KELLY Hollis doesn't mind you calling her a "MagTige" or a "TigePie". The way the 41-year-old sees it, she is living proof the Balmain Tigers-Western Suburbs Magpies merger, spawning the NRL joint venture Wests Tigers, is working and will continue to work into the future despite the club's current struggles.
"My grandfather on my mum's side was a mad Balmain supporter, as he grew up in the area, and that whole side of my family supported/support Balmain," Kelly explained. "In 1996 my aunty on my dad's side won a season pass to the Magpies and I started following them a bit more as it was easier to get to games in Campbelltown on public transport.
"I have history with both clubs so when the merger happened it was perfect for me. But it's been one heck of a roller coaster, that's for sure."
The ride, at the moment, is off the rails. Without a coach for 2023 after dumping Michael Maguire and looking at an 11th straight season without finals football after winning just three games this year, the outlook is bleak.
But Kelly is doing her bit to keep the dream alive amid the doom and gloom. Last year she was invited to join the Ambush, a supporters' group acting as a conduit between the club and its fans.
The goal is to drive membership and game day engagement while bringing the Wests and Balmain factions closer together.
The group meets at Ashfield Wests or Rozelle's Sackville Hotel before games at Leichhardt and away venues or Leumeah's Beer Shed for Campbelltown Stadium fixtures. Former players and/or club officials are invited to address the group at functions, with 2005 premiership hero Pat Richards the special guest prior to last Sunday's loss to Manly.
"The camaraderie amongst the majority of Wests Tigers supporters is really second to none considering what the fan base has been through," Kelly said. "Every event The Ambush puts on, we have new people joining us to share their passion for the club.
"I have thankfully been lucky to have met some amazing people through being a WT supporter. My hope is that we start to see changes in the team and club as a whole so that there are more better days in our future than in the past."
Those days seem a long way off. Talking after Sunday's disappointing defeat, interim coach Brett Kimmorley said: "We're in a very difficult time as a club and we're not going to become one of the top sides straightaway. There's no quick fix in this."
You may remember our piece a few editions ago about the inner west clubbies - Lilyfield's Elouisa and Ruby Hawkes - doing great things in surf lifesaving circles.
Representing Coogee SLSC, both girls finished with gold medals at the recent Australian surf lifesaving titles on the Gold Coast. Elouisa was part of the successful under-17 RnR (5 person) team and Ruby won gold (U15 RnR 5 person) and a silver (U15 RnR 2 person) in her events.
The sisters, who were awarded with special club blazers at Coogee's end-of-season presentation night, are encouraging other inner west kids to get involved in the sport.
Sydney University inadvertently played a big part in a great fan movement sweeping through the NSW club rugby competition.
Back in late April, the Students hosted the Western Sydney Two Blues at Uni Oval and were expected to make short work of the visitors. The Two Blues, who hadn't won a game on Uni's patch this century, had other ideas. They pulled off an extraordinary 27-19 victory, motivated by a small crop of singing and dancing fans making a heck of a noise high up in the stands. The Two Blues Army has grown four-fold since that day, adding atmosphere at every venue they visit.
Amid the chants supporting their team, they sing Peter Andre's Mysterious Girl followed by John Denver's Country Roads - with "Western Sydney" replacing "West Virginia" - and Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline. "It all started from that day at Uni," Western Sydney GM, Christian Burden, told us. "The boys on the field got a real lift from the fans in the stand and it helped us get across the line against the best team in the comp.
"Their fans were really good about and it just grew from there. Rugby crowds aren't the most vocal and this is adding a bit of atmosphere to games."
Jonathon Reuben doesn't need to be told good things come to those who wait. The former Newtown Jet waited 29 years and 92 days to make his first grade debut, becoming the oldest player to do so in the NRL era when he turned out for St George Illawarra against the Cowboys last Thursday night.
Playing in front of a large contingent of family and friends in Townsville, Reuben pinched an intercept and made another long break in a solid first-up performance in a losing side.
After his time at Newtown, the bearded winger has gone on to score 108 tries in 109 appearances in the Queensland Cup.
Former Jets teammate and current Wests Tigers star Jackson Hastings posted before the game: "Want to wish Jonathon Reuben all the very best. Played together in 2013 and to see him be persistent and to make his NRL debut tonight at age 29 should be inspiring to all. Unreal effort!!"
Now he's finally made it to the NRL, Reuben hopes to hang onto his spot for at least another week.
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