One of the many Balmain Leagues Club tower proposals and (inset) the reality.

The blaze that ripped through the old Balmain Tigers club site in Sydney’s inner west has left the fate of the old site up in the air, with the local mayor calling for its demolition. It is believed vandals set fire to the Rozelle club, yet again, as it has been sitting idle and neglected for well over a decade. The fate of the iconic inner-west club, once home to Balmain Tigers Leagues Club, has been at the centre of a long-running planning battle since it shuttered in 2010.

The club – and its debt of $24m – was bought for $1, before it changed hands several times over the years. Balmain Leagues Club entered voluntary administration in 2018 and in 2019 members of both Balmain Leagues Club and Wests Ashfield Leagues Club voted almost unanimously for amalgamation, backed by the most recent owner, property developer Heworth. 

The Wests merger offered a five-year commitment to provide funding for the Balmain Tigers Rugby League Football Club and Balmain Tigers Junior Rugby League Club. Wests Ashfield accepted responsibility for the outstanding loan repayments that were owed to the NRL by Balmain Tigers.

Heworth’s grand $400 million plans for two apartment towers, shops, a metro station and a new home for the leagues club never eventuated, stymied by planning restrictions and local objections. The State Government then considered using The Victoria Rd block as a spoil excavation site for the Western Harbour Tunnel project.

But the Tigers’ old den is not alone. While it may not be as grand, Burwood Colliery Bowling Club in Whitebridge, south of Newcastle, has also become home to squatters and vandals. The site, with views over Dudley Beach, has steadily declined since being placed into administration in August 2014 following a successful land claim.

In Bomaderry, the local RSL Sub-Branch is assessing the future of the Bomaderry RSL Club on the NSW South Coast after Bomaderry Bowling Club announced the closure of the RSL club by the end of this financial year.

The RSL sub-branch has previously stated it will “remain and continue to operate and offer services and support our veterans require”.

The RSL’s liquor and gaming licences will remain with Bomaderry Bowling Club, and 54 gaming machines will be absorbed into the bowling club operations and are likely to be transferred to a new club facility in Bomaderry on the site of the former cattle sale yards.

They are just three examples of many more club sites which are allowed to fall into neglect, despite their massive potential as community hubs.

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