Strong grounds to host open­ing night

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL - DAVID RICCIO

IN 1986, Brett Kenny, Peter Ster­ling and Ray Price chris­tened their newly-built home of Par­ra­matta Sta­dium with a thump­ing win over St Ge­orge.

Thirty-two years later and Par­ra­matta CEO Bernie Gurr has re­vealed the club’s se­cret bid to en­sure the NRL — and not the A-League — of­fi­cially opens the new Western Syd­ney Sta­dium with a his­toric re­match against the Dragons next year.

The Sun­day Tele­graph can re­veal that with the new WSS on tar­get to be opened in early April 2019, Gurr has al­ready met with the NRL, who are pre­par­ing to de­sign the 2019 sea­son draw.

“It’s cer­tainly our goal and the NRL is aware of this, that we want rugby league to be the game that opens the sta­dium,’’ Gurr said.

“In an ideal world, it would be the first game of next sea­son or it would be our open­ing home game of next sea­son.

“I en­joy the his­tory of our great game and I do re­mem­ber the game against St Ge­orge and Par­ra­matta turned it on. There’s a bit of syn­ergy around that, but there’s a lot of wa­ter to flow un­der the bridge.

“Clearly our wish would be to play a tra­di­tional op­po­nent on the day. Saints clearly fall un­der that cat­e­gory and Can­ter­bury and Manly do too.’’

The Eels are merely ten­ants of the new WSS — as will be A-League’s Western Syd­ney Wan­der­ers.

In­fra­struc­ture NSW have ad­vised that the WSS is fore­cast to open in early April, mean­ing the Wan­der­ers’ only op­por­tu­nity unity to be the first sport­port­ing event ent played at the e 30,000-seat t sta­dium would be in the fi­nal two rounds of f their reg­u­lar r sea­son, or a po­ten­tial semi- fi­nal.

How­ever, Gurr said Par­ra­matta’s tt ’ rich i h hi his­tory, t mem­ber­ship num­bers and pow­er­ful leagues club which will be housed within the sta­dium precinct, should be all fac­tored into why the Eels should open the sta­dium upon its com­ple­tion.

Gurr added that the Eels would also be will­ing to play up to as many four away games in the open­ing month of the sea­son, se in or­der to be the first team tha that play their fir first home game a at WSS — as o op­posed to A ANZ Sta­dium.

“The re­al­ity i is, we’ll be an an an­chor ten­ant the there. “It It’s right next to our le leagues club, it’s within ithi th the P Par­ra­matta Eels precinct, so there’s a lot of good syn­ergy and a lot of good sto­ry­lines there, that it would make sense to dic­tate that we are the open­ing game of that sta­dium,’’ Gurr said. “Last year we played our first two games away and this year we’re away at Pen­rith and Manly.

“So we’re sort of in a groove with start­ing the sea­son with at least a cou­ple of away games.

“So if it meant play­ing two, three or four away games just so that we could come home to play our first home game at the new Western Syd­ney Sta­dium, we’d be very open to that.

“With­out a doubt, it will be the best game day ex­pe­ri­ence in Aus­tralia.

“It will be bet­ter than Sun­corp Sta­dium ( Bris­bane) be­cause the slope on the stands is even steeper than Sun­corp, so it will be a real col­lo­seum ef­fect.”

Steve Sharp dives over for the first try at Par­ra­matta Sta­dium in a game against St Ge­orge in 1986, and (above) an aerial view of the match.

Main pic­ture: An­thony Weate

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