RUGBY lovers in Orange are in for a treat in September when the Country Eagles take on a Melbourne side at Wade Park, but the game will not settle the debate about the need for a dedicated rectangular field to take the place of Wade Park.
The Country Eagles will play one of their three “home” games in the National Rugby Championships in Orange but the crowd size won’t test the capacity of the multi-function Wade Park.
A grade below the Super 15s competition, the National Rugby Championships will feature players from Sydney’s Shute Shield competition and should draw an appreciative crowd from this strong rugby town, but with organisers hoping for 4000 people the ground will be far from full and temporary seating and toilet facilities should cope.
Behind the satisfaction of securing the game for Orange is the bigger question of how well placed the city is to bid successfully for top class rugby games, NRL matches or A league soccer.
Rugby and council officials will never know whether Wade Park would have been chosen ahead of a modern rectangular ground like Mudgee’s Glen Willow Stadium if a crowd of 8,000 had been expected.
With Orange Emus and Orange City rugby clubs enjoying a great season, and the strong local connections of Country Eagles general manager James Grant, the championship round will be well supported but would never match the appeal of an NRL game.
Glen Willow has accommodated a crowd of 9800 for a Parramatta versus Titans game, almost the same as the population of Mudgee, and Bathurst’s Carrington Park is expected to draw 9000-10,000 for the Cronulla versus Penrith game this weekend.
If Orange wants to see the NRL or Australian Rugby Union give the city regular consideration when allocating these larger sporting spectacles it will have to address the shortcomings of Wade Park.