Hampered by constant red tape and on-going political road blocks at their inner Sydney base, the South Sydney Rabbitohs have today walked away from Redfern altogether and have agreed to forge their playing future at the former Olympic Stadium, Homebush ; now known as ANZ Stadium.
Seemingly fighting for years to have Redfern rebuilt as a traditional suburban fortress; even with the heavy backing of Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes a Court – the Rabbitohs were unable to push their case through, to have the old ground redeveloped and established as a strong base in close proximity to their newly developed Leagues club.
Seemingly with few options, the Rabbitohs pushed on with their Homebush partnership and today they signed with ANZ Stadium to host the majority of their home games at the former Olympic site for the next 10 years. A bold commitment and one that Souths say favors them in terms of statistics. According to reports from the Rabbitohs, their home crowd support grew 48% in 2007 and they attribute a lot of that to the Homebush base relocation.
While Souths realistically had few options when the Redfern redevelopment turned sour, if management think that Homebush was the answer then they are sadly mistaken. The Crowe and Holmes a Court management have pretty much done everything right since taking over from the old guard nearly 18 months ago.
Much improved on field results have been the real reason for the crowd boost, not the shift in home ground. Sure, ANZ Stadium may have nice neat locker rooms and have swanky bars, along with promising Souths the world – but in all honesty, NRL teams playing at Homebush weekly give away as much as 6 points to opposition sides because it can’t be considered a real home ground. The home supporters sit a long way back from the playing ground, unable to truly get into the game and apart from the sound of the repetitive South Sydney drumming squad – on-field players can rarely feel the roar of the crowd in low key games.
A great stadium for big time matches such as Origin and the Grand Final, at times when it’s only partially full the Homebush Stadium becomes extremely quiet and devoid of atmosphere for regular season rounds. Teams such as the Bulldogs have been trying to camouflage this fact for years, as do the Wests Tigers. While financially viable for NRL clubs, the reality is that playing games at Telstra hurts them on the scoreboard.
While Souths had limited alternatives, signing the next decade over to ANZ Stadium wasn’t really the answer. With the smarts and financial backing of Crowe and Holmes a Court, I felt Souths may have seen the value in redeveloping a suburban ground and really cementing their rise to the top in the mid to long term.