NSW Premier Chris Minns spells doom for beloved Leichhardt Oval as Wests Tigers pleas fall on deaf ears

NSW Premier Chris Minns may have just signed the death notice for beloved suburban NRL ground Leichhardt Oval.

The famous old ground has been in the headlines since the underdog Wests Tigers’ stirring victory over the Sharks last Saturday night.

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It was a celebratory night for coach and club great Benji Marshall and the joint-venture club in front of a packed crowd in Sydney’s inner west.

But it also turned a blowtorch onto the troubles besetting the dilapidated stadium, which is considered below NRL standard and in desperate need of an upgrade.

Tigers chief executive Shane Richardson said after the win on the weekend the club would be forced to end its links with the ground first opened in 1934 if its and the local council’s pleas for a $30 million upgrade fell on deaf ears.

Minns firmly popped that dream at a press conference in Paddington on Tuesday.

“My real fear is that we put money into Leichhardt and the week afterwards they say well now we need the money for Campbelltown,” Minns said.

“These things have got to be finely balanced and I’d love to have the spare revenue to pump into a suburban stadium at the moment, but I don’t have it.”

Richardson has been doing his best to drum up support for the upgrade.

“Leichhardt is nowhere near the standard – it might be the eighth wonder of the world, but even the pyramids get cleaned and upgraded every now and again,” he said on The Bye Round podcast.

“At the end of the day the Leichhardt and Campbelltown councils have to understand clearly that we are only there for this year, we need some assurances.

“Let’s be brutally honest, look at all the great clubs in the NRL. Where do the Melbourne Storm play? At a great stadium. Where do the Roosters play? Where do Souths play? Where do Parramatta play? Penrith are getting a brand new stadium built.

“You might upset a few people but it has to be what is best for the growth of the club. If you are not thinking that way, you will continue to go backwards.”

The Tigers are likely to consider the CommBank and Accor Stadiums for home games after this season.

Minns echoed similar sentiments he has expressed in the past when he declared sports stadiums are not his priority.

“I appreciate (the Tigers) have got to make a decision about their club and where they play their home games,” Minns said.

“But we, as everybody knows, have got $180 billion worth of debt in NSW. We’ve got massive pressure on the hospital system, education system.

“In addition to that we are rolling out the biggest public transport in the state’s history and I don’t have spare money at the moment to pump into Leichhardt Oval.”

Comments from Panthers coach Ivan Cleary, who walked out on the Tigers and is set to welcome a major Penrith Stadium upgrade, won’t have won him any more admirers among fans of the joint-venture battlers.

“What I do know is I got a feeling at Leichhardt that everyone there loves it the way it is,” he said.

“Maybe they should keep it that way.”

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