NRL exhibition match for Bega, but not everyone’s impressed

Local link: Cooma's Sam Williams will be part of the Canberra Raiders outfit to contest an exhibition match with the Bulldogs in Bega. Picture: Keegan Carroll.
Local link: Cooma's Sam Williams will be part of the Canberra Raiders outfit to contest an exhibition match with the Bulldogs in Bega. Picture: Keegan Carroll.

The Bega Valley Shire Council has passed a motion to provide up to $7000 of in-kind support for an NRL exhibition match in Bega next year. 

However, resistance to the support from councillors Sharon Tapscott and Jo Dodds has raised a few eyebrows. 

The Canberra Raiders will take on the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at the Bega Recreation Ground in February, but Crs Tapscott and Dodds voted against the motion to provide support for the game. 

“I have a problem with inviting people here with less than exemplary public profiles. We need to send a message that enough is enough. Men’s teams need to be worth looking up to and worth our money,” Cr Tapscott said.

Cr Dodds also voiced disapproval for providing support on a moral basis. 

They've not proved themselves to be good community leaders or standard bearers

Cr Jo Dodds

“I find it quite odd I'm not allowed to speak on anything other than the money. It goes to much more than the money being spent on the game,” Cr Dodds said. 

“They've not proved themselves to be good community leaders or standard bearers.”

Meanwhile, on the other foot, council has been in talks with the Canberra Raiders investing in the Bega ground in return of local support for their proposed Centre of Excellence

The Raiders-Bulldogs game, scheduled for February 23, could see an influx of between 5000 and 8000 league supporters from within and many from outside the shire. More than 6000 attended the 2011 NRL exhibition match between Canberra and the Melbourne Storm.

While the two councillors morally object to the current state of the players in the game, the benefits the community could stand to gain from such a fixture are clear – as are the potential pathways and promotion the spectacle provides for upcoming footballers. 

Cr Russell Fitzpatrick said it well. 

“To my knowledge there are eight kids playing first grade NRL in Group 16 who I coached, but here we are about to demonise a code. We set who we want to be our role models,” he said.

Here we are about to demonise a code. We set who we want to be our role models

Cr Russell Fitzpatrick

Opinions abound over the negative public attention the NRL at times attracts, but arguments could be made about all the good that can come of the national code, too. 

Johnathan Thurston donated his 300-game boots to auction for the Mayoral fund for the Tathra bushfire, raising about $37,000. To the BDN’s knowledge, no objections were raised about this donation and its origin. 

Cr Mitch Nadin said there would be palpable benefits from the visit with both clubs opting in to community wellbeing workshops alongside the obvious financial gains for the local Group 16 rugby league body. 

“There are enormous community benefits,” he said. “Our local shops, our economy, our profile is raised, kids become more athletic, and it helps bond our community through a large social and cultural event – there is no downside!”

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