Inside the bikie clubhouse that's a smoke-free zone with exercise and anti-ageing machines
- The Sunday Telegraph
- October 19, 2013
That and the small, dome-shaped CCTV camera perched above the entry.
But step inside and you're in a room that resembles a luxury bar - all comfortable leather seating in luxury booths.
On the wall, two large television screens are live-streaming images from eight other well-placed, well-concealed cameras - spying on incoming visitors from as far back as the main road.
That's why the door opened so quickly.
Welcome to the Mongols motorcycle club's Blacktown clubhouse.
Only weeks ago the site was home to another outlaw motorcycle club, the Finks.
That was before their newly minted alliance with their US counterparts.
In an unprecedented move, 85 per cent of
Finks members nationwide
merged with the Mongols, swelling their numbers in Australia where, until recently, they were a fledgling outfit with only three small chapters in NSW.
It only took a phonecall and a meeting with Australian-based Mongols to organise, says Mark "Ferret" Moroney, a former Finks member of some 26 years standing and chapter sergeant-at-arms.
The main purpose was to rebrand - to start again, Ferret says.
Members were given a choice to stay with the Finks or cross over to the new club - a return to the "bikes and brotherhood" of the 1970s.
Back then long beards, chain-smoking and beer guts were all the rage.
Today that's changed.
The clubhouse is strictly non-smoking. There is an exercise bike next to the pool table and collagen apparatus - an anti-ageing machine - located in the members-only area upstairs.
"We just couldn't go on the way we were because eventually everyone would end up out of control," Ferret says.
"People could see the cycle that we were in - they realised that in four or five years this club wouldn't be happening anymore.
"We said we're going to get a constitution, it's going to have rules and guidelines to it and if you don't agree with it, don't come."
The Mongols are still considered by American police to be one of the most dangerous and violent motorcycle clubs.
But according to Ferret, the US Mongols are under new leadership and are not the club they once were.
He says they have eliminated criminality almost completely from their ranks in recent years. Their charter, now adopted here, forbids drug use. Conviction of a serious crime results in immediate expulsion.
The club does not cover legal fees and anyone with a drug or alcohol addiction is encouraged to self-report - the club will pay and assist their rehabilitation.
"They've taken it back to what it was in the '70s - that's our intention now," says Ferret.
"People have been told they're on notice, the people that came with us. They're leaving the past behind.
"It's saying to people 'if you want to start again, if you want to have new direction, if you want to try to keep yourself together so you don't end up in jail all the time, this is the way we're going'."
So why not just change the club's name or expel wayward members?
"We had to do something that would shock everybody," Ferret says. "The Mongols here were small, they didn't have history on them and that's where we needed to go.
"We didn't want to go somewhere with a platform of criminality - we needed to go somewhere with none so we could prove this is how we're going to stay."
Police remain sceptical. Law enforcement sees the move as a means of trying to outsmart anti-association laws being used in Queensland to try to dismantle the Finks club.
Ferret refutes this, saying those laws were only being applied to the Finks in Queensland, and it's a national club. Loyalty is everything in a club like the Finks, so convincing members to switch sides jarred with some at first.
"At first it was a shock to people," says Ferret.
And it would have certainly taken some bravery to float the idea with club bosses, who could have ordered swift discipline at the mere suggestion, if it was taken the wrong way. "Oh yeah, they could have," Ferret nods, knowingly. "In the end it wasn't about being loyal to the club you're in, it was about thinking with your head, not your heart.
"If the majority had decided not to go we wouldn't have done it. If people want to be in this club, this is the way we are now. We had a good time, everyone had fun, now it's time to pull our head in." That is his key message.
Or maybe it's about survival in the new climate of police taskforces, consorting laws, increased jail time for bikie members in Queensland and declaration orders being flagged for around the country. If the message is self-preservation, it is reinforced by his parting words in the searing western Sydney heat.
"Make sure to put on a pair of sunnies, wrinkles aren't cool boys," he warns.
Perhaps things really have changed after all.