WHILE the debate over whether Orange needs a rectangular complex rages on, Wade Park is set to host the biggest rugby union game the city has seen since the NSW Waratahs took on Fiji in 2010.
The NSW Country Eagles will play a National Rugby Championship (NRC) game against the Melbourne Rising at Orange’s premier sporting precinct on September 20, one of three home games the Eagles are playing in rural areas. The others are at Dubbo’s Caltex Park and Lismore’s Oakes Oval.
Somewhat controversially, NSW Country will not play a game at Mudgee’s state-of-the-art Glen Willow Stadium, fuelling speculation regarding Wade Park’s capacity to host big events.
However, both Orange City Council’s sport and recreation committee chair, councillor Jason Hamling and Eagles’ general manager James Grant were satisfied Wade Park could adequately house the NRC clash with no additional upgrades.
“The venue at the moment is adequate to cater for upward of 10,000 people for something like this,” Cr Hamling said.
“Obviously, being the first event of its nature, this is a bit of a test run. Crowd numbers are a bit of unknown but we are really hoping to engage the rugby community and sporting community in general.
“It’s huge to get this kind of game at Wade Park, but we definitely still need to be pushing for a rectangular field to enable Orange to continue hosting events like this in the future.”
“I would support a rectangular field in Orange but we are happy with Wade Park as a venue,” Mr Grant, an Orange native and former Wallaby, said.
“We’ll jazz it up a bit with a few marquees and that sort of thing. All our sponsors are jumping on board and we’ll have merchandise tents on the day as well. Wade Park is a great venue, and we felt like rugby itself has more appeal in Orange than in a town like Mudgee.
“This is set to be one of our biggest events. There is huge interest from around the Sydney area to come to Orange for the weekend, mainly from corporates.
“We’re thinking we should be able to attract a crowd of around 4000 people.”
Councillor Hamling went on to explain the potential benefits of hosting the game, for the sporting and wider community alike.
“The point of the NRC is to provide a stepping stone from competitions like the Shute Shield to Super Rugby,” Cr Hamling said.
“Being able to have our local sporting community see that stepping stone live in action is great. As I said, it’s a bit of unknown the economical boost we’ll have, but with these events we can assume at least 25 to 30 per cent of the crowd will be from out of town, so there will be some kind of impact.”