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St Georeg Dragons
St George Illawarra Dragons

Lots of smoke but no fire

In 1998, the St George Dragons and the Illawarra Steelers realised that they would make ideal merger partners. Not only did they wear the same red and white colours, they could bring different strengths to the table. For George, its strengths were its great traditions, legends and history of success. For Illawarra, its strength was that since entering the league in 1982, it had done bugger all and was therefore happy to start with a clean slate. This ensured that there would be little chance of board room fights about the traditions of one club getting priority over the other.  

Once the merger was complete, it was time to sit back and remember the glory days when St George was the most feared club in the league, winning a staggering 11 consecutive premierships from 1956 to 1966. Aside from setting benchmarks of excellence, St George set an example in the code of conduct. The club's champions, such as Provan, Langlands, Gasnier and Raper, were not just great footballers, they were great men. The conduct of the players in turn led to one of the immortal images of rugby league. In 1963, a photographer snapped an image of Norm Provan and West's Arthur Summons in an embrace after St George defeated Wests 9-6 in one of the muddiest Grand Finals ever. Titled "The Gladiators", the image was held up as the symbol of sportsmanship under which the game should be played. Later it was caste in bronze and became the league's premiership trophy.

By the 80s, the glory days had well and truly faded. The club's home ground of Kogorah was run down and badly in need of repair. Unable to gain funding to upgrade it, in 1986 St George made the SCG their new home ground. This was not successful with fans so in 1988 they moved on to Belmore (the run-down home of Canterbury). In 1989, they came full circle when they returned to the dilapidated Kogorah

Throughout the 90s, the club just couldn't reclaim its fire and so weak did they play, the fabled 11 premierships only seemed possible in a child's imagination. Struggling for funds, the Dragons took the offer of merging with Illawarra in return for a guaranteed place in the new league formed as part of the peace deal following the Super league war.

As for Illawara, it was granted admission to the New South Wales Rugby League First Division on the 13th December 1980. Although it had a passionate fan base, it existed on a shoestring budget and had never been able to entice the champions to play down south. In almost two decades, they never won a Grand Final and never even came close.

Although the merger has largely been a success, it is still shackled by the problems of trying to represent two geographic bases at the same time. St George had enough trouble maintaining Kogorah when it played all their games there, it is impossible when the games are halved. In the fan's ideal world, the Cronulla Sharks would go bankrupt and the Saints would take over their stadium, nicely situated between St George and Wollongong.

 

Roy Morgan research  

2004 - when compared to other NRL supporters

  • 23% more likely than the average person to be in the lowest (FG) socio-economic group;
  • 35% more likely than the average person to have left school at the end of year 10;
  • 32% more likely than the average person to be a Roman Catholic;
  • 28% more likely than the average to be intending to buy a new car within four years

2006 - when compared to other NRL supporters

  • 22% more likely to be aged over 50 
  • 33% more likely to have been to the live theatre in the last three month
  • 30% more likely to be a skilled worker
  • 100% more likely to have St George as their current main financial institution

     

    Icon

    • A merged entity so arguaby has yet to produce a worthy icon. As seperate entities, Illawarra was a very egalitarian team in that it never really produced any champions. On the other hand, St George was a production line of champions.
    • Graeme Langlands - Illawarra born and bred who became a St George champion.
    • Johnny Raper - Played in three different positions in Grand Finals for St George, lock, five-eighth and centre. A workaholic, considered the best all round player the game has seen. In 2004, the name was sullied after it was used in a sexual assault joke.
    • Reg Gasnier - Said to have had an amazing change of pace, great anticipation and be particularly unselfish. Tagged 'Puff the Magic Dragon' by fans. In 2004, the name was sullied when his nephew Mark was ommitted from the Origin team for trying to entice a lady into a gang-bang.
    • Norm Provan- "A raw boned giant with a dominating frame of bone, muscle and football intelligence."

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  Was this more interesting than a news update of players in a recovery session standing around in the ocean looking cold or of a team 'training without incident'?