The NRL today announced the 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership Schedule will include six matches in regional NSW Towns, one of those a Sharks home game in Coffs Harbour, in bringing elite rugby league back to the bush after a COVID-19 impacted season.
With a date, time and Sharks opponent to be revealed tomorrow, the announcement was attended by Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo, Deputy NSW Premier John Barilaro, the Chair of the NSW Government’s NRL Regional Taskforce Dugald Saunders and Club Ambassador Paul Gallen representing the Sharks.
The following locations and teams to host games in the EISS Super Regional Series NRL Telstra Premiership are listed below;
• Coffs Harbour - Cronulla Sutherland Sharks
• Bathurst - Penrith Panthers
• Wagga Wagga - Canberra Raiders
• Tamworth - Wests Tigers
• Dubbo - South Sydney Rabbitohs
• Mudgee - Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
Mr V’landys addressed the media conference in expressing that rugby league was in the DNA of regional NSW and the Commission would deliver on a promise to bring more elite rugby league to the regions.
“I made a promise to regional NSW that we would take games back to the bush as soon as the competition returned to normality. The infection rate is now zero so we will deliver on that promise and schedule NRL games in six different towns,’’ he said.
“Nowhere is rugby league stronger than in our regions. This year COVID meant we were only able to take one game to regional NSW, so we will make good on that with six games next year.
“One of the Commission’s major objectives in the next three years is to reinvigorate Country Rugby League. Accordingly there is no better way than to take the game’s stars to Country heartland and inspire participation at all levels.”
Mr V’landys thanked NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro for his ongoing support of rugby league.
“There’s no stronger supporter in government for our game than the Deputy Premier. Without the efforts of John we would not have been able to play this year. His common sense approach procures major outcomes for NSW,’’ he said.
“John with his common touch understands how important taking these matches to the bush are and what it means to these communities.
“I also want to thank our six clubs for their commitment to taking a home game to a regional centre and EISS Super for their support of the regional series.”
Mr Barilaro said regional NSW had endured an extremely tough few years with prolonged drought, bushfires and now COVID, and these six regionally based NRL games will bring much needed stimulus and entertainment to regional areas.
“There’s nothing quite like a game of footy to boost morale and nobody deserves it more than our resilient communities in the regions,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Bathurst, Wagga Wagga, Tamworth, Dubbo, Mudgee and Coffs will play host to a first grade game in the 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership Schedule which will benefit those towns and surrounding areas beyond measure.
“Many professional NRL players come from regional towns and I’m sure they, and the entire state of NSW, thank the NRL for making this a reality.
“Sydney might be the home of NRL, but the regions are where it was born.”
The NRL will partner with multi award-winning industry super fund EISS Super, the Sharks Harvey Norman Women’s and Tarsha Gale team sponsor, for the NSW regional fixtures in 2021.
EISS Super CEO Alexander Hutchison said more than 50 per cent of members live and work in rural and regional New South Wales.
“The EISS Super Regional Series is an effective way to demonstrate the commitment we’ve made to support our members and their communities,” Mr Hutchison said.
“This year, COVID-19 restrictions meant we didn’t get out to regional areas as much as usual so we’re looking forward to getting back out there in 2021 to meet with our members and NRL fans as well.”
The dates and away teams involved in the EISS Super Regional Series NRL Telstra Premiership will be confirmed in the full schedule release tomorrow (Thursday, November 26).