Dragons to bring more NRL games back to WIN Stadium

Uncertainty around timeframes for the NSW government's $1.6 billion overhaul of Sydney's stadiums is likely to persuade St George Illawarra to return more games to Kogarah and Wollongong.

Support: WIN Stadium. Picture: Getty Images

Support: WIN Stadium. Picture: Getty Images

The Dragons are in the midst of finalising their home ground strategy from next season with their four-year commitment due to expire this year.

They are giving strong consideration to temporarily abandoning a push to play more games at Sydney's bigger stadiums. Plans for the renovation of ANZ Stadium, which hosts two Dragons home games each season, are yet to be revealed.

It is unclear whether Venues NSW will undertake the ANZ Stadium makeover in stages over a number of years or close the venue completely for a season.

Even as a temporary measure while the Sydney stadia rebuild was complete,the Dragons would at least appease their passionate supporter base, which has lobbied for more matches at UOW Jubilee Oval and WIN Stadium.

St George Illawarra – who play home games at five venues, including the SCG – usually play four games at each venue in a season, but allocated an extra one to Kogarah in 2017 due to a quirk in the NRL draw.

New Dragons chairman Brian Johnston conceded the club's venue plan may have had "limited success", despite crowds at ANZ Stadium for home matches against the Bulldogs and Tigers in the past four years outstripping average attendances at Kogarah and Wollongong.

It costs the joint venture $100,000 just to throw open the gates at their traditional homes as opposed to being subsidised to play games at Sydney's major venues.

Asked would the Dragons persist with their existing venue allocation from next year, Johnston said: "With all the developments that are going to happen with the venues they might not be able to cater for us anyway. The decision might be made for us.

"[But] we need to keep all our options open for us. What has worked are those marquee games like Anzac Day against the Roosters, but we need to work on how we market and promote the event.

"Yes, we want to get games in our local district because that resonates with a lot of fans however it doesn't pay the bills. We haven't had any clear decision yet.

"Is it going to be a good fan experience [at ANZ Stadium under a rebuild]? What's going to be capacity? Are they in a position during a development phase to guarantee a gate?"

After taking over from Warren Lockwood as chairman and signed off on coach Paul McGregor's two-year extension after a flying start to the year, Johnston won't be rushed into finalising a deal to sell a 50 per cent stake in the club to WIN. 

Billionaire Bruce Gordon's empire has been bogged down in proposed changes to media ownership laws and platform shifts forcing talks to slow with the Dragons, who have fielded other expressions of interest.

"I would be very confident we can get something done with WIN, but we don't want to disregard other potential suitors out there," Johnston said.

"[WIN] are probably the right fit because they have an emotional attachment to the club and that is just as important as the bucks to the longevity of the business model.”