LAST week’s ACL match against Tianjin Teda gave all Mariners’ fans much to feel good about.
After a reportedly gruelling journey to China, the team demonstrated just how much they have lifted their game since the close of last season, with attacking flair and solid defence both in evidence. Yes, that was me screaming for joy when Matty scored.
On a high after the match, I was brought down to earth by some worrying news. No, I don't mean Sash's two goals for the Jets (although they actually caused me physical pain).
The news that has me worried was the unveiling this week of the new logo for the proposed NRL team The Central Coast Bears. For those who don't know, the North Sydney Bears are trying to rejoin the league as a team based in Gosford, having been forced out in 1999. Discussing the Central Coast and North Shore population, Bears bid committee chairperson Perry Lopez stated that "there's a million people in that corridor and we're losing them to AFL, rugby union and soccer. It's just crazy."
Does this mean he thinks people only support other codes because they haven't an NRL team to follow ? Slightly arrogant, to say the least. Does he intend to "win back" some of the Coasties ‘crazy' enough to follow the Mariners in some kind of competitive drive for their support ? Good luck with that, mate.
Some years ago, The Bears and The Sea Eagles joined forces to try and establish a Gosford-based team known as The Beagles - sorry, The Northern Eagles. This team was not a success, despite the fact that many prominent NRL figures believe The Central Coast to be what Wayne Pearce referred to this week as "a strong rugby league heartland".
It is the Mariners that have captured the heart and soul of the community and, dare I say it, have actually converted many NRL supporters to the round ball game. For those who like that sort of thing, it would be great to have an NRL team to follow as well, but the question is: can the Central Coast support both codes ?
The Central Coast Bears are proposing to play 10 of their home games at Bluetongue Stadium which, according to stadium manager Monique Marks was constructed with rugby league in mind. "That commitment across three levels of government was based on the well-founded passion that the Central Coast community has for rugby league," she said this week.
Perhaps Bluetongue was constructed with league in mind, but it is football that has brought this beautiful stadium to life in the past four years. And if Coasties really are so passionate about league, why didn't they support a home team when they had the opportunity ? What's going to be different this time ?
One thing that will be different is the overlap of seasons. The Bears are proposing to join the NRL in 2012, by which time the A-League season will have been extended to accommodate a probable 12 team competition. How is this going to work ?
We all watched in horror last season as our teams were forced to play on unsafe pitches, often because they had been devastated by other sporting events. Are we prepared to accept that our beloved Mariners will face this scenario on a regular basis? Or perhaps the Mariners are proposing to play elsewhere ? We need answers.
And what about the cost to fans of supporting two teams ? The Central Coast community is not exactly Australia's wealthiest and it would be terrible to see a "bidding war" for the limited fan dollar.
While my husband believes The Gosford Bears are doomed because of "The Curse of North Sydney Oval" (see also : Northern Spirit FC), the fact is their bid is supported by some big names : Wally Lewis, Peter Sterling, Andrew Johns (no, I don't know who they are either) as well as the Mayor of Gosford, Chris Holstein.
In the next few weeks they are proposing to seek private backing to support their bid. One of the people they will be approaching is John Singleton. It is well known that Singo has been very good to the Mariners and the club wouldn't be where it is today without him. On behalf of all Mariners' fans, I hope he considers our needs when making any decisions that may affect the club's future.
All quotes from The Sun-Herald, 22/3/09 - "Bears get logo, now for an NRL jersey", by Adrian Proszenko.