Cash-strapped Sharks consider taking games to Tonga or Fiji

Cronulla have flagged the prospect of taking games out of the Shire – potentially to Tonga or Fiji – after conceding the club made a loss on every game at Shark Park last year.

With expansion on the NRL’s agenda, there is every chance a Sydney club could be relocated if further teams aren’t introduced.

The Sharks appear one of the most vulnerable to a move despite trumpeting a $40 million windfall from the redevelopment of its precinct.

Cronulla chairman Dino Mezzatesta defended that deal. A significant chunk will be used to extinguish debt but the agreement means there will be no future earnings from the precinct.

The Sharks ran at a loss even during their premiership year and lose money every time they open the gates at a home game.

‘‘We have to grow our brand and our membership and a potential way to do that is to explore other areas to play,’’ Mezzatesta said. ‘‘By no stretch of the imagination are we saying we’ve done that this year but it’s something we have to look at seriously. The break-even number for us is about 16,500 [at Shark Park]. It’s another way of saying that we need to get people here, that’s the push.

‘‘Last year the biggest crowd we had was the Broncos game and that was 14,800 people and then about 14,000 for the Cowboys [for Johnathan Thurston’s Sydney farewell]. [Fans from] those two teams don’t travel, they were just our people, so it can be done. We’re just saying we need to get back to getting 18,000 to 19,000 people.’’

The Sharks are just about the only Sydney side that doesn’t take games out of its region. Panthers take a home match to Bathurst, the Dragons to Mudgee, the Roosters to Gosford, Manly to Christchurch, the Rabbitohs to the Sunshine Coast and Parramatta to Darwin.

While the Sharks claim they won’t be relocated, they conceded they must now consider taking games to more profitable locations.

‘‘We just need to find an area where we can grow our brand and support the Sharks,’’ he said. ‘‘It could be Orange or Bathurst or Mudgee or interstate. ‘I’d love to explore the Pacific Islands. That would have to be heavily subsidised but we’d look at that. If the Fijian or Tongan rugby league community [were keen], it would be unreal. We would need support from both countries for ... that to happen.’’