The NRL’s decision to go back to the bush must be applauded

Riley Pettigrew Roar Guru

By Riley Pettigrew, Riley Pettigrew is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger


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    Paul Gallen in action for City in the final City vs Country Origin match in 2017 (NRL Photos/Grant Trouville)

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    Last night the National Rugby League revealed that premiership matches will be taken to a number of regional locations throughout New South Wales and Queensland.

    Bathurst, Cairns, Gladstone, Gosford, Mudgee, Tamworth and Toowoomba will all host NRL games in 2018, the most regional venues played at in the NRL’s history.

    It is a move that will not only make the product look better on television but also help to nurture rugby league heartlands and provide a boost to the local communities.

    The Dragons will head to Glen Willows Regional Stadium in Mudgee for an NRL match while also playing the Rabbitohs for the Charity Shield in the pre-season.

    The Wests Tigers head to northwest New South Wales to play at Tamworth’s Scully Park while the Penrith Panthers will continue their longstanding partnership with Bathurst at Carrington Park.

    The Central Coast, a rugby league heartland home to over 300,000 people, will also receive games from both the Roosters and Rabbitohs at Gosford.

    Regional Queensland won’t be short of games either with the Commonwealth Games forcing the Titans to head to Gladstone in Central Queensland and Toowoomba in the Darling Downs.

    The Rabbitohs will once again play a game in Cairns at Barlow Park.

    The NRL’s commitment to bringing elite rugby league to regional New South Wales and Queensland is a sign that they are on the right track toward venue allocation.

    It comes days after the announcement of four double-headers.

    Perth Stadium will host four teams on opening weekend with South Sydney taking on the Warriors before the Bulldogs do battle with reigning premiers Melbourne Storm.

    Just two weeks later the Rabbitohs will once again feature as part of a double-header at ANZ Stadium taking on the Sea Eagles before the Eels and Sharks go head-to-head, the event coinciding with the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

    Round 5 will then see Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium host the Wests Tigers and Storm, as well as a game between the Warriors and Cowboys.

    The fourth and final double-header for the 2018 season will see the Storm and Titans go at it again before the Sea Eagles and Broncos continue a rugby league festival at Suncorp Stadium.

    With the NRL now taking control of the draw from the television networks and a number of venue contracts, especially in Sydney, coming to an end, the NRL are taking the opportunity to reassess where each team plays games.

    The NRL should take one step further by ensuring that all teams take at least one game to a regional town as well as an additional fixture in a city underserviced by the NRL. Think the Titans taking games to Toowoomba and Port Moresby, the Dragons playing in Mudgee and Suva, and the Bulldogs playing in Dubbo and Perth.

    An exception will be made for the Broncos – yes they get special treatment but only because they averaged crowds of over 30,000, double that of the competition average. The Raiders, Storm, Knights and Cowboys will only be required to take one game away.

    As part of this initiative, the NRL will hold two rounds each year (likely in the State of Origin period) dedicated to the bush.

    Imagine having a whole round of rugby league in Wagga Wagga, Toowoomba, Taranaki, Geelong, Gosford, Bathurst, Mudgee and Dubbo.

    It’s just one more step in the right direction.

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    The Crowd Says (15)

    • October 13th 2017 @ 6:33am
      Moorey said | October 13th 2017 @ 6:33am | ! Report

      Yes games need to go to bush but is it enough grass roots repair.?

    • October 13th 2017 @ 8:23am
      peeeko said | October 13th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

      great move but i cant believe the dragons chose the metropolis of Mudgee , 10,000 people and not close to anywhere else.

      • October 13th 2017 @ 9:41am
        Oingo Boingo said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Do they get to choose ? Or is this another master stroke by Toddy boy ?
        Regardless , the bush needs this plus some .
        I recently went to Wagga and what was once the heart of league in the town , Eric Weissel Oval, is now rubble .
        5 or so acres of wasteland , sold to developers , and that has been replaced by , ummmm oh that’s right NOTHING.
        League is all but dead there.
        The biggest inland city in Australia has been forgotten by the NRL .
        The main local AFL ground , Robertson Oval has had a massive refurb and looks awesome .
        AFL numbers in juniors are growing massively.
        Search google for images of Eric Weissel Oval and Robertson Oval and youll see what I saw .
        It’s a disgrace.

        • October 13th 2017 @ 12:03pm
          Mat said | October 13th 2017 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

          Yes, Weissel oval is no more after the Leagues Club went bust in Wagga. But the RL people out there have built a new ground on the edge of town that had a sellout 10,000 crowd for City v Country in 2015. It can easily handle an NRL game.

          The game is still popular out there but they badly need help from HQ to battle the AFL money that gets pumped into the area.

          • October 14th 2017 @ 3:38am
            Frank Davey said | October 14th 2017 @ 3:38am | ! Report

            Up to the early sixties Wagga had two NRL clubs. Up to the late seventies, three NRL clubs. Up to the late eighties/ early nineties, four NRL clubs, then back to three NRL clubs. AFL in these times had four clubs, not counting Colliingulle. Probably still has. Soccer had two city clubs, discounting the Armed Services teams. Rugby Union had two city clubs, plus the Armed Services and the Teachers’ College.
            The population in the sixties was probably around 20K, now it’s around 70k.

        • Roar Guru

          October 13th 2017 @ 12:19pm
          Riley Pettigrew said | October 13th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          As Mat mentions, Eric Weissel Oval was closed but they now have McDonalds Park. Tonight it will host Samoa vs Country U23s and is expecting a big crowd.

          When I’ve been in the Riverina-South West Slopes recently I’ve noticed AFL is increasing in popularity. As a micro example, the back page of the Cootamundra Herald is no longer dedicated to the Coota Bulldogs in Group 9 but the Blues (AFL Canberra) get good exposure – probably has something to do with how poor the ‘Dogs have been in recent years.

          When you go to somewhere like Young, Temora or Gundagai though, rugby league is No.1.

          I’d say it’s probably about 50/50 swinging in favour of the AFL. If the NRL can get down there and do some more work at the grassroots level by giving games to Wagga and sending players and development officers to towns like Junee, Cootamundra, Tumut, etc. then NRL could slowly regain their dominance.

          • October 13th 2017 @ 5:16pm
            Oingo Boingo said | October 13th 2017 @ 5:16pm | ! Report

            McDonald’s park is very much in the shadow of Robertson oval Riley.

            • October 14th 2017 @ 12:53pm
              Mat said | October 14th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

              That’s not quite correct. The RL fellas down there have done a fantastic job at McDonalds Park. It’s a great ground to watch RL and was really rocking at City v Country a couple of years ago. Last night they had 3,500 at a world cup warm up between Samoa and Country U23’s.

              All is not lost for RL down there but they do need a lot more help from HQ in the face of a very well organised and financed AFL.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 9:55am
      Paul said | October 13th 2017 @ 9:55am | ! Report

      Is this a trade off in part for scrapping City v Country? The good Todd giveth and taketh away?

    • Roar Guru

      October 13th 2017 @ 10:28am
      Nat said | October 13th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Nice work. The crowds may be smaller due to capacity restraints at regional grounds but watch the people travel hours just for this privilege. It does go to show that the NRL, now with the ability to dictate terms, are willing to take the game back to the people. No doubt some will despair at their home game being taken away but it is for the greater good. Plus all the more incentive for supporters to get to the games they do have at home.

    • October 13th 2017 @ 11:47am
      bearfax said | October 13th 2017 @ 11:47am | ! Report

      About bl….y time

    • October 13th 2017 @ 5:29pm
      Fix the srcums said | October 13th 2017 @ 5:29pm | ! Report

      Not such a bad move. But they need to be careful not to shift too many games away from supporters.

      • Roar Pro

        October 14th 2017 @ 4:33pm
        Adam Hayward said | October 14th 2017 @ 4:33pm | ! Report

        Sydney teams would get bigger crowds in the bush than they would playing at home

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