‘Channel 9 doesn’t run the game, the NRL does’: ScoMo
Scott Morrison has defiantly declared his beloved Cronulla Sharks will survive any attempt from the NRL to cut a Sydney suburban team from the premiership.
The Prime Minister was in the crowd of 18,985 for Paul Gallen's farewell game at Shark Park on Sunday, on the day league broadcaster Channel 9 revealed its shock agenda to chop at least one team from the competition as part of the next multibillion-dollar TV deal.
"Channel 9 doesn't run the game, the NRL does," Mr Morrison said. "This is rubbish. Cronulla is here forever. Suburban grounds are the heart and soul of rugby league."
Premier Gladys Berejiklian was just as strong in her message to stay away from her club. "Can I say leave the Sea Eagles alone," she said.
"I think most Sydneysiders will be distraught if we lose one of our teams, and I will certainly make my views known publicly and I'll say it today, hands off the Sea Eagles."
The Sea Eagles have struggled in recent seasons with an average home crowd of just 10,486 over the last five years.
Manly legend and Immortal Bob Fulton joined the Prime Minister and NSW Premier on Sunday to attack any moves to shrink the premiership to allow a second team into Brisbane for Channel 9's ratings.
"If they're going to cut a club, why a Sydney club," Fulton said. "They've got an obvious team in the Gold Coast Titans. If a Sydney club goes they'll be marching in the streets like South Sydney. It can't happen."
Some league identities have shown support for Channel 9's plan, including their own commentator, Blues legend Brad Fittler.
Fittler has suggested the NRL follow the AFL's model in relocating teams from South Melbourne to Sydney and Fitzroy to Brisbane.
"To me I think the Cronulla Sharks could go to Perth and have this history that goes on forever and play some games at Cronulla and some at Perth and work out what makes it viable financially," he said. "Taking Manly to the Central Coast looks like a no-brainer to me, it's a northern part of Sydney, it encapsulates that area and they've got the same vibe about both the areas."
Maroons legend Darren Lockyer said it was inevitable an extra Brisbane team will be introduced. He said the decision would likely come down to finances.
"If you look at the teams that are struggling, I think maybe Manly,'' he said.
A Nine spokesman said they "welcomed" the opportunity to support the NRL as they continue to "evolve the game, for the health of the code and the fans".
"We know there is a thirst for more games in Brisbane, the fans, the crowds who turn up in person and to watch on television speak to that but it is up to the NRL to determine how that might happen," the spokesman said.
Cronulla fans who packed out Shark Park were baying for blood at the thought of their club being dissolved.
"I would barrack for the Swans (AFL team)," Jack Medcalf, a fan since 1967, said.
Ethan Tudjman said the NRL should have learnt its lesson from the Bears." They got rid of North Sydney and people just stopped supporting the NRL," he said.