Wallaby flyer Kurtley Beale believes the decision to play a Wallabies Test match in Western Sydney could inspire a new region of fans and players.
Rugby is losing the fight for relevance amongst a saturated Australian winter sport program and the AFL, NRL and A-League have been successful in capturing the hearts of the dense Western Sydney population in recent years.
Rugby Australia’s decision to play the September 7th Test between Australia and Samoa at the soon-to-be opened Western Sydney Stadium in Parramatta is one of the biggest moves into the region yet.
It will be the first international match in the new facility and the first Rugby Test in the region since 1998, when Australia defeated Fiji 66-20.
Beale, who grew up in Mt Druitt, said the game is the right combination of athleticism, ambition and community for the people of Western Sydney.
“It’s a great opportunity for the game to grow rugby in that area,” Beale told reporters in Sydney.
“For the Waratahs and the Wallabies to take games out to the new Parramatta Stadium, it’s a great opportunity … to reach out to our young followers and show them a part of our game.”
Some might believe the game is scheduled as a World Cup training run for the Wallabies, but the home side will need to be careful of the Pacific Island team.
When the sides last met, Samoa shocked the Wallabies 32-23 in Sydney.
Preparations for the previous World Cup were undertaken by the Wallabies in the United States.
This time around, they’ve decided to stay home, and the players are happy to spend time amongst family before flying to Japan.
“To be able to spread the love, spread the game out into the regional areas, I think [in the] western suburbs there’s a lot of supporters out there,” Beale said.
Beale is confident the game can draw in Indigenous supporters as well as people from the Pacific Islands who call Western Sydney home.
“There’s so many Pacific Islanders playing at the elite level now, so it’s a great opportunity for Rugby Australia to get out there and influence and encourage young Pacific Islanders to play our game,” Beale said.
“Growing up in the area there’s so much talent that is unseen … that’s been untapped, and you can see the likes of some of our players at the moment, in all teams—a lot of those guys come from the western suburbs.”
“Obviously being born and bred out there, I know there’s a lot of support. To be able to get out there, play in front of them against Samoa would be an awesome experience and no doubt there’ll be a lot of love around at that time to try and send us off and wish us well going into the World Cup.”
By Keiran Deck