SOME of the world’s top rugby league talent could be playing in Bathurst if an NRL match goes ahead at Carrington Park next year.
Bathurst Regional Council is continuing its negotiations with Penrith Panthers over bringing five NRL clashes to Bathurst in a five-year deal, and an official announcement could be made as early as today.
The Western Advocate understands the plan is for Penrith to play its Round 24 clash against Melbourne Storm at Carrington Park in 2014, meaning rugby league superstars Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk could be heading to the Central West.
But, as mayor Gary Rush stressed yesterday, the plan is far from a done deal.
Cr Rush said the emergence this week of Tasmania as a possible venue for Penrith matches had hurt the Bathurst region’s chances of hosting the NRL club, but talks were continuing and council remained hopeful.
“It’s pretty certain the NRL won’t allow Penrith to take games to both centres but we believe their profiling and what they want to do by taking their games outside of their regular geographic area would make Bathurst a better option in the long term,” Cr Rush said.
“Part of what the Panthers are seeking to do is meet an NRL objective of fostering of the game and looking at where they get players from, and I think that is a better fit in Bathurst than Hobart.”
Cr Rush said an NRL match would offer great exposure for the region through television coverage in either Channel 9 or Foxtel, and provide an economic boost.
He said the game would also create great regional interest and council would anticipate drawing spectators from across the Central West.
Council has previously negotiated with the A-League to bring professional soccer to Bathurst and works closely with V8 Supercars on the annual Bathurst 1000 at Mount Panorama.
It would be hoped an NRL match at Carrington Park would attract a capacity crowd of around 13,000, with extra corporate space likely to be made available in the grandstand and corporate tents that could be erected behind the main arena.