Leichhardt Oval

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Leichhardt Oval
Leichhardt Oval at Dusk.JPG
Location Mary St, Leichhardt, New South Wales 2040
Coordinates 33°52′7″S 151°9′17″E / 33.86861°S 151.15472°E / -33.86861; 151.15472Coordinates: 33°52′7″S 151°9′17″E / 33.86861°S 151.15472°E / -33.86861; 151.15472
Capacity 22,000
Surface Grass
Opened 1934
Tenants
Balmain Tigers (NSWRL/ARL/NRL) (1934-1994, 1997-1999)
Wests Tigers (NRL) (2000-present)
Sydney Olympic FC (NSL) (1993-1996)
A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers (NSL) (1991-1992)
Sydney Tigers (2009-present)
Balmain-Ryde Eastwood Tigers (NSW Cup)

Leichhardt Oval is a football stadium in Leichhardt, New South Wales, Australia. It is currently one of two home grounds for the Wests Tigers National Rugby League team (the other being Campbelltown Stadium), and is the former longtime home of the Balmain Tigers, who used the ground from 1934-1994 and 1997-1999.

The ground is considered by some to be antiquated but home supporters and many league fans in general consider it to be good for spectators due to the proximity of supporters to the playing area. The grounds roots lie with the Balmain Tigers who were in the national competition from 1908 to 1999. The Balmain Tigers merged with the Western Suburbs Magpies for the start of season 2000 to become the Wests Tigers.

As of July 2012, Leichhardt Oval is the most played-on Australian professional rugby league ground in active use in the National Rugby League, having hosted 794 games since Balmain played its first game at the ground against Western Suburbs in Round 1 of the 1934 NSWRFL season, held on ANZAC Day, Wests winning the game 18-5.[1] Balmain's first win at the ground came in the very next game of the 1934 season with a 27-13 win over University.

History[edit]

Leichhardt Oval was first used as a Rugby League football ground in 1934 and became the home ground of the Balmain Tigers. The ground underwent a major overhaul during the 1970s when the configuration of the ground was changed (from east-west to north-south) and lighting installed. As it was one of the few rugby league grounds with lighting and was located close to the city, Leichhardt Oval began to be used for non-Balmain games such as the pre-origin interstate games between NSW and Qld (Leichhardt was originally preferred to the Sydney Cricket Ground for interstate games from 1978 due to dwindling crowds in an era when NSW dominated the contests. Also, unlike the SCG at the time, Leichhardt had lights allowing for night games).

On 16 June 1981, Leichhardt Oval hosted the last ever interstate game between NSW and Qld played under the old 'State of Residence' rules before the permanent move to the now familiar State of Origin series. The game, which attracted only 6,268 fans, saw the Steve Rogers captain NSW, with Qld Origin players John Ribot, Paul McCabe and Rod Morris in the side, win a surprisingly competitive game 22-9. Playing that night were some of the stars of the game at the time including: Chris Anderson, Noel Cleal, Steve Mortimer, Ray Price and Les Boyd (NSW), coached by Ted Glossop, and Mal Meninga, Gene Miles, Chris Close and Wally Lewis (Qld), who were captain-coached by Arthur Beetson.

From 1974, with the ground having lights for night football, Leichhardt was also used as the base of the NSWRL's annual mid-week competition, hosting most of the games and all Finals from 1974 until 1986 before the Final was moved to the new Parramatta Stadium in 1987. The last Mid-week Final held at Leichhardt was the 1986 National Panasonic Cup Final, with the Parramatta Eels defeating Balmain 32-16.[2]

On 4 August 1985 a crowd of 21,707 set a then Balmain Tigers ground attendance record for a Round 22 clash in the 1985 Winfield Cup against the St. George Dragons, won 17-15 by St. George.[3] This remained the Tigers attendance record for only four years until beaten by the 22,750 who attended the Round 22 match against Penrith in 1989.

Balmain left the ground in 1994 when they moved to Parramatta Stadium as part of an identity change to the Sydney Tigers. The move was not popular with supporters and the club returned to Leichhardt for the 1997 season. Balmain played their final game as a stand alone team in 1999 when they defeated Parramatta 20-10 in appalling conditions. The ground then became one of the home grounds of the new Wests Tigers team.

Leichhardt Oval Today (2000 - present)[edit]

The ground remains a venue for high level rugby league in Australia although it currently holds only four NRL games a year. This decision to reduce the amount of games is mainly financial and related to issues such as ground capacity, corporate facilities, and financial incentives to play games at the Sydney Football Stadium. Ironically for a ground once prized for its lighting, the cost of playing night games is another factor as the current lighting is not considered acceptable.

In spite (or perhaps because) of its antiquated facilities, Leichhardt Oval is beloved by Tigers fans especially those who formerly supported Balmain. Match attendances are usually close to or at capacity. Attempts to improve facilities are underway with the goal to return Leichhardt to its place as a top level rugby league venue.

In 2007 the New South Wales Government announced it would provide finance to help in the redevelopment of the ground [1]. Previously it had provided a loan to match grants made from Leichhardt Council and the Balmain Football Club. A group known as Stop the Rot aims to revamp the ground into a first class sporting venue. A.P.I.A. Leichhardt Tigers were renamed Sydney Tigers before the start of the 2009 New South Wales Premier League, and moved their home ground from Lambert Park back to Leichhardt Oval, for the first time in over a decade. A-League club Sydney FC also played a pre-season friendly against rivals Central Coast Mariners on 6 June, 2009.

On 21 November 2009 Leichhardt Oval hosted 2 matches in a double-header of the W-League. Sydney FC took on Perth Glory while after that Melbourne Victory played the Central Coast Mariners. During 2009, the thirty year lease of Leichhardt Oval by the West Tigers Franchise, came to an end. It is not known what further activity will be conducted by the West Tigers franchise. The local business arm of the Tigers, the Balmain Leagues Club, continues on its long haul to financially restructure, following financial losses in 2008 and 2009.

In 2009 the Keith Barnes Stand and Norm Robinson Stand were named in honour of Balmain Tigers greats, Keith Barnes and Norm Robinson.[4]

As of early 2010, the Balmain Tigers have yet to make a further commitment to returning to play the overall majority of their matches, using Leichhardt Oval.

From 2005 until 2012, it was home of the Balmain-Ryde Eastwood Tigers (an amalgamation between Balmain and the old Sydney Metropolitan League side Ryde Eastwood), who played in the New South Wales Cup competition. In 2013, the club joined forces with the Western Suburb Magpies, and formed the Wests Tigers (just like the first grade competition). This NSW Cup club now share its home games between Leichhardt Oval and Campbelltown Stadium.

Attendance Record[edit]

The stadium has a nominal capacity of 22,000, with recorded highest crowd figures of 23,000 for the 1981 KB Tooth Final between South Sydney and Cronulla, and 22,877 for the 24 July 2005 NRL game of Wests Tigers versus South Sydney, in which the Tigers won 42-20. The highest recorded crowd for a Balmain Tigers game of 22,750 was set on 27 August 1989, for a Round 22 NSWRL game against the Penrith Panthers, won 33-6 by the Grand Final bound Tigers.

Gallery[edit]

Wests Tigers record at Leichhardt Oval[edit]

Overall - Played 55, Won 35, Drawn 1, Lost 19

2012 Played 4 Won 2 (Cronulla, New Zealand), Lost 2 (Roosters, Melbourne)

2011 Played 4 Won 3 (New Zealand, Newcastle, Roosters), Lost 1 (Melbourne)

2010 Played 4 Won 4 (Canberra, Nth Qld, Cronulla, Melbourne)

2009 Played 3 Won 2 (Melbourne, Nth Qld), Lost 1 (Penrith)

2008 Played 3 Won 1 (Gold Coast), Lost 2 (New Zealand, Cronulla)

2007 Played 3 Won 1 (North Queensland), Lost 2 (Manly, Souths)

2006 Played 3 Won 3 (Melbourne, Manly, Souths)

2005 Played 3 Won 2 (Manly, Souths), Lost 1 (Melbourne)

2004 Played 4 Won 4 (Manly, Parramatta, Melbourne, Souths)

2003 Played 5 Won 1 (Cronulla), Lost 4 (Canberra, Brisbane, Manly, Souths)

2002 Played 5 Won 3 (Parramantta, Northern Eagles, Melbourne), Lost 2 (Penrith, Souths)

2001 Played 6 Won 3 (Melbourne, Nth Qld, Northern Eagles), Lost 3 (Parramatta, Dragons, Cronulla)

2000 Played 7 Won 5 (Auckland, Canberra, Penrith, Northern Eagles, Cronulla), Drew 1 (Parramatta), Lost 1 (Nth Qld)

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Rugby League Project - Venues
  2. ^ 1986 National Panasonic Cup Final - Highlights
  3. ^ Clarkson, Alan (1985-08-06). "League's popularity grows with boost in crowds". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia: John Fairfax and Sons Ltd.). Retrieved 2010-04-22. 
  4. ^ Massoud, Josh (11 June 2009). "Tigers stand plan takes hit". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 26 May 2013.