“I don’t want to go to my grave in 30 years and the Magpies are still in the wilderness,’’ says Wayne Ellison.
He is part of a growing band of die hard Western Suburbs fans who are calling for the return of the Magpies to the NRL as a stand alone club.
Like Peter Finch in the Hollywood classic, Network, these fans are so dismayed by the “Balmainisation’’ of the Wests Tigers over the past 19 years they say they’ve “had enough and won’t take it anymore’’.
Mr Ellison, along with Paul Taylor and a few other black and white fans who never believed in the need to merge with Balmain in 1999, have started a petition calling for the Magpies to return to the top grade and playing all their home games in Campbelltown.
So far they have collected more than 1,700 signatures and plan to bring their push to the fore at the next annual general meeting of Wests Magpies football club, which is these days based in Liverpool.
“The Magpies moved here originally in 1987 and the merger has taken away rugby league from Macarthur; what we want is to bring it back, full time, not just three games a year,’’ says Ellison.
Paul Taylor says it would also mean a financial boost to the local business community with an extra eight or nine games at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
“We took the petition to the shops opposite Leumeah station and all of the business owners were excited to hear what we were doing,’’ Mr Taylor said.
“They all said they’d love to have the Magpies back here playing all their home games at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
“Another good reason to get full time rugby league back to this area is to stem the threat from soccer which now has an A-League licence to play all their home games here in Campbelltown,’’ Taylor said.
A story published on the ABC website a few weeks ago discussed the possibility of the return of the Magpies following a broke Balmain Leagues club going into voluntary administration. Balmain owns 25 percent of the Wests Tigers
“While it is too early to say for sure, if, as expected, the powerful Wests Ashfield club comes in and bails out its joint-venture partner, it could be goodbye Tigers, and hello Magpies,’’ says the ABC report.
However the impression the South West Voice in Macarthur got after talking to one Wests Ashfield director was that there was no appetite for change and the board is content with the way things are – Wests Tigers based at Concord, around the corner from the club premises, and playing in several “home grounds’’.
“It’s a democracy and you’re entitled to mount a petition,’’ said Wests Ashfield director Rick Wayde, a former general manager of the Western Suburbs Magpies footy club in the 1980s.
“All I can personally say is that Wests Tigers care about the Macarthur, Liverpool and South West area and in recent statistics show up as the preferred team (and rugby league the preferred sport) of the area,’’ he said.
“Western Suburbs returned to ISP in 2018 with strong TV ratings, both for 9 and Fox,’’ Mr Wayde said.
It’s worth noting Mr Wayde made his comments before Macarthur won the rights to an A-League licence from the 2020-21 season.
Magpies’ fans like Wayne Ellison, Paul Taylor and many others are hoping that Ashfield will eventually see the light and bring back the Magpies.
What the Ashfield board might not realise is that it doesn’t have time on its side because there is a strong possibility another NRL club is about to reach agreement with Campbelltown City Council to play several first grade games here.
According to our sources the club in question already has a foothold in South West Sydney and it will just be a matter of “who let the dogs out’’.
Which could leave both the joint venture and the Magpies out in the cold.
But it will please the NRL from the point of view of protecting a rugby league heartland from the threat posed by soccer.
Asked to comment on the Magpies petition and general push, the NRL responded via Peter Grimshaw, head of media and communications, who told us: “Thanks for checking but we will decline to comment at this stage. We would need more information before we commented.’’
But that’s just not good enough for another Western Suburbs Magpies legend, Mark “the Magpie’ Wallington, a long term Cambelltown resident.
“Just ask St George, Canterbury and Parramatta members that know the history of their clubs.
“And then as a foundation club, our proud history, our passion and our supporters means nothing to the NRL. “That is why it hurts to see Balmain in their present predicament.
“Bring Wests out to the massive Campbelltown area proudly sponsored by the Wests conglomerate of clubs known as the re-born Macarthur Magpies and bring our area and club back to life.
“New grandstand, new supporters and let’s wake up that sleeping giant known as Macarthur,’’ he writes.
Another big Magpies fan is former mayor and current serving councillor, Paul Lake and we asked him if he’d like to see the black and whites back in the top grade and playing here, maybe as the Macarthur Magpies.
“I would welcome any NRL side to play here on a regular basis at our great stadium,’’ Mr Lake told the Voice in Macarthur.
Paul Taylor says if Manly can get out of a joint venture – Northern Eagles with North Sydney Bears – so can Western Suburbs.
“So it’s certainly possible to break up a rugby league merger,’’ he says.
“Nothing’s too hard or impossible,’’ chimes in Wayne Ellison.
“Manly have done it, that’s good enough for me and it will mean the best rivalry rugby league ever had – the Fibros versus the Silvertails – can be restore once again.’’
Western Suburbs already field teams wearing the black and white in Ron Massey, Sydney Shield and ISP Cup, with Wests Tigers in the NRL.
“If I was running Ashfield I know what I’d be doing: I’d be bringing the Magpies back,’’ says Ellison.
Paul Taylor, who has been barracking for the Magpies over 60 years, says he was devastated when the club merged with Balmain 19 years ago.
“Wests were in a bad way at the time, but I don’t know how bad and we were just told it’s either merge or die.
The last word goes to Wayne Ellison, who has followed Wests since 1971, when the team’s home ground was at Lidcombe Oval.
“As part of this push we speak to people in many different suburbs across Sydney, and the supporters of all the other clubs, say to us: We love the Magpies – bring them back.’’
- Check out the BRING BACK THE MAGPIES Facebook page, where you can also sign the petition.