For those who missed the story in the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend, former Roosters second-rower and local junior Brian Fletcher has called for the revival of the Eastern Suburbs local juniors competition.
Currently, the Easts juniors are made up of the Clovelly Crocodiles, Bondi United, Paddo Tigers and St Charles — and all four are resigned to playing in the Souths Juniors competition at a significant cost.
So Fletch said he’s been talking to Freddy/God about getting the local league up and running again, to create a greater pipeline for youngsters in the area to play for the Roosters.
But the one thing missing from Fletch’s call is that the Roosters didn’t stop having a junior league off their own bat: South Sydney actually “acquired” many of the regions back in the 1950s.
After complaining that the typical Souths areas — Redfern, Waterloo etc — were no longer producing the players they needed thanks to the areas changing demographics and the typical Rabbitohs areas being de-populated, the Rabbitohs begged the NSWRL to change the territory outlines.
Catering to the pleas, to “even the competition”, the NSWRL handed traditional Roosters territories to South Sydney — territories that have not been handed back despite the remaining Roosters territories being decimated by similar de-population and the lack of working-class families in those former strongholds.
The canard that is the SSJRLFC.
This is the story lost in history, only brought to the fore in recent years by a very well-known Roosters fan who sent an email to Phil Gould back in 2008, from which Phil published his take verbatim. The full story, published in the Herald, can be found here.
For hardened Roosters fans, this excerpt is a must-read if you haven’t read it already:
“Many Roosters supporters resent the way their own junior teams, who participate in joint competitions with Souths, are treated by the administrators of those competitions. Local Sydney league boundaries were based on local government boundaries when clubs were formed back in the early 20th century. Souths’ boundaries were based on the municipalities of Redfern, Botany, Alexandria, Mascot and Waterloo, while the Roosters’ boundaries were those of the eastern municipalities of Paddington, Woollahra, Vaucluse, Randwick and Waverley.
“Many of these councils have since amalgamated, as demographic changes affected the inner and eastern suburbs of Sydney. Randwick Council has a western boundary of Anzac Parade and incorporates all those eastern suburbs east of Anzac Parade, and these suburbs like Randwick, Coogee and Maroubra were all part of the Roosters’ territory from 1908 to 1929. Does anyone living in those suburbs then or now not claim to live in the eastern suburbs?
“But in 1929 a number of clubs led by Souths and Balmain helped change the NSWRL constitution so that instead of needing 75 per cent [of the vote] to remove a team from the competition, only 50 per cent was needed. Once the constitution was changed, Balmain, with Souths’ help, moved to kick foundation club Glebe from the competition. Roosters fans can’t miss the irony in this, given the events 70 years later.
“Soon after, these same clubs changed the constitution back, to protect themselves from future expulsion, so 75 per cent of the vote was again required to remove a club from the then NSWRL. As part of the deal to remove Glebe, Balmain took over Glebe’s territory and Souths annexed that part of the Roosters territory east of Anzac Parade and south of Alison Road.
The Roosters were as a result left without much of their natural territory, and a large future source of young talent. This was very relevant because for many years you needed to reside within your team’s boundaries to play for that club.
“Souths won seven of their 20 premierships with a significant part of the Roosters’ territory, while the residential rule was in place. The two players in recent years that Souths have so resented playing for the Roosters, Craig Wing and Braith Anasta, due to their alleged status as Souths juniors, did in fact play their junior football for clubs in the eastern suburbs, which was original Roosters territory, and should still be.”
You can’t really say it any better than that.
The following Eastern Suburbs junior rugby league clubs have since either folded or become affiliated with the Souths Juniors competition (not including the four teams already mentioned as they remain Roosters clubs):
Paddington (Paddo) Colts (became affiliated with South Sydney shortly before folding); Coogee Dolphins (formed under the auspices of the Eastern Suburbs Junior League but now affiliated with the South Sydney League); Dunbar United (Paddington); Nelson Sharks (Bondi Junction) – known as Denison Devils from 1958-1982; East Randwick; Rose Bay Rams; Woolloomooloo Warriors; Brothers (combined Eastern Subs Catholic Club & Marcellin College Randwick); Paddington CYO; Brighton Hotel Jets (Darlinghurst); Coogee Bay Hotel; Astra Hotel Knights (Bondi); Bondi Royals; Bondi Sharks; and Waverley Waratah.
So while some of the lack of a junior league — at least in recent years — can be attributed to the Roosters not financially backing a league in the way the absurdly-rich Souths Juniors leagues club can, the idea that the Roosters simply can’t be bothered to back it is a canard, one that religiously lives on among the ill-informed — namely, Souths fans.
They were prevented from nurturing the areas early in the piece thanks to the ruthless nature of their neighbours — the very neighbours many Roosters fans marched for in 2001 and the very neighbours the Roosters helped to keep alive when they aligned with the poorer ARL during the Super League war.
This is a club that reportedly made a gentleman’s agreement with the Balmain Tigers to forfeit the 1909 Grand Final in protest to the game being played as a curtain-raiser to a Kangaroos versus Wallabies match — yet they turned up, kicked off and scored against no opposition to claim the win.
They then have the nerve to claim they’ve won 20 premierships.
Do we really doubt that a club that would break an agreement and claim a premiership won under dubious circumstances would actually have a problem taking others’ territories for their own gain?
Do we really doubt that a club that would change the rules, kick teams out and change them back to protect themselves just so they could get their hands on a few more territories, would blink at claiming beach-side suburbs that could only be more east if they were New Zealand?
The South Sydney rugby league team is a club that has bent the rules, reportedly broken agreements and acted in a manner that suits their own purposes, including claiming others’ territories and keeping them — as expertly put by others more qualified than this writer.
And besides, calling those areas Souths territories has already been disestablished, using nothing more than a couple of maps and some absolute facts.
The Eastern Suburbs as defined by Common Sense. And Maps.
The following is a map of the “Eastern Suburbs” as defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which publishes the Census:
Not only that, an interactive map showing the memberships of the eastern suburbs area, as sent to this writer at the start of the season from a reader called Max, details fans who have a membership and have “staked their claim” by registering on the NRL’s website. Pretty shocking results in the areas the ABS has designated the Eastern Suburbs:
Certainly a lot of Roosters emblems on that map, isn’t there?
Under every metric, using every map and anecdote, many of the areas that play in the Souths Juniors competition are Roosters areas, or at the very least should be. Therefore, an Easts junior rugby league program has all the makings and areas to begin again, should the Souths juniors leagues club allow it.
Heck, we just proved that the fanbase in the area is pro-Roosters.
A new ESJRLFC. And a new territory to claim following its abandonment by Souths.
So if the Easts juniors competition were to start again, clubs that should come under the league’s remit would be the Coogee Dolphins, Coogee-Randwick Wombats, Bondi United, Clovelly Crocodiles, Kensington Saints, Kensington United, Maroubra Lions, St Charles and the Paddington Tigers.
These areas were removed from the eastern suburbs umbrella despite all evidence pointing to the areas being part of Easts.
And from what I am hearing, many clubs would be happy to leave.
Anecdotally, this writer recalls hearing the story of a Souths juniors board meeting when the Roosters signed Braith Anasta, a Maroubra Lions junior. Board members and stakeholders were up in arms about the signature, claiming it was “another slap to the face” and all that shit. They threatened to kick all the Roosters’ junior clubs out of their league.
Well, the manager of one of those Roosters clubs, who shall remain nameless as will the club, was in attendance along with the heads of the remaining juniors clubs. He told the packed room of rabid fans that “Fine, we’ll leave: but we are taking our money with us”.
The league quickly reconsidered its bitter, twisted and ridiculous threat.
If a junior league is formed under the Easts umbrella, perhaps it’s high time to re-draw the territories and provide clubs — Roosters or not — with an out, rather than the clubs being threatened to be expelled whenever Souths Juniors higher-ups throw a tantrum.
We can start by declaring Redfern a Roosters territory. Yes, I said it.
The Souths club are aiming to move their training grounds to Heffron Park in Maroubra, meaning the training facilities at Redfern Oval will be abandoned and, with the senior’s leagues club being placed in administration, would literally have no footing in their “traditional heartland”.
They will play all their games 20km west out at Homebush, and be based at Maroubra. There is nothing keeping the area under the Rabbitohs remit besides some soon-to-be-irrelevant discussions of the area being the Rabbitohs’ “spiritual home”.
With Redfern being the suburb next to the “latte-sipping” hipster-lovin’ Surry Hills area, a suburb synonymous with the Roosters, the area is more Rooster than Bunny anyway. The coffee shops sell good coffee, they have hipster restaurants like the Milk Bar and hipster pubs like The Norfolk.
If the Bunnies are determined to get out of the area, then the Roosters are entitled to take it.
UPDATED: a previous version of this article doubled up by saying both the Coogee Wombats and Coogee-Randwick would come under the Roosters’ remit. Those clubs are one and the same.