Strong grounds to host opening night
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