THE Wagga community has reacted with excitement at news the NRL may be set to bring a game to the City of Good Sports annually from 2018.
Under the new television rights deal the NRL has agreed this week, which begins in 2018, rugby league’s governing body has regained control of the scheduling of matches – and has indicated it wants to take eight games a year to regional centres.
The move would see the NRL underwrite the costs of shifting games to the bush, moving it away from the clubs who often place the burden on regional communities to stump up hundreds of thousands of dollars to make regional matches happen.
The Advertiser’s Our Sporting Chance campaign has been leading the charge for the NRL to bring a competition match to Wagga on the back of the successful City-Country representative fixture at Equex in May.
Group Nine director Warren Barclay said the NRL’s indication it was prepared to bankroll games in regional centres, like Wagga, was a positive sign for the campaign to bring an NRL competition game to Equex.
“Anything the NRL can throw this way is an absolute bonus,” he said.
“This region has been starved of that sort of thing and it’s a natural way to grow the game.”
This year’s City-Country clash attracted a capacity crowd of nearly 10,000 to Equex and injected millions of dollars into the Wagga economy.
An NRL Premiership match would likely have a similar, if not greater, effect.
While any game to come to Wagga under the arrangements mooted this week is still a few years away, mayor Rod Kendall has called for clarity regarding the proposal so the city can prepare.
“We just need to know exactly what we’re getting so we can build the infrastructure to suit,” he said.
If the game to be brought to Wagga was a night-time game, more than a million dollars would likely need to be spent to bring the lights at Equex up to scratch.
“If it’s a daytime game, we don’t need to do anything, but if it’s a night-time game we would have to spend money on upgrading lighting,” Cr Kendall said.
“We can’t justify that for a one-off or a game every 10 years. If we know there’s going to be a game every year, we can start to build a business case and develop infrastructure that will leave a legacy behind.”
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