Rugby league fans on the South Coast have soaked up the opportunity to see some of the best players in the National Rugby League (NRL), with this Saturday’s ‘Battle of the West’ trial game between Penrith and Parramatta at the Bega Recreation Ground an official sell out.
The lead-up to the game holds an exciting few days of action as the Panthers and Eels undertake a range of activities across the region.
School visits are planned at Tathra, Narooma, Moruya, Bodalla, Quaama, Eden, Pambula, Merimbula, Wolumla, Bega Valley and Candelo schools, while further activities will be held in Moruya, Eden, Pambula and Narooma.
Players will also be meeting with volunteers and emergency responders in Cobargo, Bemboka, Eden and Narooma.
A further opportunity for fans will see open training sessions and meet and greets with players from both teams at the Bega Recreation Ground on Friday morning.
Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain said the festival of footy means the world to the area.
“We sincerely thank the NRL for creating this. It will lift everyone’s spirits and boost our economy, which 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,” Ms McBain said.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the game will definitely “be about more than just footy”.
“When the stands and hills are packed and the live site on the adjourning George Griffin Oval is in full swing on Saturday, there will be a multitude of locals who will be able to rightly feel a sense of pride in what they have contributed to the event,” Mr Greenberg said.
“These are the folks who have given their time, effort and expertise behind the scenes, so we can all enjoy what promises to be a fantastic spectacle and an event that will live on in the memory for many years to come.”
While the area continues to slowly recover from a season of bushfires and a flood, an army of local businesses have ensured the Bega Recreation Ground’s playing surface is in first-class condition despite the regular damage done to the grounds by the resident Corella population.
A Bega Valley Shire Council spokesperson said Pat Wilson and his staff from the Pambula-Merimbula Golf Club have produced a terrific playing surface, while Council’s maintenance and mowing teams have also done a mountain of work to have the facilities ready.
“A big shout too to the local footy volunteers such as Dax Kelly and his line-marking helpers.”
Gates and the live site on George Griffin Oval will be open at 12 noon on Saturday.
Kick-off for the trial between the Panthers and Eels is 4:00 pm.
The trial game will be preceded by matches featuring Andrew Johns (under-16s) and Laurie Daley Cup (under-18s) at 12:05 and 1:40 pm respectively.
Locals and visitors, and those without a match ticket, are encouraged to make use of the live site which will also include a kids’ zone, food stalls and a big screen showing the Panthers-Eels game.
Entertainment at the live site will feature local artists Sam Stevenson as well as Matt Glass and The Loose Cannons, alongside Amy Shark and Brad Cox, from 6:15 pm, immediately following the trial match.
The trial match will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports, Channel Nine, Telstra LivePass and free on the NRL App.
All profits from ticket sales and donations made through Ticketek will go to The Salvation Army’s Rural Assistance Appeal which helps rural communities and individuals who’ve been affected by the drought and bushfires.