Sport in Sydney

People power sinks merger

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 August, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 August, 1995, 12:00am

PEOPLE power this week won a rare victory over corporate greed and big business in this, the year in which Australian Rugby League lost its innocence.

Always known as the working man's game in Australia, league sold its soul in 1995 as media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Kerry Packer fought out a high-priced and bitter war to control the game. But for the first time in a season of disillusion for the fans, the masses have won out with St George's decision not to amalgamate with the Sydney City Roosters.

The two clubs have been talking for months and the merger seemed certain to be brought in for next season, ending the existence of two of league's most famous clubs. With both clubs running at a loss due to the rapidly inflated spiral of player payments, the merger made sound economic sense. However, emotional rallies after Saints' last two home matches have forced the Dragons' committee to do an about-face.

Saints fans formed a group known as Save Our Saints - SOS - that staged noisy demonstrations on the pitch, demanding the resignation of the board. 'It was great to see the fans get behind the club to show their support and that was a factor in our decision to shelve the merger,' chief executive Geoff Carr said. 'But now the fans have to keep up that interest and come to our games.' The Dragons, who were clearly all geared up for the merger, now have plenty of work to do before next season. Saints don't have a major sponsor for next year, a coach or a half-back. Club sponsor Penfolds Wines has decided to pull out after over a decade's involvement, coach Brian Smith is moving to Britain and halves Noel Goldthorpe and Damien Chapman have both joined Super League.

'There is a lot to be done but at least now we know which way we are heading,' Smith said. In other news this week, Sydney City coach Phil Gould has been fined A$10,000 (HK$57,000) for threatening to take his team from the field during the recent win over Manly.