TWO of the NRL’s best attacking teams are set to kick-off Goulburn’s 150th birthday party next February.
A combined push by the local rugby league and councillors won over the Canberra Raiders and Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, who’ve agreed to lock horns at Workers Arena in a final hit out before the 2013 season.
The February 23 match will attract some of the game’s biggest stars, lure thousands through the gates and christen the Arena’s soon-to-be erected floodlights, valued at $70,000.
Goulburn Workers Bulldogs president Dale Godber said some 500 extra seats would be shipped into the ground to cater for a crowd eager to watch Dally M medallist Ben Barba weave his magic, Josh Morris find open space and homegrown Raiders centre Jarrod Croker amass points.
Raiders CEO Don Furner is confident both clubs will take full-strength teams to Goulburn.
“It’s the last trial before the season, so we’d be full strength I’d imagine. Both teams will be using their best players,” he said.
Goulburn’s proximity to Canberra and Sydney, its connection with the Raiders and the upcoming 150th anniversary were key factors in the clubs’ decision.
“We’ve had a lot to do with Goulburn over the years,” Furner said.
“The mere fact that Goulburn is celebrating its 150th and Canberra its centenary swayed us.
“We like to give back to areas that have been good for the Raiders. We’ve had a lot of good kids come out of Goulburn.”
Plans by the Workers Bulldogs to install lights at the Arena will be fast-tracked to accommodate the 7pm kick-off.
Two junior matches, likely to feature the Bulldogs and Raiders Harold Matthews and SG Ball teams, and a Toyota Cup trial will precede the first grade clash.
Goulburn juniors Jarrod Croker, Joe Picker, Mitch Cornish, Jason Gray, Jake Lewis and Tom Chapman are likely to play.
Godber hopes the trial attracts upwards of 8000 people to the city, some of whom may return a fortnight later to acknowledge its 150th anniversary.
“It’s going to be a good lead into our 150th,” he said.
“This will be the start. What better way to do that than bringing in 8000 spectators?” Godber knows the event has positive spinoffs for the Workers Bulldogs too.
“It’ll the bring a crowd, hopefully that will flow on and our crowds will grow,” he said.
The showpiece ought to leave the club nicely placed to host more representative matches in the future.
With night matches soon possible, Workers Arena will develop into one of the best rugby league grounds in Canberra and its surrounds.
“Once we get the lights, we’ll have the best ground in the Canberra region,” Godber said.