2021 Women's Rugby World Cup: Why Newcastle and the Hunter are the World Cup pick

Womens Rugby World Cup
Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

Newcastle and the Hunter Valley could play host to the 2021 Women's Rugby World Cup if Australia's bid wins.

Why did Rugby AU settle on that spot?

Centralisation consistent with other World Cups

Almost all of the eight Women’s Rugby World Cups have been based in one region of a country. Ireland’s 2017 tournament was the only one to deviate, playing pool matches in Dublin and finals in Belfast. With only 12 teams in the tournament the logistics and costs of moving between cities outweigh the benefits, keeping people’s attention from start to finish.

Athlete accommodation can go up a notch

Holding the tournament in the Newcastle region opens the opportunity to create an athlete’s village in the Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley. Rugby AU CEO Raelene Castle said on Wednesday that the village feel and improved facilities were both things the athletes requested after the Ireland World Cup. In the past, players have been housed in university dorms. Their male counterparts spend their tours in five-star accommodation and the Hunter Valley opens the door for the international female players to enjoy the same treatment for their biggest tournament.

Newcastle no country town

The city of Newcastle has a population of almost 500,000 and the wider Newcastle-Hunter region is tallied closer to 1.15 million. That might not sound like much but it is larger than any of New Zealand’s major cities, barring Auckland, and is on par with previous hosts of the tournament.

Facilities measure up

McDonald Jones Stadium holds 33,000. Photo: Getty ImagesWorld Cup bids need to hit a whole host of criteria when it comes to location and quality of training facilities as much as match venues. With a variety of professional teams in the area including the NRL’s Knights and the A-League’s Newcastle Jets there are plenty of quality spots to train. The city has been used by the British and Irish Lions in the past and by teams in the 2015 Asian Cup. The 2017 World Cup final was held at Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium with a capacity of 18,000 and nearly sold out. Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium holds 33,000 and anywhere near that would be a world record women’s crowd.

Historic links with rugby

Newcastle and its surrounding regions have a strong rugby link. The Maitland Blacks are the second-oldest rugby club in Australia and Newcastle held the first women’s nationals back in 1992. The region is still finding female rugby gains as well, boasting the highest female participation in NSW. 

Locals love major events

Aside from having professional sporting teams, Newcastle’s community have a habit of turning out to major events in the region. Almost 17,000 watched the Matildas take on Brazil in Newcastle in a mid-week friendly last year, a record for the team, and the inaugural Super Cars event brought more than 190,000 in over three days. When it comes to more regular fixtures, A-League’s Jets had the third-highest average attendance in the competition on their run to the grand final last season. Novocastrians turn up to support their teams and the World Cup would be another chance for that.

Not just a rugby region

The Hunter region has much to offer outside of the rugby spectacle as well. A well-known wine region, the area is a popular holiday destination. Newcastle itself is right on the ocean as well. The climate in July and August lends itself to exploring, never getting too cold and rarely raining during Australia’s winter.