NRL: move part of an initiative to bring the competition to more regional centres

EXCITING: West Tigers star David Nofoaluma is set to return to Tamworth, with the club to play an historic premiership game at Scully Park in 2018. Photo: Getty Images
EXCITING: West Tigers star David Nofoaluma is set to return to Tamworth, with the club to play an historic premiership game at Scully Park in 2018. Photo: Getty Images

Wests Tigers will play a premiership match in Tamworth in 2018 – the first time the city will host a premiership game in the NRL era.

The club announced the unprecedented move against an as yet unnamed opponent on Thursday, saying it has partnered with the NRL on the initiative.

Wests Tigers said the move was designed to “support and grow the game outside of its traditional base”.

Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said that the club was excited to be playing a “home” game at Scully Park.

“Rugby league has a long history in Australia’s regional communities and we’re proud to be playing a role in continuing this by taking a game to Tamworth,” he said.

WELCOME RETURN: West Tigers star Chris Lawrence captained City to a 44-30 win over Country at Scully Park in 2016. Photo: AAP

WELCOME RETURN: West Tigers star Chris Lawrence captained City to a 44-30 win over Country at Scully Park in 2016. Photo: AAP

“We take our role in growing the game seriously and this initiative provides a great way to be able to allow fans to see an NRL premiership game played locally for the very first time.”

Tamworth Mayor Col Murray described the development as a “great opportunity for our community and rugby league fans from across the region to share in the excitement of an NRL round”. 

He said: “It also kicks another goal for Tamworth in showcasing we are a strong regional centre with high quality sporting facilities and an enviable way of life.”

In August, The Northern Daily Leader announced that the annual Charity Shield clash between South Sydney and St George Illawarra or an NRL Premiership match were the two proposed options for Scully Park to host in 2018.

West Tigers' win over the Knights in round 17 this year

Tamworth also hosted the 2016 City versus Country game, with the City team featuring West Tigers stars Chris Lawrence and David Nofoaluma. 

The NRL will schedule matches across seven different regional locations in NSW and Queensland in 2018.

Along with Tamworth, premiership matches will also be held in Mudgee, Bathurst, Gladstone, Toowoomba and Cairns.

The NRL said that many regional matches was unprecedented.

The Gold Coast Titans will take two matches to regional centres (Gladstone and Toowoomba), while South Sydney will continue playing one match in Cairns.

2016 City v Country clash at Scully Park

St George Illawarra will host a match in Mudgee – which will also be the venue for the Charity Shield clash next year

Penrith will play in Bathurst, while the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney will take matches to Gosford.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the NRL had worked with the clubs and Country Rugby League to maximise the number of matches in regional areas in 2018.

“We have said for some time it was our strong desire to take more games to regional venues in 2018 and we’re extremely happy to have been able to do that as part of the new schedule,” Greenberg said.

“I want to thank the clubs involved for working with us on delivering this positive result for the game in regional areas but also the local councils, community groups and our government partners for being so enthusiastic about hosting rugby league matches.

“It will be great to see so many people in regional areas being able to witness the best of rugby league up close in 2018.”

CRL CEO Terry Quinn said the additional matches were a victory for country league fans.

“We always said that if the Country v City match was to be discontinued, we needed to see more NRL games in regional areas,” he said.

“We have secured those extra matches and it means fans will be able to see NRL games in more regional areas than ever before.”

Details of each of the fixtures will be released when the full 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership schedule is announced.