The Raiders have announced themselves as the NRL team for regional NSW.
That is reflected in the draw for the 2022 season, with the club playing games in Wagga Wagga, Mudgee and Dubbo.
The Wagga game on Saturday, 9 April, against the Melbourne Storm, is a Raiders home fixture.
It is part of the current deal to play games in Wagga Wagga, which finished this year but has been extended to next season after the scheduled fixture in 2020 was cancelled due to COVID.
Raiders CEO Don Furner says it was the right thing to do.
“We decided to roll the deal over until next year. The contract was up, but in good faith, we wanted to go back to Wagga Wagga next season,” Mr Furner said.
This isn’t as easy as it sounds. The Raiders are also bound by a 10-year deal with the ACT Government to play every home game at Canberra Stadium.
The Raiders have been threatened in the past with a $150,000 fine from the ACT Government for every home game played away from Canberra Stadium.
Following talks with the ACT Government, agreement has been reached allowing the Raiders to take two home games every five years away from Canberra.
Don Furner says he is keen to continue playing those home games in Wagga Wagga.
“We have a great relationship with the Wagga Wagga City Council. It’s been great working with them and we will sit down with the council to work something out beyond next year. Because of the deal with the ACT Government, it could mean we don’t play in Wagga in 2023 but return in 2024. That has to be worked out.”
A key factor in the Raiders’ desire to play games in Wagga Wagga is the support the club received from regional NSW in building the new high-performance centre at Braddon.
There is also a significant supporter base in the Riverina.
“We represent country NSW. We have a lot of fans who travel across to Canberra to watch the Raiders play.”
Mr Furner said strengthening ties between the two cities could also benefit the club on the field.
“We’d love to have more kids from the Riverina. They tend to settle in Canberra because they are from the country and close to home.”
Another feature of the scheduling of the game against the Storm is that it has been moved away from the Wagga Wagga Gold Cup race meeting. For the first time, the NRL game involving the Raiders becomes a stand-alone sporting fixture in Wagga.