It mightn't be in our backyard, but the NRL will make its presence felt throughout Western Division in 2021 more than ever.
Six NRL regular season matches - three of those in the Central West - will be played in regional NSW next season, and the details of those were all locked in on Thursday when the NRL draw for next year was released.
Dubbo will host the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers at Apex Oval on Sunday, May 23 to end round 11.
As well as Dubbo, Mudgee will host a clash between the Manly Sea Eagles and Gold Coast Titans in round six and Bathurst will feature a round eight battle between the Panthers and Manly at Carrington Park.
Outside of Western, Wagga will host Newcastle in a round nine match on May 8, the Cronulla Sharks will take on the Titans at Coffs Harbour in round 12, and the Wests Tigers and Sharks will clash at Tamworth in round 23.
The Dubbo game will be the first NRL competition game in Group 11 heartland, and the Apex Oval attendance record could be smashed after it was confirmed the Rabbitohs and Panthers will be the two teams to take the field.
The Rabbitohs announced last month they would be taking a premiership match to Dubbo in 2021 and the excitement only grew on Thursday when it was revealed this year's minor premiers Penrith would be the opposition.
- READ MORE: Orange's Phoebe Litchfield faces Heat in BBL
Given Penrith's outstanding results on the way to making this year's grand final and strong ties to the region, headlined by St John's junior Isaah Yeo being the club's captain-in-waiting, as well as the Rabbitohs having more members than any other NRL club a bumper crowd is expected for the match on Sunday, May 23, barring any COVID restrictions.
The match, which is a Rabbitohs' home game, will kick-off at 2pm at Apex Oval.
"The people in regional areas have shown they love their rugby league, hence why we're happy to do our part to take some of our games to these regional centres," Rabbitohs CEO Blake Jolly said.
As well as NSW Origin representative Yeo, the Panthers squad has a strong Western Rams feel to it with fellow St John's junior Matt Burton to again be at the club in 2021 before linking with the Bulldogs, while Wellington's Brent Naden, Forbes speedster Charlie Staines and Parkes' Billy Burns are also in their ranks.
There is also a host of western area juniors in the club's lower ranks while the Rabbitohs also have a connection through Coonamble product and outside back Braidon Burns, who is expected to be fit and firing again in 2021 after missing much of this season through injury.
Tickets for the match will go on sale in the New Year.
The Central Western Daily relies on your support to keep doing what we do. If you're not already a subscriber, please consider coming on board. For as little as $3 a week for full digital access, a subscription represents great value.
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below ...