By Matt Findlay
Eastern Suburbs and Gordon will play a televised Shute Shield match in Orange this year according to Beasties president John Murray.
The two clubs have reportedly agreed to shift their round seven clash on May 13 to the Central West town, just over three hours west of Sydney, and will play in front of a large NSW Country crowd following the Orange Emus v Orange City Blowes Cup local derby.
While most of the finer details are yet to be confirmed, although they’re expected to be in the next couple of days, the Beasties-Highlanders fixture is guaranteed to be played in colour city and will be the televised game of the round.
“It’s 100 per cent happening, everyone at Easts is really excited about it, NSW Rugby is right behind it and so is Channel 7 … Gordon is really on board with it as well, which is great,” Easts general manager Eoin Clohesy told the Central Western Daily.
“We can’t thank Gordon president Hayden Rorke and everyone at their club enough, they’ve been fantastic and are also really excited about it,” Murray added.
“We need to thank Emus, Orange City and the Orange City Council as well. We’re having a meeting with everyone on Thursday afternoon, the finer details should be fleshed out then.”
The current proposal has the Shute Shield clash marked down to be played at Wade Park, with the Emus-Lions derby expected to act as a curtain raiser.
The two clubs will just bring their top grade units in 2017, however Murray said there’s real potential for the concept to grow in future years.
“It’s our first time trying a game in a regional area, so for us bringing all of our sides might have been a bridge too far but I really hope it’s a great success, if it is I see no reason why it can’t grow bigger and better in future years,” Murray explained.
Easts have a significant link to the Central West. A huge number of players pull on, or have pulled on in the past, the Beasties’ famed navy, red and white and with the recent push for the Australian Rugby Union to give more to regional areas Murray says the time is right for his club to do the same.
“We really want to give back to the regional communities that provide us as a club with so much,” Murray said.
“We’re really excited about it and really hoping it can continue in future years, taking games to regional areas is something we’ll also be encouraging other clubs to do as well.
“We view it as a really great chance to try and help grow the game in the Central West, and hopefully other areas too.
“We have such a heavy influence from the Central West area, we’re also hoping we can use the game as an opportunity to show people that Easts is a wonderful place for their sons to come if they’re looking to play in the city, or daughters for that matter, because we’ll be launching our women’s rugby program in 2017 as well.”
Central West Rugby president Paul Ryan shares the Beasties duo’s enthusiasm, saying it’s huge news to see NSW’s premier competition come to the colour city.
“It’s very exciting. Easts planted the seed and it’s great to see it now happening,” Ryan said.
“It’s a great move in promoting the sport in this area, it’ll be a really high quality game and it’ll be a great way to promote Orange as well.
“Also, it’s going to really promote that pathway for country kids to go to the city and vice-versa, it’s a two-way street there, which is another really big positive.”