This article was written by Fox Sports RL commentator Matt Russell, after his attendance to the NRL clash Between the Rabbitohs and Warriors last Sunday 7th July at nib Stadium.
“Give us our own team,” a man urged .
You’ve got one, I thought, looking at his out-dated Warriors jersey before realising this Perth resident wanted the colours of a truly West Australian NRL outfit.
Maybe it was my unmarked Fox Sports suit. Maybe it was my hurried walk. For some reason, the young man thought I had a say in giving Perth an NRL team and quickly.
Thankfully I don’t, but for what it’s worth anonymous Warrior, I hope you get your own team and soon.
Before kickoff, NRL Media and Communications GM John Brady proudly showed photos of Souths and the Warriors training in front of thousands of fans. Yes, only training.
Then the game attracted more than 20,000 – the biggest crowd the renovated ground has had. A Warriors chant at one stage rivaled the famous ‘Parra, Parra’ in Sydney’s West. Much further West, there was also a lot of love for Souths as WA raised Bryson Goodwin scored two tries to ensure another South Sydney win.
These teams were a total of 8,845 kilometers from home but it was as if both were in their own backyard.
The joint rocked. The game delivered. Everyone seemed happy.
Especially John Sackson, the West Australian Rugby League CEO, who proudly showed Gary Belcher and myself the new-look nib Stadium. “New grandstand here, corporate areas there, an upgrade to that part, two new big screens, great isn’t it,” he enthused.
It’s the perfect hub for rugby league in the West, which has three competitions already – in Perth, the Kimberley and Pilbara. It has an Under 18 team in the SG Ball competition, which has pushed 14 players in the National Youth League. There’s been 14% growth across all competitions in the past 12 months. The passionate Sackson has plenty more facts and figures to underline the game’s potential in a city that already has teams in national competitions for Aussie Rules, Super Rugby, Football, Cricket, Netball, Basketball, Baseball, Hockey and more.
As we leave Perth on Monday morning, out statistician Aaron ‘Wally’ Wallace remarks, “Who said the mining boom is over!” The airport is full of the ‘high-vis’ uniforms worn by fly-in-fly-out workers.
The NRL has been flying in and out for years. The platform is laid.
One of Wally’s more random stats for the Souths-Warriors game was that Perth is home to more self-made millionaires per capita than any city in the world.
Now it’s time for the NRL to cash in.