Piggins pitches in to help Balmain Tigers
Offering a helping hand ... George Piggins. Photo: Simon Alekna
GEORGE PIGGINS famously took to the streets to save a foundation rugby league club. And now he's doing it again.
The Balmain Tigers, half of the NRL Wests Tigers joint venture, are facing the prospect of folding unless a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of Rozelle Village, on the site of the old Leagues Club, goes ahead. Fairfax Media can reveal that officials are preparing to stage a community march to support the development from Leichhardt Oval to the proposed new site on March 2.
It's understood the Wests Tigers playing and coaching staff, political heavyweights John Brown and Paul Howes and a raft of celebrities including Mark Bosnich, Geoff Huegill, Dawn Fraser, Jon Stevens and Anthony Field, will take to the streets to flag their support.
But perhaps the most symbolic figure pounding the pavement will be Piggins. The Rabbitohs patriarch led a ''reclaim the game'' rally of 80,000 people through the streets of Sydney demanding their NRL reinstatement after being culled in the Super League war. On that occasion, people power prevailed. And Piggins believes it will again. ''I'll support them, 100 per cent,'' he said. ''When you follow a team like Balmain, like a lot of people have done for a long time, it's something worth supporting.
''[Tigers supporters and officials] turned up for Souths, when Souths were in need. I would encourage Souths people to back them up.
''Rugby league in general should support it. They do a lot for the community, they need our help and I reckon we should give it.
''[This situation] is a bit different, but in saying that it's the same result. If you don't support it, it's going to die.''
The trek from Leichhardt Oval, itself an institution under threat, is expected to begin after an open training session of the Wests Tigers. Officials are expected to meet this week to discuss the details.
The situation at Balmain has been likened to that at Cronulla, whose future was only secured following the recent approval of their $300 million land development application.
Piggins said it was important to preserve league's traditions and had no hesitation pounding the pavement for a club which had won 11 premierships.
''Rugby league is a sport which does a lot for the community and keeps kids off the street,'' he said.
''It also provides a lot of entertainment for people who want to go to the game or watch it on TV.
''If you don't support one another, it's over. That's how it boils down at the end of the day. You can't get rid of all these old sides, it's just ridiculous.''