Opinion

Wanderers' new home a star attraction, you can 'bank' on it

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The city of Sydney has another iconic attraction to go with the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House: it's called Bankwest Stadium.

This amazing football coliseum that has risen from the ashes of the old Parramatta Stadium is a sight to behold and football fans in Sydney's west have every reason to be proud of a ground that will compare favourably with most similarly-sized venues in the world.

The ground hosted its first ever football match on Saturday night when Western Sydney Wanderers entertained Leeds United in a high-profile, pre-season friendly.

The Yorkshire team won 2-1 thanks to a stupendous injury-time strike from Spaniard Pablo Hernandez.

The last-gasp goal would have ruined the Wanderers' house-warming party.

Yet the Wanderers fans who must have been thinking that a surprise draw with Marcelo Bielsa's team was in the bag need not feel overly disheartened by the result which, to be fair, rewarded Leeds's overall superiority.

They now know that they have a comparative mansion to call home after their three-year exile at the depressing Spotless Stadium while their new $360 million facility was being built.

Almost twenty-five thousand excited spectators, including a healthy contingent of Leeds fans,  were privileged to watch a match how it should be watched: at a proper football stadium where they were so close to the action they could almost touch the players.

What makes the 30,000-capacity cauldron so special is the gradient of the stands which enables patrons to look 'down' on the action which - from the steepest stands - is beneath you rather than ahead of you.

The international safety limit on grandstand steepness is 34 degrees and Bankwest Stadium's is at 33.93 degrees on all four sides which gives you an idea of how close fans at the highest points are to the action.

Never has an Australian sporting arena offered such opportunities for fan engagement.

The match against Leeds gave a taste of what's to come later in the season when competition points are up for grabs and domestic rivalries are renewed.

Bearing in mind that this was just a friendly between two teams that are still a work in progress, the game provided patches of polished football and a boisterous atmosphere to go with it.

And it was great to see the Red and Black Bloc in full voice on their return to the fold at the designated safe-standing area behind one of the goals.

One can only salivate at the prospect of a night of colour, passion and drama when the Wanderers face Sydney FC in the derby that is understood to be on match day three.

Things are therefore looking up for the club from Sydney's west that should be entitled to feel excited in the knowledge that they are 'wanderers' no more.

The Wanderers have a marvellous stadium and are building a pretty decent squad and it is now up to their fans to complement the club's ambition by getting behind their team in large numbers and recreating those memorable moments in the first few years of their existence that set the competition alight.

The A-League needs a strong Western Sydney Wanderers.