Turf war adds twist to oldest NRL rivalry

·2-min read

As Allianz Stadium opens for its first NRL game on Friday, Australian rugby league's oldest rivalry now has something new to bicker about.

The Sydney Roosters and South Sydney have been fierce rivals since first playing against each other in 1908.

Memorable fights, iconic tries and bitter spats have brought this rivalry to life, but as the rebuilt Sydney Football Stadium opens this Friday a new point of contention is taking shape.

The signage on the shiny new stadium reads "Home of the Sydney Roosters", a point emphasised by their head coach Trent Robinson on Thursday.

A video uploaded on the club's website details how Moore Park has been their traditional home since their foundation.

Their NRLW side will open proceedings in a top-of-the-table grand final rematch against St George Illawarra earlier in the evening.

But their return hasn't gone down well with Souths, who are stuck on the other side of town playing out of Homebush's Accor Stadium.

Compared to Allianz and Parramatta's CommBank Stadium, Accor is beginning to look dated.

Neither side can make the top four nor drop out of the eight, meaning the build-up to this game has focused on the squabble over the sold-out 42,000-seater venue.

Souths have made their case clear with head coach Jason Demetriou, who will miss the game with COVID-19, arguing Allianz was an appropriate place for his team to call home.

"They've just built an $800 million stadium in our backyard, so it makes common sense to me that we play there," he said last month. "It's a stadium that's built in the heartland of South Sydney."

To an outsider, it might seem crazy that Souths, whose traditional supporter base is just a few kilometres away from Allianz, would be denied the chance to play at the new stadium.

Souths have played at Accor since 2006 but have grown frustrated by the NSW Government's resistance to upgrading the venue.

Stadium stoushes are the flavour of the month in NSW.

Brookvale, Shark Park and Leichhardt Oval were all promised funding for a facelift but all three clubs have been told that money won't be coming.

That led to the NRL threatening to take the grand final away from Sydney and Souths are yet to put membership on sale for 2023 because they don't know where they will be playing.

Unsurprisingly, the Roosters are firmly against encroachment on their turf.

"The Roosters are the only people that belong there," chairman Nick Politis said in an interview with Roosters Radio this week, while refusing to mention Souths' name.

"It's our true home and it's very sacred."

A new stadium may open on Friday, but the division between two of the game's oldest factions remains as strong as ever.