Wests Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe may not have grown up in the bush but regional areas hold a special place in his heart.
At 18, Pascoe moved from the city to Whorouly – a small town in northeast Victoria – where he played in the Ovens and King AFL competition.
He eventually found himself in Myrtleford – another small Victorian town – where he met wife Jo.
Further down the track, Pascoe played a part in creating a partnership between the Penrith Panthers and Bathurst and now he’s doing the same with the Tigers and Tamworth.
So, when the Tigers take on the Knights at Scully Park next year, he has a good understanding of how much bringing this game to Tamworth means to country people.
“Whorouly was a town of about 4000, not even, 2000, and Myrtleford a town of 4000,” Pascoe said.
“In between that period I was drafted to St Kilda and then switched to Collingwood and then came back. Just the way the community pulls together on a Saturday afternoon around sport, I think it’s incredibly important.”
Pascoe – who was in Tamworth to meet with Wests Entertainment Group and make an announcement regarding the NRL match on Thursday – said when the Tigers were given the opportunity to bring a game to Tamworth they “took it with both hands.”
While the CEO is focused on making sure the game next year is a resounding success, Pascoe said the Tigers were open to discussions to continue a partnership with Tamworth and Wests Entertainment Group.
“My personal opinion, I think there’s a responsibility for the NRL and I think there’s a responsibility for clubs like ourselves to try and establish partnerships like we have with a regional centre,” he said.
“I think the soul and fabric of rugby league exists equally in the city as it does in regional centres and I think it’s really important we get the balance right and we contribute back when we can.”
Pascoe also said this initiative wouldn’t just be about playing an NRL game in Tamworth.
He said the Tigers will have a presence in town from now up until game day.
Set in stone is a fan day on the Friday before the match.
There will also be an opportunity for local coaches to pick the brains of the Wests Tigers senior coaching staff, including head coach Ivan Cleary, while they are in town.
The Tigers will also introduce special membership packages for the region.
Pascoe also thanked Rod Laing and Wests Entertainment Group for their “vision and their support for bringing this concept and making it a reality.”
Laing was equally appreciative to be able to host an NRL game at Scully Park.
“This game will certainly be a sell out,” Laing said.
“The premiership game will also be a major boost to our local economy. We expect footy fans will travel from Sydney, Newcastle and of course our local region.
“The NRL game means a lot to our local footy community, from young kids to seniors, adults who are playing rugby league throughout the region.
“It means a lot to them and it’s great to have Wests Tigers and the Newcastle Knights playing their game here at Scully Park.”