21 April 2023

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones echoes calls for a new Canberra Stadium

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Country Bank Stadium

Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium exemplifies what Wallabies coach Eddie Jones would like to see built in Canberra. Photo: Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

Wallabies coach Eddie Jones has called for a new stadium to be built in Canberra so the city can attract more international rugby matches and other big sporting events.

The former successful ACT Brumbies coach, who went on to coach Japan and England to success before returning to Australia, said rather than be built at the current Canberra Stadium site in Bruce, he would like to see a new stadium in the heart of Canberra, close to public transport and pubs and restaurants.

“You’d always love to have your stadium in the city,” Jones told the ABC in an interview during a visit to Canberra last weekend to watch the Brumbies play Fijian Drua.

“When the stadium is in the city, it creates a whole [atmosphere] about the games and about the sport that night – people are in the pubs.”

Jones said Canberra deserved to host international rugby matches and compared the current Canberra Stadium to the new 25,000-seat Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville as an example of what is possible.

“I was just up in Townsville four or five weeks ago and the stadium up there is fantastic,” he said.

“You need that to attract big games. That’s the standard you need. For Canberra to move towards a modern stadium would be a fantastic step for the city.”

A stadium such as Townsville’s – where 90 per cent of the seating is enclosed or undercover – would make the venue a far more attractive proposition for Rugby and other sports fans in the midst of a Canberra winter, as well as provide shade and respite from the summer heat.

READ ALSO Is Exhibition Park really an option for a new Canberra sporting stadium? Surely not!

With the Brumbies, the Canberra Raiders, the Women’s State of Origin, the likely return of a Canberra Men’s A-League team, the prospect of hosting international and other representative matches, as well as concerts and other events, there would be no lack of tenants for the venue.

Apart from a redevelopment of the current stadium at Bruce, other locations proposed for a new stadium have been the current Civic Pool site on Constitution Avenue in the city, the Turner Parklands, the Stage 88 area of Commonwealth Park, the ACT Government’s Infrastructure Plan suggested Exhibition Park (EPIC), while former ACT Senator Zed Seselja had proposed the redevelopment of Viking Park in Wanniassa.

The Civic Pool site is believed to be large enough for a 20,000-seat stadium, although ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr revealed plans for a music venue with just 8000 seats late last year.

While current Canberra Stadium crowds rarely exceed 20,000, there have been larger crowds at major events such as the 2013 ANZAC Rugby League Test and the 2009 Australia v Italy Rugby Test.

In 2019, the Chief Minister said Canberra Stadium’s days were numbered.

“Canberra Stadium is coming to the end of its life, but it has probably got at least five more years in it,” he said.

That was four years ago, but nothing has been done to upgrade the current stadium or plan for a new one.

Former Wallaby turned independent senator David Pocock also supports a new stadium being built in Civic or near the shore of Lake Burley Griffin, and he suggests it should be co-located with a new Convention Centre.

“We can bring new life to Australia’s capital city,” the then-aspiring senator said in March 2022.

“When it comes to federal infrastructure funding, Canberra has been missing out for too long. It’s insane that we’ve allowed ourselves to get into a position where we can’t hold big conferences or major sporting events.”

READ ALSO Wherefore art thou new Civic Stadium site? Commonwealth Park, perhaps?

After being elected last May, Senator Pocock renewed his calls for a new stadium, saying it would be one of his top priorities as a Federal Senator for the ACT.

“We know we need a new National Convention Centre. We know we need a new stadium that could also host large concerts, as well as the big games we expect to see in Canberra,” he said.

“We should start planning for these things now rather than pursuing a piecemeal approach that doesn’t deliver everything we need.”

Adding further weight, Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart last year labelled Canberra Stadium, the club’s current home ground, the “worst” in the country, saying it was “disappointing because we are the capital city of Australia and we probably have the worst stadium”.

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Getting tired of all this. Canberra people ust don’t want the thing, but no, the paper keeps pushing by getting anyone from the street with there two bobs worth. Please give us a break and accept we dont a new one but refit the existing.

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