The Wallabies look set to play a Sydney Test outside of ANZ Stadium or Allianz Stadium for the first time in 20 years, with plans for a new Moore Park stadium announced on Friday.
Australia plays its Sydney Tests at either Allianz Stadium in Moore Park or Homebush’s ANZ Stadium under its current agreements, but both will be out of play for at least the 2020 season, with new plans unveiled to demolish the Moore Park ground and rebuild it.
Construction of the new stadium will begin in late 2018, to finish in 2021, while Homebush will be knocked down in late 2019, to be finished by 2022.
The last time Australia played a Test in Sydney outside of these two main venues, was a Parramatta Stadium clash against Fiji, back in 1998.
Initial plans announced in 2016, under the Mike Baird government, had proposed just a renovation of Moore Park, keeping it available for the Wallabies to play while ANZ was reconstructed, but that changed on Friday, after pressure from sporting bodies forced a change of heart.
Australia has already flagged moving its Sydney Bledisloe Test to Perth in 2019, while ANZ Stadium is under construction.
Under the initial arrangement, Sydney was guaranteed an Argentina or South Africa Test as a replacement, that would have been played at Allianz.
With the new plan unveiled on Friday, it is unclear where these matches would be played, with the SCG an option, but any confirmation on a hosting ground is still a fair way away.
The renovation of the two stadiums will see a 45,000 seat Moore Park Stadium and 75,000-seat ANZ Stadium completed by 2022, along with the renovation of Parramatta Stadium.
This new Moore Park stadium will have a 30,000-seat mode, where an LED mesh screen would cover the top deck, as well as the 45,000-seat mode.
It’s a move that could strengthen any Australian Rugby World Cup bid as well, Rugby AU CEO Bill Pulver said.
“We commend the leadership and vision of Premier Berejiklian and Minister Ayres in delivering this outcome, which represents a significant improvement on the stadium package announced by the NSW Government in 2016 and has delivered a dream result for Rugby,” Pulver said.
“Sydney is one of the world’s premier cities and deserves to have world-class stadia which reflects this standing to attract the biggest sports and entertainment events.
“In recent times the city has fallen significantly behind the other major centres in Australia with its aging stadium infrastructure but this commitment by the NSW Government will ensure NSW is at the forefront for major sports stadiums on a global scale.
“By 2022, Sydney will have three new world-class stadiums in action at Parramatta, Homebush and Moore Park purpose-built for rectangular sports, ensuring the best possible experience for rugby fans and enabling us to bring the biggest rugby tournaments in the world to Australia.
“Crucially, it positions us well for future Rugby World Cup bids.”
The three main tenants of Allianz Stadium, the Waratahs, the NRL’s Roosters and Sydney FC will be displaced from late 2018.
NSW has already looked into playing Super Rugby matches at venues outside of Allianz in recent seasons, with suburban grounds like North Sydney Oval genuine options for games.
Waratahs CEO Andrew Hore welcomed the decision.
“This is great news for our members, our team, our commercial partners, all our supporters, our Board and our staff,” he said in a statement.
“And it is pleasing that that the Government has recognised the importance of having a world-class stadium in the sporting hub of Sydney.”