Lismore in running for trial game
THE Lismore City Council has continued its aggressive pursuit of high quality sporting events with negotiations for Oakes Oval to host a Super 14 rugby union trial match between the NSW Waratahs and Queensland Reds in January.
The council in the past 12 months has helped bring Claxton Shield baseball, W-League soccer, National Rugby League trials and next month the nine-day Festival of Cricket involving three State teams but top-level rugby union has fallen through the cracks.
Local rugby enthusiast and promoter Howard Atkinson has been in Sydney and met with Waratahs powerbrokers this week to put forward Lismore as a possible host for the fixture.
“We are looking very seriously at trying to get the game up here,” Atkinson said from Sydney yesterday.
“We are realists and there are a number of other places that are also in the pipeline.
“It would be a trial, but not a full-on trial because the Wallabies would not have been released to play.
“We believe the facility (Oakes) is good enough and the council is actively supporting it. It is exciting for us because nothing like this has been in Lismore before.
“Chris Webb, the Waratahs manager, was quite open and supportive but obviously he remained uncommitted because there are a number of other places in line.”
Lismore City Council events co-ordinator John Bancroft confirmed the bid for the trial.
“Howard Atkinson has been the main mover-and-shaker but it's fair to say we have offered support,” he said.
“We've had soccer, league and cricket up here but rugby hasn't got a crack yet.
“Howard and I have often talked about different rugby games we could go for but this one has come up.”
Bancroft admitted the council was starting to build a reputation for its aggressive pursuit of high level sporting fixtures.
“I think we are getting a bit of a reputation but we've earned that reputation and I think we've proven we can run these events,” he said.
“To host these types of events organisations have to have the confidence they can relocate events here away from the exceptionally good venues they have in the capital cities and still be successful.
“I think we've earned some credibility, for sure.”
The trial was put out for tender by the NSW Rugby Union, and Coffs Harbour and Bathurst are believed to be among other bidders.
The successful host would be expected to pay travel and accommodation costs for both squads.
The match would be set for January 24. It is not known when a decision on who hosts the fixture will be confirmed.
The biggest rugby union games held at Oakes Oval in the past 15 years include NSW Country playing Ireland in 1994 and Queensland in 1999.
Should the trial be set for Lismore it would be a homecoming of sorts for Waratahs coach Chris Hickey.
Hickey had a successful stint as the first-grade coach of Ballina and the Far North Coast representative team before going on to coach in Canberra, Sydney and eventually the NSW Waratahs.
Assistant coach Scott Wisemantel also has an association with the area - he lives at Lennox Head.