RUGBY LEAGUE - DUBBO may have missed out on hosting the 2013 City-Country match but it will be the centre of the country rugby league universe when the NSW Country Championship finals are played at Apex Oval on June 29.
The best under-16s, under-18s, Tier 2 and Tier 1 sides from across the state will be in action on the one day, the first time the Country Rugby League has brought all of its finals together.
CRL chairman Jock Colley said Dubbo was an ideal candidate for the gala finals day, citing crowd participation and the city’s accommodation standards as keys after Group 11 secretary Bob Walsh put forward a proposal more than two months ago.
“We want to showcase country rugby league and we believe by having this big day of finals we can do that best,” Colley said.
“Dubbo put forward a compelling case for City-Country and missed out, and we were similarly impressed with their proposal for the country championship finals.
“The facility at Apex Oval is superb with the grandstand. Even if it rains you’re guaranteed a good crowd and we know from the past that crowds will turn up there to watch.
“There will also be eight teams involved on the day so we needed somewhere where there was enough accommodation to cover the teams and any family and friends that may want to travel to watch the games.” Walsh said he had been in contact with Central West Rugby chief executive Peter Veenstra to ensure Apex Oval is available for that date.
“We asked Peter if he could not schedule the Rhinos to be at home that day and he was fine with that, so we appreciate their support,” Walsh said.
“It will be a big day of football for us and we are lucky that the CRL has agreed to award us those games.”
Meanwhile, Group 11 will allow its players to nominate whether they would prefer to be involved in the Group’s Tier 2 country championship campaign or Western Zone’s tilt at Tier 1.
Group 11 clubs voted unanimously recently to stay in Tier 2 and defend the title they had won the past two seasons.
But at the Western Zone meeting, both Group 10 and Castlereagh League voted to reform the Western Rams and enter Tier 1.
“We will give our players the choice and see where they want to play,” Walsh said.
“If they want to try for Tier 1 selection that’s great but if they want to stick with Group 11 in Tier 2 that option is there too.”
Group 11 will start its Tier 2 title defence on April 21 when they face Group 2 at Coffs Harbour in a curtain-raiser to the City-Country match.
That date coincides with when Group 11 was looking at playing its Indigenous All Stars match at Apex Oval, and a week prior to when the competition was expected to begin.
“We’ll have to do some shuffling somewhere because we can’t have a rep side going away before they’ve had games to impress selectors or training sessions together,” Walsh said.
“It’s put us into a bit of a pickle but it’s a great chance for the players to be out there as a preliminary game before City-Country.”