This is my toughest battle yet. I played a lot of rugby league but the battle for an opportunity to bid for an NRL licence has been the toughest game of my career.
The history is well known. The Bears were forced into an unhappy merger with the Manly Sea Eagles after the Super League war, the partnership broke down and one of the League’s foundation clubs was left stateless.
But it is the future that really matters – and the opportunity for the new Commission to make a simple decision that will lock rugby league into one of its emerging heartlands while paying respect to our great game’s traditions.
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Welcome to the main strip of the small town of Wyong, in New South Wales’ Central Coast region. The strip straddles the Pacific Highway - a couple of pubs, a butcher and a few fish ‘n’ chip shops on one side; the train station on the other.
It’s 11am and there’s barely anyone walking the streets. “Look how dead it is out there,” says Danielle Suarez, who works at the printing store opposite Wyong station. Choked by traffic but not people, the quiet town is a key centre in the federal electorate of Dobell.
Local MP Craig Thomson’s office is wedged between Ecco Shoes and Express Noodles at Tuggerah’s Westfield shopping centre, just ten minutes down the road. Since 2009 Thomson has been beset by scandal over his use of a business credit card while he was at the Health Services Union. But it’s just one part of his relationship with his electorate.
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Just an hour away from Sydney by train, 45 minutes by car and a constant 18,000 kilometres from fashion is the seaside sprawl of Ettalong Beach.
If you alight from nearby Woy Woy station, on a lucky day you can be welcomed upon arrival by the traditional overheard greeting phrase “give us back me smokes, ya sl_t”.
Then just pop yourself onto Blackwall Road, trot past the drive-through KFC, continue past the picturesque smash repair and bait shops, and you’re just about there.
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