League loss for Lismore
By STEVE SPINKS
TOWNSVILLE'S gain is Lismore's loss.
This is the case for local rugby league fans after Lismore's Oakes Oval was pipped for the second consecutive year as the site for the 2005 City v Country Origin match.
Group One officials were informally told earlier this year that Lismore would be the site of the 2005 match.
However, the North Queensland Cowboys' dramatic finals surge has worked against Lismore.
After the Cowboys defeated the Bulldogs four weeks ago, they were drawn to play the Brisbane Broncos at Sydney's Aussie Stadium.
There seemed little point in playing an all Queensland final in NSW so it was moved to the Cowboys home field at Townsville.
However according to the Australian Rugby League's chief executive officer Geoff Carr, contractual arrangements have forced the ARL's hand.
"The Country Rugby League recommended we go to Lismore but unfortunately that hasn't come to fruition," Mr Carr said.
"The Sydney Cricket Ground Trust had the semi-final game between Brisbane and North Queensland and when they relinquished that game they required a game to be played in its place.
"They were offered the City v Country match and they accepted it."
Mr Carr felt for Group One officials and fans but he said that Lismore would remain in the hunt for a future City v County game.
"Guys in Lismore made a good point that we always seem to be going around them and missing Lismore," Mr Carr said.
"We've taken that on board and the ARL Development Conference is being held up there soon."
Group One president Robin Harley is obviously disappointed with the decision.
"I just wonder whether holding a game like that in the City will get as much interest as holding it in the Country," he said.
"We thought we were over the line last year but there was a deal finalised with Advocate Stadium (Gosford) at the last minute.
"They (ARL) are trying to identify centres in the Country that can handle top quality games. "I've got no doubt that Lismore can."