NATIONAL Rugby League head of football Todd Greenberg says the game is encouraging clubs to take home matches to country areas.
But there’s a catch.
The former Canterbury Bulldogs chief executive has revealed there’s a “minimum standard” that applies to the provision and allocation of NRL games, with Mudgee’s Glen Willow setting the standard for rectangular precincts in rural areas.
Orange City Council is in the second stage of planning for a sporting precinct in the city - a long-term plan with the view of providing for the future.
It’ll be a facility aimed at comfortably housing both junior and senior championships across a number of codes, as well as high profile sporting matches, including the likes of NRL pre-season and premiership fixtures.
Greenberg was fully aware of the value country rugby league areas play in the development of the game and said the NRL was willing to help clubs if they wish to take fixtures to rural areas.
But the game won’t settle for second best.
“Minimum standards apply in the provision and allocation of NRL fixtures,” Greenberg said.
“These relate to broadcast and media facilities, along with corporate and spectator requirements.
“We are working with our clubs to showcase the game in regional centres.
“This can apply to both trial matches and NRL premiership games. Recently we have seen the Eels play in Mudgee and this year the City versus Country fixture will be played in Dubbo.”
On top of that, it was yesterday reported Penrith is a chance of taking a game to a country area in 2014.
A smart move considering the Panthers home at Centrebet Stadium played host to three of the smallest crowds in 2013.
Parramatta general manager of communications Adam Thompson said when the Eels took their match to Mudgee this season, they wanted to ensure a certain level of “community engagement.”
“There has to be a positive social impact,” Thompson said.
“At Parramatta we’re working on being leaders in the community and that certainly reflects in our deal to take a trial to Alice Springs and competition game to Darwin over the next four years.”
Given the demand for elite sport on television, adequate broadcast facilities is an obvious necessity for any new stadium.
In assisting on game day, Greenberg said the game’s broadcasters, Fox Sports and Channel Nine, work closely with all the venues in order to comply with their requirements.
Thompson added television plays an integral part in the game and the ability to broadcast games seamlessly out of a stadium in the bush would help garner interest from NRL clubs.
He added player welfare and spectator comfort were also essential considerations.
“What is important is the players, how they prepare and rehabilitate. We don’t want them out the back in sheds,” Thompson said.
“Quality change room facilities are imperative in stadiums.”
In its submission to Orange City Council in 2012, Country Rugby League boss Terry Quinn said the CRL believed a dedicated modern venue with the capacity of 10,000-plus spectators would be a pre-requisite in such a competitive market.
The allocation of next year’s City-Country game to Dubbo’s Apex Oval is the perfect example of the CRL sticking to that philosophy.