Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner has all but committed to bringing NRL games back to the team’s “heartland”, pending upgrades to Seiffert Oval.
When asked about the chances of Queanbeyan seeing premiership rugby league again if the appropriate upgrades were made Furner said “you’re a better chance than not.”
“The facilities are very good here but to get to an NRL standard a lot more money needs to be spent on it,” Furner said.
“We could not at this stage commit an NRL competition game but certainly trial games.
“We’d like to bring more trial games here, it suits us, it’s close, it’s our heartland, it’s where we were born.”
Furner suggested there would need to be significant improvements to the lights, media facilities, toilets and food and beverage facilities.
According to Canberra Region and Community Rugby League general manager Mark Vergano, lighting in particular would allow for greater flexibility in scheduling and invite more games involving the Raiders development teams.
Mr Furner also highlighted the possibility of having a Raiders affiliated NSW Cup side based permanently in Queanbeyan.
Former Queanbeyan City councillor Kenrick Winchester has been the main proponent of returning the Raiders to Queanbeyan. He is currently running for election to the new Queanbeyan-Palerang council.
The council has already set aside $200,000 to upgrade the lights but it would require significantly more investment to bring the stadium up to NRL standard.
Mr Winchester said should he be elected he would move for the council to apply for funding through the Regional Sports Infrastructure Fund.
The fund was announced earlier this month by Deputy Premier John Barilaro for projects costing more than $1 million.
Proposals that provide an economic benefit through increased tourism or jobs and enhance regionally significant sporting facilities are encouraged by the NSW government and Mr Winchester said a Seiffert Oval upgrade would achieve these.
One potential pitfall for the project will be the Raiders’ agreement with the ACT government to host games at Canberra Stadium.
Mr Furner said the team would be seeking the government to waive the fee for taking a game to Wagga Wagga next season and suggested the club would do the same for Queanbeyan.
“We wouldn’t be taking more than one game away from Canberra,” Mr Furner said.
“We’d look to never play less than 11 at Canberra Stadium.
“We’ll be happy to look at Queanbeyan in a couple years time.”
The Raiders will continue to host trial games at Seiffert Oval in alternating years as they did in February.
Mr Furner suggested that stadium upgrades would not only open up possibilities for NRL games but also City v Country and when major events visit Canberra like the Rugby League World Cup. Mr Winchester added that the A-League, Super Rugby and even concerts were all viable options.
For Mr Winchester, who was previously the president of the Raiders Army supporter group, this project is all about boosting the town by bringing the team back to their “spiritual home.”
“Fifteen thousand die hard Raiders fans packed into Seiffert Oval would create a unique atmosphere that many people have not had the chance to experience,” he said.
This has become the major platform for Mr Winchester’s ticket in September’s election.
“If we had an NRL game here I’d get Kenrick to lead the team out and kick off,” Mr Furner joked.