Grand final venue splits clubs

THE VB South Coast Group 7 Rugby League senior board of management has controversially opted to play the 2014 senior grand final at Collegians Sports Complex, Figtree on a one-year trial basis.

League general manager Jim McAuliffe said the move would be a great promotion for the game, the board having considered many factors in its decision.

The venue has a capacity of 6000 people.

"We believe it will be a win-win situation, with less work for all the volunteer workers as well as minimising the costs, which, in the long-term has benefits for the clubs," Mr McAuliffe said.

"There will be undercover grandstand seating for 1200 spectators, with off-street parking within the Collegians Sports Complex as well as Syd Parrish Park, and the facility is very accessible via the F6 freeway, while clubs will be able to enjoy state-of-the-art dual changeroom and facilities."

Mr McAuliffe said this was a commercial decision and one that was not made lightly.

However, he said the soaring costs of the group's current grand final model made continuing with it financially prohibitive.

"A very important part of the charter of the league is to minimise, and where possible, avoid, cost increases to our clubs. With this in mind we believe we will be able to significantly increase the financial return compared to grand finals of recent years, while playing at a first-class venue.

"There is no National Rugby League that weekend as the semi-finals are played on Friday and Saturday night, and many people will probably take advantage to see some quality rugby league."

Warilla-Lake South Gorillas president Don Kane was in favour of the move.

"The facilities there at Collies are state-of-the-art; personally I wouldn't have a problem with it," Mr Kane said.

"The grand final was at Albion Park for a number of years. Albion Park to Figtree isn't a huge difference and if people want to go to the game then they'll go.

"Last year the grand final was in Nowra, that was a 40-minute or more drive for us and we certainly didn't lack supporters."

Albion Park-Oak Flats Eagles president Ralph Clarke disagreed. "I'm not speaking on behalf of the club, though I think they would agree with me, but I don't agree with it.

"We've got grounds in Group 7 that can hold a grand final, and it's the Group 7 grand final so it should be in Group 7.

"If you want to go down the track of it being a neutral ground, then we could get to the finals and look at the sides that don't make the five and let one of them host it."

Shellharbour City Sharks' Allan Cody agreed with Mr Clarke. "It's not going to do Group 7 any favours; it should be held in Group 7. Where are we going to take it next year - Wagga?"

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