NSW Waratahs’ 2019 ‘Grand Tour’ finalised
The grounds to be used for the NSW Waratahs’ first year without a permanent home have been finalised, with 2019 seeing four different hosting venues across the eight regular season fixtures, and the first Super Rugby game ever held by the team outside of Sydney.
With Allianz Stadium due for a complete rebuild over the next three years, the Waratahs have taken the opportunity to take the game around the state capital and beyond, hopefully reconnecting with their fan base and inspiring the next generation of NSW players and supporters in the process.
The first chance for fans to catch their team live in 2019 is a trial match against the Brumbies, to be played in Goulburn on Thursday 7th February. But the serious business begins just over a week later, when the Tahs will take on the ever-dangerous Hurricanes at Brookvale Oval in what should be a blockbuster opening to the new season on Saturday 16th February.
The Waratahs hosted the Blues at Brookvale earlier this year in front of a healthy and vocal crowd, and NSW Rugby CEO Andrew Hore admitted the success of that evening played a large part in the decision to head back to the northern beaches in 2019.
“We had a great crowd at Brookie this year, chanting NSW and creating a fantastic atmosphere for the Tahs,” he said. “They love their rugby in that part of the world and it is great to return to the suburbs and kick off our 2019 Super Rugby campaign there.
“We hope to turn the day into an action-packed rugby occasion for everyone to enjoy.”
Local hero and Waratahs captain Michael Hooper is excited to be heading back to such a famous venue in his own neck of the woods.
“I remember going there as a kid and always thought what a great place it was to play,” he enthused. “I’ve been fortunate to now have played there a couple of times with the NSW Waratahs, so to go back to Brookie is great.
“I love the fact that we are amongst one of the big rugby communities, and we hope that our supporters will come along and help us get the season off to a winning start.”
From there, the Waratahs’ charabanc heads back into the heart of the city to take up a three-match residency at one of the world’s most iconic sporting venues, the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The Tahs entertained the Queensland Reds in a taster of what was to come at the SCG in the 2018 season, and the interstate derby is back on the agenda for next year on Saturday 9th March. That will be followed by a bumper clash against the reigning back-to-back champions, the Crusaders, on Saturday 23rd March, and another Aussie derby against the Wallaby-laden Rebels on Saturday 20th April.
Andrew Hore said that the decision to take three games to the SCG was a nod to the feedback given by Waratahs supporters, and acknowledged the ongoing support of the SCG Trust in securing use of the venue.
“We would like to thank the Trust for the work that they have done in helping us get to this point. The fact that we have been able to offer our supporters three games in a precinct that they are familiar with, and at a venue that provides a unique experience is a reflection of the level of support from the Trust,” he said.
“At the same time, the decision to play three matches at the SCG also reflects the feedback we received from our members and other partners about their desire to play at a venue that is close to our previous home.”
In between the clashes against the Crusaders and Rebels, the Waratahs will be breaking new ground as the first New South Wales side to play a Super Rugby match outside of Sydney, when they travel north to Newcastle to take on Japan’s Sunwolves on Friday 29th March at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“The NSW Waratahs are a State team and the next three years provide us with a great opportunity to take Super Rugby to different venues and showcase the game from the bush to the beach,” said Hore.
“The City of Newcastle, as the official sponsor, are working with us hand in hand to deliver what promises to be a great event. Their support has been tremendous and we are delighted to take our NSW Waratahs to a strong rugby region.”
The announcement took on particular significance for Waratahs prop Harry Johnson-Holmes, who went to school in Newcastle.
“I am proud to call Newcastle home, and the prospect of being able to play in front of my family and friends is exciting,” said the 21-year-old. “We are a team that represents the entire State and playing our home games in regions that represent our diverse supporter base is fantastic.”
After returning to Sydney for the final SCG game against the Rebels, the Waratahs will then travel west up the Parramatta Road to lay down their hats at the newly-built Western Sydney Stadium for the final three matches of the regular season.
Built on the site of the old Parramatta Stadium, the new venue has an increased capacity of 30,000, and is due to open in mid-2019 in time for the Waratahs to host the Sharks on Saturday 27th April, the Jaguares on Saturday 25th May, and the final local derby of the season against the Brumbies on Saturday 8th June. Supporters can get a special three-match membership deal from $55 to cover all three fixtures.
For Andrew Hore, the decision to ‘go west’ was a no-brainer in terms of tapping into a burgeoning population that has been crying out for more recognition from rugby’s powers that be.
“Western Sydney is one of the fastest growing regions in NSW with a diverse population that has a strong passion for rugby. We want to capitalise on this, and by taking the NSW Waratahs to that region it will hopefully further encourage more youngsters to take up the sport,” said Hore.
“This also aligns with our broader Western Sydney strategy that has looked specifically at the needs of the area to grow the game and encourage participation and fan engagement.
“The fact that we will be one of the first sports to play at the newly developed, state-of-the-art Western Sydney Stadium is a real opportunity for our fans and rugby participants in Western Sydney. We want to continue to grow and develop the sport in that area, and the fact that the NSW Waratahs will play three matches there next year will certainly help us towards that goal.”
In other news that should go down well with the faithful, ticket prices for all home games will remain the same for the third year in a row, and all junior players who register with their club in 2019 will once again receive a NSW Waratahs season membership, which will give them free access to all home games next year.
NSW WARATAHS 2019 HOME FIXTURES:
Thursday 7th February v BRUMBIES at Goulburn Workers Arena, Goulburn (TRIAL)
Saturday 16th February v HURRICANES at Brookvale Oval
Saturday 9th March v QUEENSLAND REDS at Sydney Cricket Ground
Saturday 23rd March v CRUSADERS at Sydney Cricket Ground
Friday 29th March v SUNWOLVES at McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle
Saturday 20th April v MELBOURNE REBELS at Sydney Cricket Ground
Saturday 27th April v SHARKS at Western Sydney Stadium
Saturday 25th May v JAGUARES at Western Sydney Stadium
Saturday 8th June v BRUMBIES at Western Sydney Stadium