SFS rebuild gives Waratahs perfect chance to re-engage NSW Country rugby community

By Sam Ryan

The NSW Waratahs will play out of a brand new, purpose built stadium at Moore Park from 2021 but will be without a permanent home for at least two seasons when construction begins at the end of next season.

Initially, the Waratahs have announced plans to play matches at the Sydney Cricket Ground and the newly rebuilt Parramatta Stadium while the SFS is out of use.

And while this may be enough to keep members, sponsors and other stakeholders happy, plus allow the Waratahs to push further into Western Sydney, there may be a bigger opportunity to re-engage with one of Australia’s most dedicated and loyal rugby communities – those in regional NSW.

To the Waratahs credit, the club typically takes at least one trial match to the bush each year and the players are always happy to spend time helping the efforts of the tireless development officers in each region leading into the match.

But there is a big difference between a trial game and a real Super Rugby match.

Wouldn’t it be great to see the Waratahs take two, maybe even three competition games each year to different regional centres in 2019 and 2020.

They could spend a week in the town leading into the match and promote the sport in one of it’s biggest heartlands, where a bit of love wouldn’t go astray.

There are no shortage of options either. Newcastle and Wollongong both have first class facilities.

A handful of smaller centres could also draw strong crowds. Tamworth, Dubbo, Mudgee, Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Bathurst, Orange and Lismore all have fantastic facilities and strong local rugby communities that would get right behind the match.

Many fans in these regions feel particularly disconnected to the professional game and there would be no better way to win back their support then to take top class matches back to the bush.

Plus the Waratahs will get a chance to inspire the next generation of stars, with over a third of the current squad hailing from regional NSW.

Obviously the Waratahs will need to play a number of matches in Sydney to fulfil contractual commitments.

Crowd numbers and gate takings also won’t be as high in the bush, but the Waratahs can gain a lot more than a few dollars by taking matches to the country at a time when it is desperately needed.

The chance to watch Kurtley Beale take on Beauden Barrett in Tamworth after a Pirates v Walcha match, might even be enough to get a few Sydneysiders in the car for a weekend away.