THE MACQUARIE Uni North Harbour Rays will share their home games between Manly Oval and Pittwater Rugby Park during the 2015 Buildcorp National Rugby Championship season with three of their four fixtures featuring afternoon kick-off times.
The announcement of the move from last year’s home base of Brookvale Oval came as the draw for the 2015 NRC was revealed by the Australian Rugby Union.
The draw will see the Rays open their season on Saturday, August 22 at Manly Oval with a family-friendly afternoon fixture against the Sydney Stars.
This game will have a 3pm kick-off and plans are in train for a number of major promotions in and around the game including having the great Sydney universities teams playing for a perpetual trophy.
The first game at Rat Park will be on Saturday, September 26 against the University of Canberra Vikings. This game will also have a family-friendly 3pm kickoff.
The other game at Manly Oval will be a broadcast game against the Melbourne Rising on Thursday, September 3 at 7.30pm while Rat Park will feature as the venue for the game against Queensland Country on Saturday, October 10 with a 3pm kickoff.
The Manly Marlins at Manly Oval have been the biggest crowd puller of the Shute Shield season with their game against Warringah getting close to 8000 through the gate.
Warringah at Rat Park have been good on the crowd front too and Rays officials felt that the afternoon games at these Rugby familiar venues would be more attractive to the Rays family.
“A lot of work has gone into getting the draw right for this season and we felt a move to Manly (Oval) and Warringah (Rat Park) gave us a better chance of showcasing the Rays to more people,” Rays chairman Gary Flowers said.
“The 3pm kickoff times means that barring our broadcast match against the Melbourne Rising on September 3, all our home games are family friendly.
“The Rugby World Cup will be underway at that time so what better way to take in some live Rugby than to head down to Manly and Narrabeen and cheer on the Rays.”
The Rays will feature in three broadcast games – v the Melbourne Rising on September 3, v Brisbane City on September 10 and v the Greater Sydney Rams on October 1.
The Rays NRC franchise is a joint venture of the Gordon, Manly, Northern Suburbs and Warringah clubs.
North Sydney Oval was among the other considered venues for Rays game but the cricket season made playing a game there problematic.
On a playing front preparations are well advanced with the reappointment of Geoff Townsend as head coach while a large group of players have been offered contracts for the 2015 season.
Townsend will reveal his coaching assistants in coming weeks while a full squad announcement will come as the season draw closer.
In 2014, ARU introduced a host of new law variations and innovations to encourage attacking, free-flowing Rugby in the NRC.
By the end of the inaugural season, there were 358 tries in 39 matches, an average of 9.2 a game.