000 season the club was told it would only remain in Australia’s top rugby league competition if it merged with another club.
So, when Wests Tigers was formed, the Magpies brand was relegated to the NSW Cup competition.
The club – acting as one of two feeder sides to the NRL team – competed in the state’s top competition for 13 years.
But prior to the 2013, the black and white faithful received another body blow.
Wests Tigers informed club bosses and those at Balmain Tigers – who also fielded a feeder side for the NRL club – that only one reserve grade team was needed. And that team would also fall under the Wests Tigers banner.
It meant the the Magpies went from Australia’s top competition to Sydney’s second tier competition in the space of 13 years.
“In terms of money and convenience, (Wests Tigers heirachy) thought that was the best way to go,” Mr Epifania said.
“But the fact that it (top level state rugby league) was taken away from Macarthur was difficult to accept.”
Despite the tough times, the resilience of the Magpies faithful never wavered.
Last year the club was given the all clear to return to the state’s top competition, now named the Intrust Super Premiership (ISP) in the 2018 season.
The Magpies were soaring but then came the cherry on top when Victa – the company who famously sponsored the club from 1978-1982 – announced it would also sponsor the club in 2018.
“It’s a big year for the club coming back into the ISP,” Mr Epifania said.
“It was unfortunate the way we went out of the ISP in 2013 – it was a bit ugly. But we’ve always felt we have done our best for the Macarthur area so to come back now with Victa on board as well is pretty special.
“Last night we announced Masterton Homes (another historically famous sponsor) has also come on board too.”
Mr Epifania – a former player and coach at the club – said there was no escaping the difficulties that faced Magpies faithful in the last 18 years.
But he said the club was now reaping some “good fortune”.
“We had been swimming upstream for a few years,” he said.
“It has been tough and can’t say it has all been enjoyable. The last 18 years have been difficult times.
“I’ve been involved with the club as a player (1984-1986), the NSW Cup coach (2008-2011) and now as a general manager, and there have been a lot of up and downs.
“But it’s in my nature not to give up and the club has a history of doing the same thing.”
The resurgence of the Magpies will not only be good for club faithful, but will also provide a much-needed boost for the young local players with aspirations of an NRL career.
Mr Epifania said the club was intent on working with Wests Tigers for the betterment of the region.
“We are a heritage club like Newtown and North Sydney, but as kids grow up, Wests Tigers will be the dominant brand,” he said.
“We just want to be seen as providing a pathway for Macarthur players to the Wests Tigers.”
The Magpies will kick off their ISP season on March 10 at ANZ Stadium.