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Piggins plan appears to be going south - 29.10.2005

South Sydney Leagues club president George Piggins has become increasingly isolated as the City of Sydney Council, the NSW Government, the rich Souths Juniors club and potential buyers Peter Holmes a Court and Russell Crowe all move to kill off his dream of a stadium at Redfern. Reports Roy Masters in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has pledged $19 million to give the Rabbitohs first-class training facilities at Redfern and held a meeting with Sydney Cricket Ground Trust chairman Rod Cavalier on Wednesday, hoping to lure the popular club back to playing home games at Aussie Stadium.

Moore will table new research at a council meeting on Monday, claiming 80 per cent of local residents favour open space at Redfern and a small pavilion-type grandstand accompanying the training facility.

Piggins claims he has 3000 households, based on a door-knock, in support of a private stadium built on public land.

However, Piggins concedes cashflow problems forced him to table an offer to South Sydney Juniors to buy out the Redfern club's debt for $7.5m.

"I put a plan to the Juniors a month ago to take over the club, a car park for 191 cars and 10 brand new units which cost $4.2m if they wipe out all debt," he said. "The assets are worth $23m all up.

"I asked them to help us out for four or five years and if it wasn't working, they could get their money back. But I just got a letter back saying they are not interested."

Holmes a Court and Crowe, mooted as buyers of the club, have withdrawn. Moore said: "I met with Peter and he would like the same outcome as me - keep the Rabbitohs in the area."

Crowe and Holmes a Court will set up business in the district.

"They have had a DA [development application] approved for a new office in Riley Street and will use a recycled industrial building for their post-production film-related activities," the Lord Mayor said. "They've already had a barbeque with the locals to meet with them."

Cavalier, a former NSW Government minister and Rabbitohs fan, has undertaken to write a letter formally endorsing the trust's hope that it can win back the Rabbitohs.

The Lord Mayor has asked another former NSW Government minister, Michael Cleary, who also represented Australia while playing for the Rabbitohs, to become involved.

It is understood a lucrative sponsorship of the Rabbitohs by a NSW Government instrumentality would be a further prize for relocating home games to the city.

The Redfern upgrade would take three years, the time frame of the Rabbitohs' new agreement with Telstra Stadium.

"We'd love to see them as a neighbourhood team, training at Redfern and playing at Moore Park for the 2009 season," the Lord Mayor said.

The NRL has been advised of Moore's plan.

Piggins admitted frustration with the Juniors' refusal to bail out the Redfern licensed premises.

"If I'm the fly in the ointment, I'll stand down and go," he said of any residual resentment between himself and the board of the Juniors.

Meanwhile, it is expected former South Juniors stalwart Henry Morris will challenge the president of South Sydney football club, Nick Pappas, at next year's elections.

Morris, a long-term colleague of Piggins, may facilitate a Souths/ Juniors merger.

Furthermore, powerful supporters of Piggins argue the Lord Mayor may yet yield on allowing the Rabbitohs to play historic games at Redfern, with the use of mobile barriers to facilitate a crowd. However, Moore argues parking problems render the prospect untenable.

"The whole area is very restricted in terms of car parking," she said.

"I'm very aware of the whole area around Moore Park coming to a standstill already. I'm very aware of the juggling that is necessary and balancing the needs of the whole community."

"The people in the high-rises have no open space.

"When I go door-knocking in the 18-storey flats in the area, you can actually watch a game at Aussie Stadium. You might need field glasses but it's also walking distance from the public housing to Aussie Stadium.

"The Rabbitohs are very much part of the history of the area and the city is charged with maintaining those links.

"Sportspeople can play a role in giving disadvantaged youth a future and we can have this great training facility at Redfern, meaning the physical presence of the Rabbitohs would encourage the links with youth."

Piggins has an unshakeable belief a club can be competitive only if it generates funds by having a licensed premises adjacent a stadium.

"She wants to spend $19m to pull Redfern Oval down but the PCYC are willing to put in an additional $3m to have an enclosed facility which would be available for all junior teams, Koori games and use by community groups. It will also involve as much open space as her plan.

"Our leagues club is God's waiting room for the poor but she wants to attract a better clientele of people to Redfern who can walk their dogs and live in $1m units."

This article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 29th October and can be viewed at