Wagga Wagga City Council and Canberra Raiders’ promise to bring a National Rugby League fixture back to the city next year was today fulfilled with the 2021 NRL draw to include a premiership game at McDonald’s Park next May.
The Raiders will play Newcastle Knights on Saturday 8 May, 2021 at 3pm, marking the return of elite sporting events to the city after the cancellation of this year’s NRL game in April due to the pandemic.
Mayor of the City of Wagga Wagga Cr Greg Conkey said the return of top level rugby league to the city would be a popular announcement for regional sporting fans who take every opportunity to support big sporting events in Wagga Wagga.
The game is scheduled for the day after the running of the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup, potentially providing the city with a weekend sporting bonanza expected to draw thousands to the region.
“This is a great step forward for the city, and indeed regional areas, to see the NRL back in Wagga Wagga next year,” Cr Conkey said.
“Needless to say it’s been a tough year, and I welcome this announcement by the NRL and congratulate everyone involved to ensure the Raiders are scheduled to return to Wagga Wagga in 2021.
“We have a strong relationship with the Raiders, and bringing one of their games to Wagga Wagga is indeed a significant boost to the morale and the ongoing recovery of our city and surrounding towns after enduring the effects of the pandemic for most of this year.”
Cr Conkey said Council staff will work closely with the NRL, the Raiders and NSW Health to ensure everything is done within Public Health Order guidelines in the lead-up to and during the promotion.
“Being COVID-safe is a part of daily life now … people understand that and we will need to be aware of that and follow the health guidelines in place at the time of the game,” Cr Conkey said.
“What they will be at that time next year is an unknown, but so far we’ve seen everyone doing their bit to follow the rules and the result of that is we’re now starting to see borders opening again and people getting back to some normality.
“This all augurs well for the future and now the planning can start for what promises to be a much-celebrated sporting event returning to Wagga Wagga … so well done to everyone.”
This year’s NRL fixture between the Raiders and Knights was scheduled for 18 April until a decision to cancel the game in line with State and Federal health guidelines.
Extensive works have been completed at the Exhibition Centre and McDonald’s Park ground in recent years with the Raiders endorsing the ground as one of the premier regional venues in the state.
Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner said the club was looking forward to returning to Wagga Wagga and rewarding their many Riverina supporters with an NRL game in their own backyard.
“The Raiders are excited about taking a premiership fixture to Wagga after the disruption of the 2020 season,” Mr Furner said.
“The Riverina is a great rugby league region. We have a significant number of members and fans from the Riverina who have always attended games in Canberra pre-COVID, so to fulfil our commitment to Wagga after this year’s game was cancelled was something we really wanted to do for our supporters in the Riverina.
“We will be encouraging all of our Canberra-based members to travel out to Wagga, support the Raiders and make a weekend of it.”
Tickets for the match will go on sale early next year. Council will keep the public updated on when and how tickets can be purchased.