Tamworth will host the Round 16 NRL Telstra Premiership match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Newcastle Knights to thank the community for hosting the Warriors when they arrived in Australia.
The Saturday August 29 match has been relocated from Gosford to Scully Park in Tamworth and will be broadcast live on Fox Sports.
The National Rugby League (NRL), NSW Government, New Zealand Warriors, Wests Tamworth Leagues Club and Fox Sports have worked together to make the match a reality.
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the match provided the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the Tamworth community for their assistance in the resumption of the Telstra Premiership.
“We want to thank the Tamworth community and businesses for their kindness, support and hospitality shown to the Warriors whilst they were in their beautiful town,’’ he said.
“In particular, their local member Kevin Anderson was the perfect example with the spirit and energy he displayed to make them welcome.
“Allowing the Warriors to quarantine in Tamworth played an important role in the season resuming on May 28. We also want to thank the NSW Government for their ongoing assistance throughout the pandemic and our broadcast partner Fox Sports for supporting the relocation.”
Mr V’landys said the NRL was committed to bringing more games to regional venues.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the opportunities to play games in regional centres this season. Towns like Tamworth have rugby league in their DNA,’’ he said.
“We want people in regional towns to have the opportunity to watch more live rugby league and we will make this happen.”
Mr V’landys wished to particularly single out the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro for his unrivalled support of rugby league during the Medical emergency of COVID-19.
“To say he was a Warrior for the game, would be a gross understatement,’’ he said.
Mr Barilaro said rugby league was part of the fabric of country towns.
“This year I set an ambitious goal to bring first grade footy to the bush and today I can announce the NSW Government is delivering on that commitment by partnering with the NRL to bring a first grade NRL game to Tamworth,” he said.
“I have said in the past that rugby league is the fabric of life in the bush so to see the highest level of the game return to its grassroots base is truly exciting. Over the last few months many of our regional communities have seen a glimmer of hope that the drought will break and this is one more thing to look forward to for those living in the country.”
“The Warriors and the Knights are guaranteed to put on a show in this Trans-Tasman encounter, but the real winner on the day is footy in the bush.”
Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson thanked the Warriors for delivering on their promise to play a game in Tamworth.
“The Warriors promised to come back and play a competition game and it will great to see them run onto Scully Park Tamworth, particularly as they have our postcode embroidered on their jersey,’’ he said.
“They have fond memories of their time here and are looking forward to coming back to say thanks for the outstanding hospitality shown to them during that period.
“This will be a crackerjack game with the Knights holding a strong fan base in Tamworth and the Warriors who have also built a strong following.
“We love our footy so it’s fantastic to see the NSW Government and the NRL supporting Rugby League in the bush.”
Warriors chief executive Cameron George said the squad was excited to return to Tamworth.
“It’s such an exciting opportunity for us being able to return to Tamworth to play in front of fans at Scully Park,” he said.
“We’ve played with Tamworth’s postcode 2340 on our jerseys throughout the season and hold the region and its people very close to our hearts. We’ll never forget what they did for us.
“When we were stuck without a home just before the season was about to resume Tamworth came to the rescue by setting up a home away from home for our players and staff to meet their quarantine requirements.
“The circumstances meant the team couldn’t connect with the community then but with this game we’ll at last have a chance to say thank you to those who are able to make it to the game.”