The demographics of the different areas plays its part too, at times limiting the amount of available players & funding for junior clubs.
This was a big factor in the death of Norths, Balmain, Newtown, as well as Wests move from Ashfield out to Campbelltown (via Lidcombe) & eventual merger with Balmain. Dwindling junior numbers, combined with a lack of interest from many people living in the area to support the development of the game, saw the slow decline of these clubs.
My own experience of living most of my life in the Shire, and spending most of my working life in the Eastern Suburbs also gives me a bit of perspective of how things are going in these areas.
The Shire’s peak was in the 90’s, after the young families that had moved in during the 70’s, when there was cheap land on offer, had grown up. While there are still young families coming to the area, they aren’t coming through in the numbers they did 40-50 years ago, and being restricted be the beaches in the east, national park in the south, and river north & west, the only development now is in unit complexes. The area is also big on soccer, AFL, basketball & not surprisingly water sports, all eating into the junior numbers.
The Eastern Suburbs has few genuine juniors, but is propped up a lot by the private schools (Scots, Cranbrook, Waverley, Sydney Grammar - Sydney Boys, & Marcellin are also close by, but in Souths area), with all schools bussing in boys from all over Sydney & some boarders from outside Sydney. While these schools lean towards union, there are a lot of boys that play both codes, and many get picked up by the Roosters through this system. Again there is pressure from other sports - union (mainly through schools), soccer, tennis & athletics.
The big advantage we have with Panthers is it is still a place for young families, supplying a constant stream of young players. Dragons (through their partnership with Illawarra), Tigers, Souths, Bulldogs & Eels all have the potential to do what we are doing, but aren’t managing it as well as we are. Sharks & Manly are dependent on waves of juniors coming through together (Manly also have their partnership with Blacktown). Roosters, as I’ve referred to earlier, are on good ground as long as the private schools keep plodding along as they have been.