When Central West Rugby Union (CWRU) released the 2017 Blowes Clothing Cup draw there was one question on plenty of Orange fans’ lips – why is the first local derby in round five, instead of round nine?
Well, here’s your answer. The Intrust Super Shute Shield is coming to Orange.
Emus and Orange City requested the first of two annual grudge matches be played on May 13 so it can be a part of a massive, mouth-watering afternoon of rugby, which also includes Eastern Suburbs’ round seven Shute Shield clash with Gordon.
While most of the finer details are yet to be confirmed, although they’re expected to be in the next couple of days, the Beasties-Highlanders fixture is guaranteed to be played in colour city and will be the televised game of the round.
“It’s 100 per cent happening, everyone at Easts is really excited about it, NSW Rugby is right behind it and so is Channel 7 … Gordon is really on board with it as well, which is great,” Easts general manager Eoin Clohesy enthused.
“We can’t thank Gordon president Hayden Rorke and everyone at their club enough, they’ve been fantastic and are also really excited about it,” Easts president John Murray added.
“We need to thank Emus, Orange City and the Orange City Council as well. We’re having a meeting with everyone on Thursday afternoon, the finer details should be fleshed out then.”
The current proposal has the Shute Shield clash marked down to be played at Wade Park, with the Emus-Lions derby expected to act as a curtain raiser.
“It’s 100 per cent happening, everyone at Easts is really excited about it ... Gordon is really on board with it as well.Easts general manager Eoin Clohesy
The two clubs will just bring their top grade units in 2017, however Murray said there’s real potential for the concept to grow in future years.
“It’s our first time trying a game in a regional area, so for us bringing all of our sides might have been a bridge too far but I really hope it’s a great success, if it is I see no reason why it can’t grow bigger and better in future years,” Murray explained.
Easts have a significant link to the Central West. A huge number of players pull on, or have pulled on in the past, the Beasties’ famed navy, red and white and with the recent push for the Australian Rugby Union to give more to regional areas Murray says the time is right for his club to do the same.
VIDEO: Check out some of Eastern Suburbs’ highlights from the 2016 Shute Shield season
As it stands now, Orange products Gus Brotherton, Jack Grant, Cody Walker and James Donato are all firmly entrenched in the Beasties club.
“We really want to give back to the regional communities that provide us as a club with so much,” Murray said.
“We’re really excited about it and really hoping it can continue in future years, taking games to regional areas is something we’ll also be encouraging other clubs to do as well.
“We view it as a really great chance to try and help grow the game in the Central West, and hopefully other areas too.
“We have such a heavy influence from the Central West area, we’re also hoping we can use the game as an opportunity to show people that Easts is a wonderful place for their sons to come if they’re looking to play in the city, or daughters for that matter, because we’ll be launching our women’s rugby program in 2017 as well.”
CWRU’s Paul Ryan shares the Beasties duo’s enthusiasm, as does Orange City Council sport and recreation committee chair Jason Hamling. They both said\ it’s huge news to see NSW’s premier competition come to the colour city.
“It’s very exciting. Easts planted the seed and it’s great to see it now happening,” Ryan said.
“It’s a great move in promoting the sport in this area, it’ll be a really high quality game and it’ll be a great way to promote Orange as well.
“Also, it’s going to really promote that pathway for country kids to go to the city and vice-versa, it’s a two-way street there, which is another really big positive.”
“It’s fantastic,” Hamling added.
“What a great concept it is. We’ve got a lot of Orange guys playing at Eastern Suburbs, so it’s a huge chance for them to be able to play in front of their home crowd.
“Obviously with the Orange City and Emus derby being played as well and the Shute Shield game being televised, it’s just great for rugby in Orange and the Central West.”
Murray said there’s also a chance of the Beasties hosting a fundraising dinner after the game, with a number of special, former international guests.