Sunday’s City-Country origin match was a bittersweet affair for a lot of people, especially rugby league fans who are fans of the game’s heritage.
(min cost $8)
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Mudgee did a wonderful job of hosting, and after all of the negative press surrounding coaches shunning the game and players being ruled out, a crowd of 8300 was fantastic.
However, unless there is a dramatic change of heart at NRL headquarters, that was the last time City-Country will be played.
It was a fitting finish, with a thrilling match that hung in the balance until the closing stages and all 34 players deserve plenty of praise for their efforts.
Regardless of whether those players were the first choice or a late call-up when the situation started to get desperate, they all gave 100 per cent.
And it meant something to each and every one of them. Whether they wanted to show their wares on a bigger stage ahead of State of Origin, or their first representative jersey, they were pleased to be there.
For Paul Gallen, it might be his last representative jersey. Like him or not, Gallen has done a lot for rugby league, especially within NSW.
He was under no obligation to come to Mudgee. He has played 24 times for NSW and 32 Tests for Australia, as well as two previous City appearances.
He had nothing to prove but wanted to be a part of it, and didn’t just take part in the game but was also out and about in Mudgee beforehand, including promoting Time 4 Kids.
His passion, and that of the other 33 players, should have showed league headquarters the City-Country concept was still worth something.
Instead a game that has more than 100 years of history and did so much for the game in regional areas is now dead and buried.
It is up to the NRL to find another way to repay everything the country areas do for the sport.
If that is more NRL games coming to the regions, that’s great and we should be more excited than most.
No town or city is better credentialed than Mudgee to host a game.
The best ground west of the Blue Mountains, enthusiastic and welcoming locals that embrace any sport that visits and a proven ability to draw a crowd should put it at the front of the queue.
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