The NRL has announced it will host a three-day festival of footy to help the Bega Valley and southern NSW get back on their feet.
With the support of both Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels, the NRL will relocate the “Battle of the West” February 29 trial game from Penrith to Bega with both clubs deciding to demonstrate their support for the community by embedding their squads in the region for three days.
NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said that as well as bringing the spirit of the sport to fire-affected regions, the NRL wants to makes a positive contribution economically.
“This is more than a game – this will be an event to lift the community spirit, say thank you to the many volunteers and selfless workers who gave so much during the recent disaster, and bring dollars back into the local economy,” Mr Greenberg said.
“Nothing brings communities together quite like rugby league. Our game is part of the social fabric of these towns. This is an opportunity to provide the locals with a small respite from what has happened, acknowledge and thank the local heroes, and to deliver a much needed economic boost to the region.
“Everyone I speak to on the South Coast has the same message – we need visitors to come back to the area, stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants, visit our beaches and shop in our stores.”
The highlight of the weekend’s program will be the NRL trial match in Bega, combined with a host of player-led community activities and public events in nearby towns.
In addition, the NSWRL will move the Andrew Johns and Laurie Daley Cup matches from Wollongong to Bega to provide an afternoon showcase of the best in young, regional rugby league talent.
Mr Greenberg said the announcement formed part of rugby league’s coordinated whole of game response to the bushfire crisis, which will also include an expansion of the Road to Regions regional campaign and a dedicated Bushfire Appeal Thank You Round One for the 2020 season.
State Member for Bega Andrew Constance said the match will help boost the morale of communities devastated by the bushfires.
“The NRL are legends. This will bring the community a bit of much-needed cheer and continue to bring out the best in people,’’ he said.
Bega Mayor Kristy McBain encouraged people to travel to the match and stay overnight in the area.
“Our economy has taken a significant hit across a number of industries. It’s critical we keep taking action to bring some security to local jobs and the families they support.
“I want to thank the NRL for creating this opportunity – it means the world to people.
“To those who have a connection with and love for the Bega Valley and Sapphire Coast I invite you to visit us and share this experience. You will be well looked after, but more than that you will play a role in making sure our region and people continue to thrive.”
Panthers CEO Brian Fletcher said the club had no hesitation in agreeing to move the game from its home ground.
“It’s an easy decision for our club. This is an opportunity for rugby league to help a region get back on their feet. We understand the important role our game can play in lifting the spirits of locals and rebuilding communities.”
Parramatta Eels chief executive Jim Sarantinos said the Bega match is an example of the impact the game can have.
“This is an opportunity to have a genuine impact on the region. Our players are looking forward to spending a few days in the community, participating in events with locals, honouring the local heroes and lending a hand,’’ Mr Sarantinos said.
As well as the upcoming match on February 29th, the Raiders have committed to playing their 2021 trial match in Bega and all 16 NRL clubs have committed to the Bushfire Appeal Thank You Round One of the 2020 season.
For more information, visit NSW NRL.