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Paddy’s passion to save Leichhardt Oval

06 Apr 24, 9:47AM 0 Comments

Written by Stuart McLennan

Photo by Getty Images

It would be easy to assume the people who want ‘the Eighth Wonder’ to be upgraded are dinosaur baby boomers feeding off nostalgia and yearning for the glory days when Benny, Blocker, Siro and Junior ran out onto the hallowed turf as the Balmain Tigers.

However the driving force behind the save Leichhardt Oval campaign wasn’t born when Balmain played their last game of rugby league in the top division. .

Since 19 year old Paddy Tobin started the ‘Save Leichhardt Oval’ Facebook group a week ago he has been overwhelmed by support for the cause. The page has already attracted over 4,200 members at the time of writing.

“Leichhardt has always been a big part of my life,” the marketing, communications and media student said.

“I went to Leichhardt Primary School and high school close by in Five Dock. The first game of rugby league I saw was at Leichhardt Oval with my dad and I have been going there with my mates following the Tigers ever since. I played rugby league for seven years with the Leichhardt Wanderers.

“Every year it seemed people were saying this might be the last year at Leichhardt and this year it looked like it was probably going to happen. So I looked online for a fan campaign and there wasn’t one. I have been surprised with how much support we’ve had.

“We have so many stories on our page of fans being taken by their dad or mum or grandparent to Leichhardt. The ground means so much to everyone.

“When we played at Accor and Commbank stadiums it wasn’t the same feeling. You could have 20 thousand spectators but they are all spread out. I could sitting next to my dad with no one around us. (At Leichhardt) the crowd is all together and you’ve got this real tribalism feeling of suburban footy which is what rugby league started out as. Of course the big games such as finals should be played at the big stadiums.

Inner West Council Mayor Darcy Byrne recently described Leichhardt as “the best loved and best used ground in Sydney with 5 Wests Tigers at the ground this year and more than 80 elite women’s and men’s soccer, league and union games held there in the last year.”

Tobin says that NSW Premier Chris Minn’s Office has joined the Facebook group while Darcy Byrne has given support. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said recently in an email to media, “Leichhardt Oval is a much-loved community asset which must be saved. Nothing beats sitting on the hill at suburban grounds like Leichhardt Oval, Henson Park or Belmore Oval. The atmosphere at Leichhardt Oval on a winter’s afternoon is hard to beat. It is great for NRL games but also other codes including junior footy.”

“We are asking for an upgrade not a new stadium or $300 million for gold plated toilets. I don’t care which level of government the money comes from. We just want Leichhardt to get the funding it deserves.”

Tobin put a call out this week to form a committee of like minded fans so that the group can plan the next steps in the campaign.

“One of the first priorities will be to organise a mass meeting where we can invite decision makers to address supporters.”

Leichhardt Oval was first used as a rugby league football ground in 1934 becoming the home ground of the Balmain Tigers. From 2000 it has been a home ground to the Wests Tigers along with Campbelltown and other venues.

You can join the group ‘Save Leichhardt Oval’ via the Facebook page here

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