The NRL’s decision to move the Penrith-Parramatta trial to Bega on Saturday injected up to $5 million into local communities and there may be more to come, with the NSW Blues considering a visit to the Sapphire Coast during State of Origin.
The NRL, NSW Government and Bega Valley Shire Council, who joined forces with the Eels and Panther to stage the EISS Super Sapphire Trial Tribute, made the announcement prior to kick-off in the sold-out clash.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg also revealed that NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler had raised with him the possibility of the Blues visiting the region.
“We’ve been here for a while already and today isn’t the end of that journey,” Greenberg said.
“This community and others will need ongoing support. This is a big part of our strategy but there has to be more so over the course of this year you will see that.
“I was talking to Brad Fittler just before and he is trying to figure out how he can bring a State of Origin team into a training session at some point.
“You could imagine what that would do for the local community.”
Bega Valley Mayor Kristy McBain said visits by players from St George Illawarra, Canberra, Melbourne, Penrith and Parramatta had boosted the spirits of the local community.
Children have been particularly affected and Bega MP Andrew Constance said they would never forget the chance to meet the stars of the NRL.
“It was bought home to me the other day when Will, in our household, at the age of 10, eight weeks after the fire, it is raining and he said, ‘are we safe yet?’,” Constance said.
“Young minds are like sponges and they will remember those footy players, they will remember the great players coming to their schools, giving them a hug, embracing them and kicking a football.
“That starts to change the thinking for those young minds.”
With businesses heavily affected by the loss of income during the summer bushfires, Greenberg was pleased to announce the game had injected $4.7 million into the local economy.
The $4.7 million, compiled by the National Institute of Economic and Industry research, was calculated on the estimated visitor spend and investment from the NRL and broadcasters in the region.
“This has been a remarkable week. The rugby league community and our partners have come together to create something really special and show the nation that the Sapphire Coast is open for business,’’ he said.
“I thank everyone involved in the lead-up to this match for the role they’ve played and the money they’ve spent in townships across the Sapphire Coast region. Visitors have opened their hearts and their wallets to help the region get back on its feet.
Eels brotherhood inspires farmer after double tragedy
“There’s a long way to go. But we hope we have made a practical difference to townships in this area and we will continue to do everything we can in the weeks and months ahead, as only rugby league can.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was heartening to see the NRL and supporters get behind the community.
"My heartfelt thanks go to the NRL for making this match in Bega possible," Ms Berejiklian said.
“I’m excited to be here enjoying a great pre-season event that's giving a much-needed boost to the local community."
Further fundraising efforts for those affected by recent natural disasters will continue across Round One of the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership, with the NRL partnering with the Salvation Army to raise donations.