Last week, the Wynnum Manly Seagulls, Wynnum Manly Juniors and Wynnum Manly Leagues Club released a joint statement regarding the future of rugby league in the community, and a proposed relocation of the senior and junior clubs, to accommodate growth.
On the back of that statement, Wynnum Manly Seagulls CEO Hanan Laban did a Q&A-style interview with News Corp publications, which you can read by clicking the link here:
In response, members and fans from all three clubs have asked for more information about the proposal.
While the concept is in its early stages and information is still being gathered, Laban has answered the following questions to clarify the proposal, and to inform members and fans.
How do you respond to claims the Wynnum Manly Juniors are being ‘kicked out’ of Kitchener Park, or claims Wynnum Manly Seagulls are being forced out of Kougari Oval?
First of all, let me again reassure everyone that no one is being ‘kicked out’. Not the Seagulls Seniors or Juniors.
The Juniors need to move to a bigger venue because they are at capacity at Kitchener Park.
The fact of the matter is, and it is a good problem to have, the Juniors have more kids wanting to play rugby league than they can currently accommodate.
The Juniors have over 750 registered players across 47 teams. I was just speaking to Junior committee members last week and they were saying it was a monumental task to fit their 47 teams in across two fields. I asked them what would they do if more kids signed up? They weren’t sure how they would accommodate them.
With a bigger venue, the Juniors believe they can get participation numbers to 1200 because of the influx of families to the area.
So you can’t blame the Juniors for wanting a bigger home, because they are trying to give a game to every kid that wants to play.
What is a little difficult to understand is why some people who are criticising this idea from the Juniors want to deny 400 kids the same opportunity they themselves were given when they were kids – and that is the chance to play rugby league for Wynnum Manly.
Once it was known the Juniors need to move to accommodate more kids and families, the idea of moving the Seniors to Kitchener Park was floated because the Seagulls have similarly outgrown the facilities at Kougari Oval.
The Seagulls have set up a sub-committee to investigate the proposal, which includes moving the Juniors to a bigger venue, and the Seniors moving to a new purpose-built stadium at Kitchener Park. Who is on this sub-committee? Do they have a conflict of interest? What is the timeline for this proposal to eventuate?
The sub-committee consists of the Chairman of the Wynnum Manly Seagulls Football Club, Tom Solah, and Director Karl Dekroo, the President of Wynnum Juniors, Adam Lipke and myself.
We are investigating bringing more people onto the sub-committee as the project progresses.
But it is worth reinforcing that Adam is on the sub-committee to ensure the best result for the Juniors is attained here. The Juniors have been involved in this process, and their needs have been at the forefront, every step of the way.
There is no conflict of interest. If any of those involved had a conflict, in accordance with proper governance, they would have been ineligible to be a part of the sub-committee.
There is no timeline because, as stated previously, the concept is in the information gathering and feasibility stages.
The sub-committee is not being asked to design or construct the facility. They are being asked to investigate a proposal in the best interests of the club.
The Seagulls have stated Kougari Oval will remain a training facility and the ground will remain as it is. But will the Wynnum Manly Leagues Club state for the record there are no plans to develop Kougari Oval for their own purposes?
In the joint statement issued by the Juniors, Seniors and Leagues Club last Tuesday, Wynnum Manly Leagues Club Chairman Mr Peter Smith literally said exactly that – that the current Board of Directors and Management have had no discussions and have no plans to develop Kougari Oval.
We have heard all the rumours about the future of Kougari, some of which have bordered on the ridiculous.
The fact of the matter is, Kougari will remain a rugby league field, and remain a part of the Wynnum Manly Football club, used by the Seagulls as a training base and venue for select home games each season.
Why do the Wynnum Manly Seagulls need a stadium at Kitchener Park?
Rugby league is booming on the Bayside.
Wynnum Juniors have over 750 kids and need space to grow so they can allow more boys and girls to play.
Wynnum Manly Seagulls need better facilities for fans, families and the players in our male and female programs, or risk losing our place in the competition.
The Queensland Rugby League regularly undertake audits of all competition facilities and our current facilities at Kougari Oval are at risk of falling below the standard required to participate in the Hostplus Cup.
If we do not meet the competition’s criteria on the facilities we provide to players and spectators, we potentially could lose our place in the Queensland Cup.
Most of the clubs in the competition are moving into stadium facilities, in line with the standard of the competition.
What we want for Wynnum Manly is the same thing that Redcliffe and Brisbane Easts and Sunshine Coast and other teams have given their players and fans – a venue to be proud of, that is an enjoyable venue to play and watch rugby league.
Currently, Kougari Oval’s capacity is 5,000 people, which we reach for games like the Broncos pre-season trial, and semi-final matches.
We need room to grow, and better facilities to encourage more people to come to the game.
How many women don’t attend games now because they must walk so far from the Chook Pen to get to a toilet? It’s not acceptable in this day and age.
A better facility encourages more attendance and engagement because it is a place that people want to be.
Unfortunately, because of a range of factors with Kougari Oval, we can’t develop where we are, or make it bigger. We can’t accommodate the six elite-level teams that want to play and train there.
So we have to find a solution. If we stay still, we will be left behind.
In the past 30 years, we have seen traditional clubs like Valleys, Brothers and Wests go under or exit the competition because they could not keep up with the criteria required to compete in the Queensland Cup.
Without better facilities able to accommodate the demands of the modern game, we risk going the same way.
In an ideal world, we would do all these developments at Kougari, and stay there.
But it can’t be done in the space we currently have in the middle of a residential neighbourhood.
What about people who say that moving away from Kougari Oval is being disrespectful to the club’s history?
The proposed move to Kitchener Park is actually embracing Wynnum Manly’s history, and the people who were part of it.
Kitchener Park was Wynnum Manly’s home ground from when they joined the Brisbane Rugby League competition in 1951, up until the Seagulls moved to Kougari Oval in 1967.
One of our greatest ever players, Lionel Morgan, played 106 games for Wynnum Manly over 10 seasons, from 1959 to 1968.
For eight of the 10 years Lionel played at the Seagulls, Kitchener Park was his home ground.
Kitchener Park is Wynnum Manly’s first home, and a huge part of our club’s history, just like Kougari Oval.
Why is this proposal good for the community, and not just good for the football club?
The proposed concept is not about being glamourous, or superficial. It is about what is best for the local community – in particular the children and families who want to be involved in rugby league.
Without a new venue for the Juniors, they face having to tell 400 kids to go elsewhere, or to play another sport.
A new venue for the Juniors is the only way for rugby league participation in the area to grow because Kitchener Park simply cannot fit any more in.
The proposed stadium for Kitchener Park is not just for our Queensland Cup team. We have six elite-level teams playing for the club now, including two women’s teams.
Our current facilities are not suitable for hosting those teams, and some of them have to train at Capalaba because of restrictions on space and usage.
What we envision is creating an asset for the local community – one that will create jobs in the short and long-term, during the construction phase and onwards with the establishment of new community facilities, such as the idea of a new medical precinct.
It is going to be good for local, family-owned small businesses, with the proposed new facility closer to the train station and the Wynnum CBD, encouraging game-day visitors to spend time and money in the community.
The venue would be available for other clubs to use, but also for local schools who are looking for a bigger facility to host their major games and events.
There is the opportunity to create a facility capable of hosting events outside of sport, encouraging more arts and entertainment exhibitions to the local area.
And, as mentioned previously, it gives Wynnum a chance to be a part of the 2032 Olympic games, by providing a rectangular stadium where rugby sevens and soccer teams can create a training base and play warm-up matches in the lead-up to the Games.
BMD Wynnum Manly Seagulls