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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The St George Dragons and Illawarra Steelers merged in 1999 to become the St George Illawarra Dragons. Given the uncertainty around the future of stand-alone NRL clubs at the time, it was felt that the history and financial backing of the Dragons would combine well with the expanded geographical footprint and traditional player nursery of the South Coast and create a more sustainable and successful entity. That being the case, the current day Dragons now have three home grounds; UOW Jubilee Oval Kogarah, WIN Stadium Wollongong, and ANZ Stadium (which they share with South Sydney, Canterbury and the Wests Tigers).
The original Dragons, the “Red V,” formed in 1920 and are of course, one of the most successful clubs in rugby league. Indeed they hold a record that is unlikely to ever be matched in professional sport; 11 straight premierships from 1956 to 1966. The Steelers entered the competition in 1982 and despite a strong history of the Illawarra producing great players, never experienced a great deal of success. The merged entity is billed as a joint venture, however arguably skews towards the St George side, especially to the casual observer.
Jubilee Oval opened in 1936 but didn’t officially become the home of St George until 1950. The current capacity is 20,500 following a number of improvements over the past 20 years. The Dragons sometimes technically host one game each season at the Sydney Cricket Ground for a heritage round and one at Allianz Stadium against the Sydney Roosters for Anzac Day, but otherwise play a minimum of four games at both Kogarah and Wollongong, with the remainder at ANZ Stadium.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
No surprises here, standard offerings at quite high prices. Expect to pay in the order of $15 for a meal combo with hot chips and a drink with your choice of meat pie, sausage roll, hot dog or chicken nuggets. Individually each item is a minimum of $5.50. Beers are a choice of either Cascade Light ($6) or Great Northern ($6.50). Wine is also $6 while pre mixed spirits are $10. You'll have to fork out $1.20 for your carry tray so don't throw it away after you've bought the first round.
Jubilee Oval is dominated by a grandstand that runs the length of the western touchline and flows into a seating bowl at the northern end of the ground. The eastern sideline has perimeter seating and a grass hill. A video board and separate scoreboard are located at the northern end of the venue. As the sole tenant, visitors are left with no doubt that they are in Dragons territory. There is plenty of red and white, with some additional nice touches such as a photo opportunity and an honour board. There is also a Walk of Fame.
Jubilee is a suburban stadium and as such is a smaller venue, although regular upgrades over the years mean it fares well when compared with similar stadiums around Sydney such as Remondis Stadium, Penrith's Pepper Stadium, Leichhardt Oval and Brookvale Oval. Average crowd sizes are between 12,000 and 15,000.
The suburb of Carlton is located around 15km south of the Sydney Central Business District. There are not a lot of exciting opportunities for action in the immediate area adjacent to the stadium. However, worth mentioning are the St George Leagues Club (124 Princes Hwy Beverley Park) on the other side of the highway which has a number of restaurants and bars. Next door to the licensed club is long-time family restaurant, Sizzler (Cnr Princes Hwy and Jubilee Ave, Kogarah). Much of the area around Jubilee is residential, although there are some shopping strips further back towards the Carlton and Kogarah railway stations.
The Dragons are one of the best supported clubs in the NRL. As well as having a large pool of local fans, they draw supporters from all over Sydney and even have registered supporter groups in Melbourne and Brisbane. The most passionate area of home team fans are at the scoreboard end of the hill, with most standing for the entirety of the game chanting, holding banners and waving flags. The grandstand is dominated by season ticket holders and members, many of whom have sat in the same seats for many years. The atmosphere is largely cordial although there is some level of profanity in the general admission areas.
While Jubilee Oval does not score well for this category it is not a reflection of the stadium. Entering the stadium and moving around are not an issue at all. In fact, Jubilee has quite wide and accessible concourses for a suburban stadium. However the gridlocked surrounding streets and lack of parking are definitely an issue. Hint: get there early if you want to be able to score a parking spot anywhere nearby. Take your pick of streets and hope for the best! Travelling by train is an option, although the nearest station at Carlton is still a 10 minute walk. The club tries to mitigate this by providing a shuttle bus.
Ticket prices at Kogarah are fairly comparable to other NRL stadiums, with General Admission starting at $25 for an Adult and ranging up to $50 for "Gold level" reserved seating. Having said that, the only GA area is the hill so you will likely be fighting for space. Personally I'd be likely to spend a little more for a reserved seat in front of the hill to get the best atmosphere but still be relatively comfortable. The usual discounts for families and pre purchase apply. There is little money to be saved on food but not having to pay for parking if you chance driving is always nice.
There is some level of fan engagement inside and outside the stadium along with various stalls and merchandise stands, however the real strength of a visit to Kogarah are the fans and the game itself.
With suburban stadiums potentially being phased out of the NRL, UOW Jubilee Oval Kogarah is one venue that should continue to survive. The facilities are pleasantly up to standard and the fans help make a Dragons game an exciting and fun experience
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124 Princes Hwy
Beverley Park, NSW 2217
+61 2 9587 1022
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