Waiting on Waratahs

LISMORE is a step closer to securing a Super 14 rugby union trial between arch-rivals NSW and Queensland, with senior Waratahs officials expected to visit the city next week.

Team manager Chris Webb and two other officials will tour Oakes Oval and Crozier Field next Wednesday, with an announcement on whether the trial goes ahead possibly that day.

However, according to Howard Atkinson, the Far North Coast rugby identity involved in the negotiations, the fixture is not yet locked in.

“We're well and truly down the path and we are in a reasonably favourable position but it's not certain yet,” Atkinson told The Northern Star yesterday.

“The officials will do a site inspection and look at different areas such as training facilities and accommodation. You have to remember they are professional teams.

“They (NSW) have been exceptionally good to deal with, but no, it's not certain yet.”

The Queensland Reds confirmed Atkinson's view.

“We've been talking to the NSW Rugby Union about it and the talks are pretty advanced for the game to be held on Saturday, January 23,” Queensland Rugby Union spokesman Paul Read said.

“We haven't gone public yet because it's not 100 per cent confirmed.”

A spokesman for the Waratahs, Brett Moore, was non-committal.

“We haven't released our pre-season itinerary. It could be a few weeks away,” he said.

Lismore City Council events co- ordinator John Bancroft, who was recently involved in the brilliantly run Lismore Festival of Cricket, said the council had not been told whether the fixture had been given the green light.

It's not clear what is holding back the announcement, but Atkinson said there were a number of issues that had to be discussed.

The venue is one, with some pushing for Crozier Field, which hosted a successful Far North Coast rugby grand final last month, instead of Lismore's premier multi-sports arena Oakes Oval.

The match is expected to be played under lights.

“I'm probably fancying Crozier because of the atmosphere it can generate,” Atkinson said.

“It's a rectangular ground and the crowd is close to the action.

“I'd say that would probably help council as well because cricket is played at Oakes over summer.”

The Northern Star two months ago broke the story that the Waratahs and Reds were negotiating to play in Lismore.

Wallaby players from both States would not be expected to play but the fixture would still provide some quality rugby for spectators with fringe squad members out to impress coaching staff ahead of the Super 14 kick-off three weeks later.

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