RUGBY league legend Wayne Pearce wants to bring NRL club games to the Border.
The first NSW captain to lead the Blues to a State of Origin clean sweep said bringing the elite players to the region would further enhance the phenomenal growth of the code in recent years.
In a first for the code, Pearce, along with NRL chief executive Dave Smith, made a flying visit to Albury yesterday, taking in Greenfield Park, Lavington Oval and the home of junior rugby league, Sarvaas Park.
“Albury is a fantastic city, a growth city and sport is a big part of the town,” he said.
“There has been enormous growth in rugby league down here in recent years and we have come down to see how they do it.
“What we have found at the Thunder is a group of people who are really passionate about the game and quite focused in their targeting of young kids but one of the challenges is being able to find the space for these kids to play league.
“Lavington Oval here looks pretty good for an NRL match but the oval shape is not ideal, simply because the shape means spectators are further from the action.
“But from my point of view the upside would be for the code in general — it would build on the success of the Thunder down here.”
Smith was another to endorse bringing the elite level to the country.
He said there was no substance to the belief the annual city versus country match was doomed.
“Bringing first-grade football to the country is important to growing the game — if anything we need to strengthen that,” Smith said.
“We also need to work with the council to support the green space for football, for the juniors.”
Thunder’s Mike Eden said they were keen to get the NRL’s support to grow the sport and first impressions were positive.
“We have told them we need some assistance in the way of a development officer to get into schools,” he said.
“But the most vital aspect is green space — the growth and participation in Albury means that Greenfield Park and Sarvaas Park are not enough.
“We also want to convince them to bring an NRL game here, including trials that will help further grow the game.”