Regional Australia the Jerusalem of rugby

by Montanna Clare

Deputy Prime Minister and New England MP Barnaby Joyce says Test rugby success starts in the bush.

Joyce was among the masses that flooded to Scully Park in Tamworth over the weekend, to watch Perth Spirit take on the NSW Country Eagles in the Buildcorp NRC Grand Final and said investment in regional rugby would flow on to elite level success.

“It’s really something you’ve got to do. You have to invest in regional rugby if you want your national team to go well,” he said.

“If you want to make that green and gold side better, start reinvesting in the place where not all, but a big section of players come from, and that’s right here in the country,” he said.

The NRC has taken rugby back to its roots in many ways, celebrating regional grounds often and Joyce said the ethos that surrounds country Australia and regional rugby should be at the core of the game.

“If you want to get that heartland of the game coming through, you always come out to the Jerusalem of your sports,” he said.

“Country rugby and country league, they’re the places where the boys roll out of the hills and do the job for you.”

NSW Country Eagles Captain and Tamworth-born Paddy Ryan said that it was important for rugby to travel to the country, pleased with the effort to take this year’s final to his home town.

“It’s all about getting back to the country,” he said.

“It’s nice to see such a big event in the rugby calendar go back to the bush in NSW and Country rugby.”

Ahead of the game on Saturday, grand final-winning coach Dwayne Nestor was another who said he couldn’t be happier at taking rugby to the bush.

“Being a country boy myself at heart, it’s good to get back in the country,” he said.