Pick'n Go
What now for rugby in western Sydney?
Sam Bruce
May 25, 2015
The Waratahs had a huge spectacle in front of the Homebush crowd © Getty Images
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Irony can be a tough concept to grasp, especially when confused with coincidence. But even those senior Waratahs officials must surely have recognised the irony of their ticketing for Saturday night's game against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium.

For those unaware, members of AFL club Greater Western Sydney Giants, who had been playing Adelaide Crows at Spotless Stadium, which is also within former Olympic precinct, were granted free admission to the Waratahs' clash against the Crusaders that night. Waratahs members had received free admission to the Giants game in the afternoon.

Now on the surface of things, it appears to be a decent attempt to attract a few more spectators to what was the grand final rematch. But this fixture also served as the last occasion in which the Waratahs will play a regular season match at the Homebush venue after they committed their long-term future to Allianz Stadium in Sydney's Eastern Suburbs earlier this year.

Waratahs 32-22 Crusaders (Australia only)
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The Waratahs now will be sighted west of Moore Park during Super Rugby only when they take a pre-season game to Campbelltown, as they did at the start of this season, or if they again earn the right to host the grand final. It's worth remembering they needed 19 years to host their first grand final, but a second decider in as many years isn't totally out of the question if they maintain second spot on the ladder; they just need the competition-leading Hurricanes to slip up in the finals (or to slip up in the grandest manner imaginable in the final three rounds of the regular season).

So what now for rugby in western Sydney? No doubt some of the GWS officials took up the Waratahs' generous offer if for nothing more than to wave goodbye to rugby, to cross off another contender for Australia's fiercest sporting battleground.

Rugby fans in western Sydney will now have to wait for the annual Bledisloe Cup clash to get their fix; the mind can wander a long way in 12 months.

That's not the only worry either. Penrith, the most western club in Sydney's Shute Shield competition, sit dead last without a competition point following yet another heavy loss; this time a 73-0 drubbing at the hands of Gordon.

Penrith players huddle together after another huge loss, Gordon v Penrith, Shute Shield, Chatswood, Sydney, May 23, 2015
Penrith players come together after another huge loss © Penrith Rugby Union
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Now it may prove that the Waratahs' new deal with the SCG Trust, the owners and operators of Allianz Stadium, allows the franchise to invest money in western Sydney and provide the necessary development officers and resources to at least keep some sort of a foothold beyond the ANZAC Bridge.

And there is hope.

Last year Penrith's Under-12 side, coached by Asteron Life Community Coach of the Year Sila Taungakava, took out the Under-12 state championship title; think of Taungakava's six years of service with the Western Raptors as well and you get an understanding of the people rugby should be desperate to keep engaged.

But with a lack of top-level rugby to watch, and with the various rugby league teams, the Giants and A-League's Western Sydney Wanderers all on their doorstop, the options for fans to look elsewhere are obvious.

ANZ Stadium had its drawbacks; the lack of atmosphere certainly didn't help, and anyone who's sat up in the top tier can tell you that binoculars are handy. Perhaps the best idea would be to knock it down, start again, and end up with something that looks a lot more like Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. It's been 15 years now; surely Cathy Freeman wouldn't mind?

Whatever they decide to do, it is of little consequence to the Waratahs and rugby fans in western Sydney; just how many are left in 2031, the time in which the Waratahs' deal with the SCG Trust expires, remains to be seen.

The western Sydney crowd may have to wait up to 16 years before they see another game out west © Getty Images
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