WAGGA mayor Rod Kendall will host a high-priority meeting with rugby league’s top officials on Monday week in a ploy to revive the ailing City v Country fixture at either Equex Centre or Robertson Oval next year.
CRL chief executive Terry Quinn and operations manager Bert Lowrie as well as a representative from the NRL will visit Wagga next week as part of a three-day tour of potential venues.
In an aggressive bid to secure the blockbuster, Kendall yesterday revealed the capacity of Equex Centre will be boosted with the addition of the long-awaited northern hill in time for the game in April next year.
“They’re mostly interested in (Equex Centre) to cater for the event, and it’s pretty well set up to host the event,” Councillor Kendall told The Daily Advertiser yesterday.
“We’ve got improvements in the pipeline now to put in place extra seating and a mounding, which I’m sure we could have in place by Easter. There’s no reason we couldn’t increase the ground capacity in time.”
Along with Quinn and Lowrie, Cr Kendall is hoping NRL chief executive David Smith will attend the tour.
In response to the dismal crowd that attended the City v Country fixture in Coffs Harbour last month, Cr Kendall is adamant Wagga can revive the popularity of the game with a massive crowd.
“Absolutely, we can do better,” he said.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for David Smith to come down and have a look at our country facilities.
“After the press about poor attendance at Coffs Harbour, this is a chance to say ‘hey, we’re willing to bring the thing here and Wagga will get much better attendances.’
“There needs to be some recognition for strong inland cities that are breeding grounds for rugby league, and on a larger extent to help build the game.”
However, failing the bid to secure City v Country, Cr Kendall yesterday delivered the news that a northern hill is expected to be ready at Equex Centre before the start of the Group Nine season next year.
“It’s already been discussed. There’s just some timing issues that we need to overcome,” he said.
“We’re currently talking through those issues and working out the pluses and minuses and we expect to have that spectators mounding in place in time for next season.
“I’m of the belief that it’s needed anyway as we try to build the game ... and this will help us to better deal with grand final crowds and larger scale games.”
On a separate topic, Cr Kendall yesterday dismissed the idea of introducing a half-day public holiday to boost crowds on Wagga’s Gold Cup Day next year.
“I don’t see a half holiday as being any advantage to our Gold Cup carnival,” he said.
“It’s a major carnival and we’re inviting people to our city so they’d expect the town to be open for business and I think that’s really important.
“I think to give visitors the whole experience that’s the sacrifice our locals have to make, and they can organise leave if it’s appropriate.”