MORE NRL clubs should take competition games to the bush at least once a year.
That is the view of former Parramatta, NSW and Australian forward Nathan Hindmarsh.
Speaking at the celebrity golf classic in Mudgee on Friday, “Hindy”, as he is known in league circles, said country rugby league players make up a large percentage of many of the NRL’s player pool and that clubs should reward those regions.
Hindmarsh, a product of bush footy himself as he grew up in the Southern Highlands, applauded his former club for taking one of their home NRL matches away from Parramatta Stadium and the metropolitan area, and bringing it to Mudgee.
The Eels will take on Gold Coast at Glen Willow on May 26.
It will be the first time since the Eels took on the Adelaide Rams - coincidentally it was Hindmarsh’s NRL debut - at Parkes’ Pioneer Oval in 1998 that a NRL match has been played in the Central West.
Fifteen years on, the 330-game veteran said it was about time.
“It is a great idea, typically as you see so many blokes coming from rural areas playing in the NRL,” the former second-rower said.
“Places like Mudgee and those type of places away from the city, it is good to give a little bit back and if that means clubs sending a game out there each year, I think it will be an awesome idea.”
Penrith and Wests Tigers are playing a trial match on Saturday at Bathurst’s Carrington Park, but it is likely both teams will field second-string sides.
Apart from the City-Country matches in Mudgee (2012), Orange (2009), Dubbo (2006) and Bathurst (2001), and the odd trials, rugby league fans in the Central West have had to travel to metropolitan areas like Sydney to see their favourite teams in action.
“Parramatta has done a great thing by coming out to Mudgee and having a game. I would like to see more of it,” Hindmarsh said.
Since retiring at the end of last season, the 33-year-old said he was “busier now than he was when he was playing.”
With an enthusiastic personality, the popular former player has followed the likes of Peter Sterling, Greg Alexander, Matthew Johns, Steve Roach and others into a career in the media.
“I’m working for the NRL and once the footy season starts I’ll be doing stuff with Fox Sports,” Hindmarsh said.
“I’ll be doing their post-game shows on Monday night, with Sterlo on Thursday nights and other bits and pieces.
“My weekends are still free, which is good.”
He has no regrets about hanging up the boots.
“I knew the time was right to retire. I’ve got a long way to go before I end up underground.
“I’ve got young kids at home; their sports have just started. I haven’t done much with them on weekends. I’m kind of getting my weekends back and I get the feel of what a Friday night is like for everyone else. You know you do your working week then enjoy your weekend.”