NRL 2024: Wests Tigers, Steve Roach and Benny Elias not invited to games, Tigers legends, Parramatta Eels, news, NRL360

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Tigers legends Steve Roach and Benny Elias have shockingly revealed club powerbrokers have never invited them to an NRL game as special guests.

Instead, the pair are set to attend the Tigers’ annual Easter Monday clash with the Eels, having been extended an invitation to CommBank Stadium by Parramatta officials.

The stunning claim comes amid the future of the Tigers’ spiritual home, Leichhardt Oval, hanging in the balance due to the facilities failing to meet NRL standards.

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Between the pair, Roach and Elias have tallied 420 games for the Balmain Tigers, who merged with the Western Suburbs Magpies in following the 1999 NRL season.

But still, they haven’t been welcomed back to the club as guests, despite years of service that saw both players represent their state and country at representative level.

“We are going on behalf of Parramatta, can I tell you the honest truth? I don’t care what people think about this,” Roach revealed on NRL360 on Wednesday night.

“We spilt blood on Leichhardt Oval for years and years right, and I’m trying to talk about the Magpies too. There was 100 years of the Magpies, there was 100 years of the Balmain Tigers.

“They’ve tried to brush 200 years of heritage, they’ve said ‘we’ve got a new club here’. We haven’t been invited to anything.

“Sorry, I tell a lie, we got invited when they wanted to raise money for the pathways. Now we get invited this week by Parramatta.”

Roach also revealed he’d been invited to watch the Tigers play the Knights by Newcastle officials previously, having heard nothing from officials of the merger club.

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NRL360 co-host Paul Kent went on to explain he’d never seen a number of the club’s legends attend Leichhardt Oval after being extended an invitation by the Tigers.

He claimed legends such as Noel Kelly, Tommy Raudonikis, Wayne Pearce and Paul Sironen had all been snubbed by the merger club’s officials.

“How disappointing is that?… This is a club that doesn’t want to recognise the players pre-merger, but has such a struggle still after 25 years to be one club,” Kent said.

“They are still split into Balmain and Western Suburbs in many ways. What about the fact this week you’re going to watch Wests play Parramatta and you’re going as guests of Parramatta.

“I find that extraordinary that you guys are going and it’s taken Parramatta to invite you, the first time you’re going as special guests you’re invited by another club.”

“We want to feel a part of it, we don’t feel a part of it, that’s the problem,” Roach added.

Meanwhile, Tigers chief executive Shane Richardson made a plea to the NSW Government, calling for funding to be allocated to save Leichhardt Oval.

In the process he sparked a stadium war with the Panthers, asking for 10 per cent of their proposed $309 million upgrade to be taken away from the reigning premiers.

But NSW Premier Chris Minns poured cold water on any potential funding on Tuesday, explaining: “I don’t have spare money at the moment to pump into Leichhardt Oval”.

Should Leichhardt Oval fail to be upgraded, the Tigers could be forced to depart the historic ground due to insufficient change room facilities and poor bathroom amenities, among other issues.

However, despite not being invited to games, both Elias and Roach were desperate to see the famous ground remain in the NRL.

“We had an extraordinary game there last week where we had our first very convincing win, Leichhardt Oval played a very big part of that,” Elias said.

“The spectators, it’s almost a bucket list for a rugby league spectator to go and experience, standing on a hill watching the Tigers play.”

“Before we start talking about getting rid of it, honestly lets do it up. Is there another place in sport that’s got a better oval? I don’t think there is,” Roach said.

“We’re not saying it’s perfect at the moment, of course, we all know that. But please don’t get rid of a ground like that.”

Originally published as ‘How disappointing is that’: Legends dish on Wests Tigers’ brutal snub

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