Rugby League


Canberra Raiders coach says clubs have ''responsibility' to look after bush

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart has challenged NRL clubs to give back more to bush football, with Saturday's Raiders-Knights clash at Orange the only trial to be played in country NSW this season.

A long-time advocate for spreading the league gospel in the bush, Stuart pointed out the huge number of NRL players produced by country teams and the need to repay them for that hard work.

More than 7500 fans packed Wade Park to watch Canberra's 34-28 win, and afterward players and coaches from both teams were mobbed by fans excited by the rare chance to rub shoulders with their heroes.

Newcastle and Canberra spent the week leading up to the match visiting schools in the Central West region.

The Raiders line-up is dominated by players with country roots, including Orange product Jack Wighton, Jarrod Croker (Goulburn), Sam Williams (Cooma), Shaun Fensom (Urunga) and Shannon Boyd (Cowra).

Asked after the match if there should be more trials in country areas, Stuart said: "Yeah I do, but I seem to be the only one saying it every year, it's unfair.


"I don't think it's the NRL's responsibility, I think it's the responsibility of the clubs.

"We're happy to go out to the bush and pull players into our teams and into our clubs. We need to pay a little more accountability to the bush, the football and its people.

"You can still see now [during the interview] all the kids taking photos with their favourite players, and the smiles on their faces and the parents.

"It's wonderful and that's our job. I believe our club and myself have a responsibility to those people."

The City-Country concept will most likely be scrapped after this year's edition at Tamworth, but there is speculation it could be replaced by three regular season club fixtures.

Some teams have been more assertive in taking football to the country, with Penrith moving their home clash against the Raiders in round nine this year to Bathurst.

Manly also moved a home game against Canberra to Albury last year, which attracted a smaller crowd than hoped due to the weather and the fact it was played on Easter Saturday.