CANBERRA Raiders coach Ricky Stuart and captain Jarrod Croker have urged the NRL to make it compulsory for clubs to move games to the country, adamant the club is "fair dinkum" about being in Wagga for the long haul.
The city will host its first NRL game in 21 years on Saturday after the Raiders moved their home game against Penrith to Equex Centre.
The Raiders were fined $150,000 by the ACT government for doing so, and Stuart said it highlighted how serious the club is in making Wagga a home away from home.
Canberra is also contracted to play a game in Wagga next year, and Stuart revealed the club held a board meeting on Thursday morning to discuss forging a longer term arrangement.
Raiders players attended the Mortimer Shield junior carnival in Wagga on Thursday as they look to improve on a 5-2 start to the season.
Asked if the NRL should take the decision out of the club's hands and make it compulsory to play games each year in the country, Stuart said: "If we're serious about promoting the game in the country, 100 per cent.
"It's a big commitment to take a home game away but the club's got the courage to do that, and build the relationship with the Wagga area.
"I feel it's more the NRL's responsibility to do that, take it out of our hands and make sure we're promoting the game in the areas we need to."
Stuart can envisage the Raiders emulating Penrith's long term deal with Bathurst and making a Wagga game an annual event.
"I only had a board meeting this morning (Thursday) and we were talking about this as an ongoing game in Wagga," Stuart said.
"It's not something we want to do one-off, it's something our club is very strong on so we can continue this.
"It's basically part of our area and it's nice to build that relationship, and that's why we're here a couple of days early so the town can see we're fair dinkum about this.
"It was a big job to take this game away, we've been fined for doing it.
"I believe it's a responsibility to do this and that's why I'm quite strong about the fact that i'd love to see other NRL clubs have this commitment to other country areas.
"You hear it all the time but we don't really push enough energy into the roots of the game, which come from the country.
Goulburn product Croker, who played for Country Origin at Wagga in 2015, backed Stuart's stance.
"You can see firsthand now the impact the boys have had (at the Mortimer carnival) just getting off the bus," Croker said.
"I do agree (country games should be compulsory). It reminds me so much of when I was a kid and this (carnival) alone is making a game in the bush worthwhile."