The three prodigal sons who abandoned the Fibros and took the Silvertails' silver return to Wests Ashfield Leagues Club on Friday night, two days before the Leichhardt Oval clash between NRL clubs Wests Tigers and Manly.
Les Boyd, John Dorahy and Ray Brown will attend what the Magpies call a “heritage night”, while the NRL game against the Silvertails will be played at the home of Wests' joint venture partner, Balmain.
Terry Hill in an early joint-venture Tigers jumper featuring more black. Photo: Jon Reid
Confused? So are most people who have been following the custody battle over who owns the 14-year-old Wests Tigers child from the shotgun marriage between Wests and Balmain.
A settlement of the dispute is imminent, with Wests and Balmain each having two directors on a seven-person board, and the NRL, who have pledged a loan of $7m to cover the joint venture debt, providing three directors.
This means that if Wests and Balmain vote together, they can prevent an NRL takeover that would render the club a ward of the state.
Robbie Farah in a Tigers jumpers dominated by Balmain orange. Photo: Getty Images
However, it is more likely Balmain will eventually lose their two votes, owing to their inability to repay their share of the loan advanced by the NRL.
A $9m debt arising from the failed development of the site of their old Leagues Club at Rozelle means the Tigers don’t have the cash backing enjoyed by Wests at Ashfield.
Wests would be given first option over Balmain’s 50 per cent share of the joint venture but if the Magpies could not stump up Balmain’s share, the NRL would take equity in the club.
Prodigal son: Les Boyd. Photo: Fairfax archives.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith is currently preparing a shortlist to choose the three independent directors of Wests Tigers, with one guaranteed to be a woman.
The NRL’s involvement in the joint venture has produced a degree of harmony.
When Wests Tigers run out against the Silvertails at Leichhardt Sunday, the players will be wearing a jumper with black, gold and white horizontal stripes, an original joint venture design which accommodates the colours of both 1908 foundation clubs.
The Magpie logo: rarely seen. Photo: Supplied
Unfortunately, it has rarely been worn.
Most games at Leichhardt have seen the joint venture team run out in jumpers dominated by orange.
One of the reasons former Magpies players, such as Les Boyd, have stopped watching Wests Tigers is because the team is universally called the Tigers, often referred to as “Balmain” and never dressed in black.
Indeed, the small magpie on the sleeve is often obscured by the tape players use.
Some Balmain stalwarts volunteer that excessive fealty to their club undermined the joint venture from the beginning.
Austin Hoyle is a life member of Balmain Rugby League Football Club, a foundation member of the Leagues Club and a former president of the Balmain Junior Rugby League.
His great uncle was Henry Clement Hoyle, the first president of the NSWRL.
“Wests Tigers should have been badged Wests Tigers from the start,” he said.
“Instead, you’d see Balmain officials of the joint venture club turn up wearing black and gold ties, lording it over Wests.
“The Hoyle family has been associated with Balmain since 1908 but I could see that when the NRL club was formed [in 2000], it had to be straight away, Wests Tigers.
“I’ve never agreed with all these changes of jumper.”
One of the grievances of former Tigers players and officials is the absence of any Balmain team in the NSWRL-run State Cup, or Ron Massey Cup competitions.
There is a Wests Tigers team in the State Cup and a Magpies team in the Massey Cup but even Balmain’s junior representative teams are badged Wests Tigers.
Balmain directors on the board of the NRL club would no doubt point out a paradox in claims they dominate a joint venture, while voting to field teams only wearing the badge and colours of Wests Tigers.
Others would say lack of funds dictated this.
Hoyle and a former front rower from Balmain’s last premiership team in1969, Gary Leo, have joined forces to ensure Balmain football club does not die.
They have an unlikely ally in Wests. The Magpies appreciate the historical ties between the two clubs and recognise that the NRL licence would always have the team called Tigers.
Hoyle and Leo are examining Balmain’s constitution to ensure the rights of their club in the joint venture are protected.
They seem eminently qualified. Apart from the Hoyle family’s long experience in administration, Leo achieved an A in both French and Latin in the Leaving Certificate.
“I can go to Rome and speak their language,” Leo said of his Latin, which may also be helpful in understanding the Balmain constitution.
A front rower speaking Latin?
Now that’s a paradox equivalent in complexity to the three prodigal sons promoting a Fibro-Silvertail clash at Leichhardt.