Could the NRL be doing more to help bush footy?
(min cost $8)
Login or signup to continue reading
The obvious answer is yes. There is always more that could be done to help clubs continue to grow the game in the area but it seems as though the game's governing body is starting to forget about parts of NSW.
Just this month, the NRL announced they were going to take four of its biggest clubs over to Las Vegas for round one of the 2024 season.
Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be a journalist headed for sin city in March next year but wouldn't it be nice to have more games in the bush?
This season, only four premiership matches were played in regional NSW, with Bathurst, Mudgee, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga all hosting fixtures.
Dubbo and Albury are prime examples of places which cost host games while there is hope Orange could attract a potential NRL deal once their sporting complex is completed.
Bathurst's long-term deal with the Penrith Panthers still has several years left before it expires while Manly and the West Tigers have done great things at Mudgee and Tamworth respectively.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs brought two games out to Dubbo in 2021 and 2022 but opted not to continue their deal after it was reported Dubbo Regional Council had lost money from the fixture.
Now, I'm not saying just any old place could host a game because these things cost a lot of money.
But surely they could bring more than four matches per season outside of Sydney and Newcastle.
The Tigers and Rabbitohs clash last month at Tamworth had more than 10,000 watching on at the ground, more than Accor Stadium gets most weeks.
However, unfortunately for clubs and the NRL, they won't make enough money out here.
If the NRL won't bring a game out here, they would be silly not to at least try and help out several clubs.
Clubs like Lithgow Workies Wolves, Orange CYMS and Wellington Cowboys have struggled at times in recent years to field sides in all four grades.
While the newly formed Peter McDonald Premiership saw the Blayney Bears opt to play in the reserve grade competition in 2022, a move copied by Cowra this season.
Orange CYMS had to withdraw their reserve grade team towards the end of the season due to a lack of numbers, while Wellington couldn't field an under 18s side.
I'm not saying the NRL or NSWRL aren't doing anything to help but it seems they could possibly be doing more to help retain kids out here.
You only need to look at league tag numbers in the region to know rugby league has become arguably the most popular sport for both boys and girls.
Dubbo District Junior Rugby League have catered their draws in recent years to suit players who also play netball but next season it seems like that could be impossible given the massive level of interest.
The Western Women's Rugby League seems to only go from strength to strength and it seems as though some sides are already full, with rounds still to play in the winter season.
The Central West is a massive rugby league nursery and I think it's time more attention is paid to the region.
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.Download in the Apple Store or Google Play.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.