Orange is out of its league

THERE was a time Orange and Wade Park ruled the central west in terms of its ability to attract big ticket sporting fixtures to the city.

Orange City Council went on an unrivalled run, bringing consecutive A-League games to Wade Park in 2006 and 2007, a NRL trial between the Broncos and Raiders in 2008, the jewel in Country Rugby League’s crown, City-Country, in 2009 and then the NSW Waratahs and Fiji Warriors for union lovers in 2010.

It was a feast for a city that loves its sport.

It was a case of catch us if you can in the race to become the region’s sporting capital.

But Orange has now been caught.

And surpassed.

It’s been nearly three long years since Orange has had the best seat in the house for elite sport.

And the reason is simple.

The big four codes in Australia - rugby league, rugby union, AFL and soccer - get a better gig elsewhere.

Mudgee has a $14 million stadium at Glen Willow and has already hosted the 2012 City-Country clash, trans-Tasman touch football tournaments and an A-League youth league match.

Dubbo’s Apex Oval has recently undergone a major upgrade to its surface.

Carrington Park in Bathurst hosted an A-League fixture just last season.

Big ticket clubs are more and more willing to take big fixtures to country areas - the Bulldogs took a premiership match against the Melbourne Storm to Mackay in 2012 - but, increasingly, they’re shopping for rectangular grounds to do so.

With a newly-elected council now in power, Cr Jason Hamling said any further work on the Wade Park master plan and sorting out the future of Orange’s premier sportsground won’t be at the forefront of councillors’ minds.

He said the make-up of committees still needed to be finalised before further progress is made.

“I haven’t had a good talk to anyone yet but my view still is Wade Park should be used for cricket and AFL and we should be looking at a new rectangular sports complex,” Cr Hamling said.

“At the moment we’re playing catch up with centres with a smaller population than us.

“Places like Mudgee and Parkes, they’re way ahead.”

Country Rugby League chief Terry Quinn has already penned a letter to council regarding the Wade Park master plan submission.

It states Orange will not host any major rugby league matches should its main facility remain the oval-shaped Wade Park.

Mr Quinn wrote: “To seriously compete in bids for major regional sporting events in New South Wales, Orange rugby league needs a custom designed facility comparable to neighbouring venues at Dubbo, Bathurst and Mudgee.”

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