The Panthers and Bathurst council have penned a new deal to take professional rugby league to regional New South Wales, moving one of Penrith’s home games out west to Carrington Park in Bathurst, each season for the next five years.
The initiative will begin in 2014, with specific match details yet to be finalised, and will mark the first time a top-level game has been played in the region since the City v Country fixture in 2001.
Head of Business Development Panthers Group Justin Pascoe said the decision to move a game to Bathurst had not been taken lightly.
“A lot of due diligence has taken place to ensure we are doing the best thing for both the game and the community. We are not going to emulate a copy and paste mentality as happens across other clubs and codes where we simply take a game away for commercial gain only. We are committing to the community of Bathurst and its surrounding communities for five years, and the game itself will be a by-product of a whole raft of initiatives.
“These initiatives will focus on developing the game of rugby league in regional NSW, focusing on the development of players in Group 10 plus the development of coaches in the region through a coach the coaches program.
“We will also be tailoring merchandise and membership offerings specifically to the region allowing for a target approach to fan engagement, plus we will leverage the Bathurst leagues club, which is one of our greatest assets, to host several functions both community and sports based throughout the contract period.
“As a group we will not rest on the recent independent valuation from Brand Finance stating the Panthers Brand is the number one brand in Australian sport. We are only just starting out, and we will continue to grow our brand across regions that we believe are strategically complimentary and in line with our groups’ ethos of sport and community”.
Mayor of Bathurst Cr Gary Rush said the opportunity to bring a round of the NRL competition to Bathurst, was a major coup for the city and a big win for the supporters of the game in country NSW.
“Bathurst has a solid reputation for hosting major sporting events and bringing a round of the NRL competition here is another opportunity to show what a vibrant regional city like ours has to offer as a major sports event location.
"This is very exciting for the people of the Central West to have access to the biggest names in the League in an annual event for the next five years but it is also an opportunity for some excellent exposure for those who haven't yet discovered just what a great place Bathurst is to visit.
“Rugby League has huge support here in Central West NSW and there would be no better location for the NRL to bring one of its big games to continue the development of the sport not only among the many loyal fans but in the young players who will benefit from coaching clinics with some of the best players in the game.
“This event is part of Council's long term commitment to boost the profile of Destination Bathurst as a sought-after tourist and major special event destination."