Mayor Ben Shields wants report on feasibility of NRL match in Dubbo

COUNTRY IMPACT: Dubbo junior Isaah Yeo in action for the Penrith Panthers at Bathurst. Photo: PHIL BLATCH
COUNTRY IMPACT: Dubbo junior Isaah Yeo in action for the Penrith Panthers at Bathurst. Photo: PHIL BLATCH

Group 11 president and NSWRL board member Bob Walsh has thrown his support behind mayor Ben Shields' proposal to study the feasibility of having an NRL game in Dubbo.

Councillor Shields will propose an analysis of the possibility and benefit of a "significant NRL game" in Dubbo in the next three years at Monday night's Dubbo Regional Council meeting.

Walsh confirmed Group 11 representatives had met with Cr Shields late last year to first discuss the idea and now momentum is starting to build.

There hasn't been any top-flight rugby league in Dubbo since the 2014 City-Country fixture while prior to that Andrew Ryan and the Canterbury Bulldogs had played a trial match against Canberra at Apex Oval in the lead-up to the 2010 season.

"After the very successful trial between Canberra and Canterbury we've been trying to get an NRL game here," Walsh said.

"The cost has always been prohibitive but now council is more interested and it's a great sign.

"There's a lot of work but it's good to see it's on the mind of the mayor and council."

Walsh added he and the Group 11 board would do all they could to support Dubbo Regional Council should the proposal move forward and added he had no doubt NSWRL would also be there to assist down the track should all boxes be ticked.

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Cr Shields told the Daily Liberal on Thursday he had been wary of the cost involved in bringing a game to Dubbo in the past but the current climate had him now warming to the idea.

He had stated in his mayoral minutes he wanted the Dubbo region to be the number one in inland NSW and kick-starting the events and tourism industry after the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic with something like an NRL game would go a long way to making that happen.

"I've always been hesitant to spend a lot of money getting the NRL to Dubbo because in a good year our motels and shops and restaurants have been doing well," Cr Shields said.

"But going into a potential recession and economic downturn this is the year we do need it. We need to have an event in Dubbo to attract people to the region."

Previous reports have stated the cost involved with Bathurst's 10-year deal with the Penrith Panthers is believed to be around the $250,000 mark per game.

As well as Bathurst, Mudgee, Tamworth, Port Macquarie, and Wagga are other regional centres which have hosted NRL matches in recent years.

It was reported in 2015 Group 11 and the Dubbo community had raised $165,000 in the hope of getting a Manly Sea Eagles match at Apex Oval but Albury's bid won out instead.

The talk around NRL games in Dubbo since then have been quiet , but Walsh said it makes sense for a match to be played in the city.

"Dubbo is the right spot," he said.

"It's in the middle of the state, it's got a good facility, and there's heaps of accommodation."