12:00AM July 27, 2017
Brent Read Senior sports writer
Plans by Wests Tigers and Manly to build state-of-the-art training facilities are on a knife edge as the state government delays an announcement on centres of excellence funding to deal with issues in their proposals.
It is understood the Tigers and Sea Eagles were ranked in the bottom two positions among the NRL clubs who applied for a slice of the $40 million set aside by the state government as part of its stadiums strategy.
The Tigers submitted a $57m plan in March to build a centre of excellence at their current base at Concord Oval — chief executive Justin Pascoe described the development, which also incorporated a multipurpose community facility, as being vital for the evolution of the organisation to remain competitive in the NRL.
The Tigers were hoping to receive about $10m from the state government, but it is understood there were concerns with their proposal on at least two fronts — one surrounded finance and the other around the ambitious nature of the plan.
The Sea Eagles wanted to build a more modest $20m facility at their base on Sydney’s northern beaches. They were also aiming to secure about $10m of state government money, but it is believed there are also concerns surrounding their side of the financing.
Sources told The Australian there were “complexities” with both submissions. Both clubs, along with the others who applied for a share of the centre of excellence fund, were vetted by a six-person panel that included representatives from government, the NRL and the clubs.
They ranked each of the bids and then passed on their advice to the state government — Sports Minister Stuart Ayres is ultimately charged with dictating how the $40m will be distributed.
It is understood Newcastle, South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters were the three top-ranked clubs. Wests Group, which is buying the Knights licence from the NRL, has committed $10m towards a centre of excellence in the shadows of their home ground in Newcastle. That figure is expected to be matched by the state government.
South Sydney have been working on a new $32m facility at Maroubra in Sydney’s eastern suburbs that would be funded through a combination of their own funds, Randwick Council, the federal government and the state government’s centre of excellence pot.
The Roosters have also put forward a proposal that would result in them moving from their current home adjacent to Allianz Stadium to a new facility. If those three clubs receive the funds they are pursuing, it would leave precious little to be shared among the other clubs who have pitched up to the state government.
It is believed Canterbury, St George Illawarra and the Cronulla Sharks have applied for a share of the state funding. Ayres said the government was still assessing the respective bids and expected to have a decision within weeks. “The NSW government is assessing submissions for the NSW Rugby League Centres of Excellence program, with successful projects expected to be announced in coming weeks,” he said. The $40m package was set aside by the state government last year as part of the $1.6 billion investment in Sydney stadiums. The state government is yet to announce its final plan for the distribution of that money as it works out what proportion of money to invest in ANZ Stadium as opposed to Allianz Stadium.
The initial plan was to turn ANZ Stadium into a modern rectangular venue that would continue to host rugby league as its major tenant. South Sydney and Canterbury already play out of the venue while Wests Tigers and St Georgie Illawarra have deals with the venue.
The rest of the money would be used to refurbish Allianz Stadium. Lobbying has continued for more money to be directed to the Moore Park precinct at the expense of the ANZ Stadium redevelopment. The result has been a delay in finalising the future for both grounds, which has forced the NRL to delay a decision on whether it will take future grand finals to Brisbane or elsewhere.