5 July 2024

Schools gather for Canberra Raiders visit ahead of first ever trial match

| Jarryd Rowley
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Students from schools across Wagga came to Bolton Park on Friday (5 July) to participate in clinics run by the Canberra Raiders.

Students from schools across Wagga came to Bolton Park on Friday (5 July) to participate in clinics run by the Canberra Raiders. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

Wagga Wagga’s relationship with the Canberra Raiders continues to flourish with the club’s NRLW side journeying to the Riverina this week.

The Canberra Raiders take on the Newcastle Knights this Saturday afternoon (6 July) at McDonalds Park in a preseason trial game at 2 pm. The trial is the first time the Raiders’ women’s team have played a trial match as well as the first time they have ventured to regional NSW.

Head coach Darrin Borthwick said having competitions such as the NRLW make trips to regional areas provided opportunities to those outside of the major cities.

Mr Borthwick highlighted the talent that places like the Riverina had, citing the Raiders’ Elise Smith from Junee and Ua Ravu from Griffith as clear examples.

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“When we spoke about taking the game regionally, Wagga was the first town that popped up in conversation,” he said.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for a lot of the younger girls who normally watch these girls on TV to interact with them face-to-face. I know our girls were super excited to get here and interact with kids who are eager to take up the sport.”

Mr Borthwick agreed that having a trial game in Wagga Wagga was a win-win for the development of the sport in the region while also serving as preparation for the senior sides’ upcoming season.

“We’d love to keep coming here and make this an annual thing,” he said.

“We didn’t have the opportunity last year to have a trial, so for us to get one in this year and be lucky enough to bring it here is terrific.”

Wagga has held four NRL games, but Wagga Wagga Deputy Mayor Amelia Parkins believes it’s the women’s time to shine.

“Council is really pleased to be able to welcome the Raiders back to Wagga. I think having the NRLW side here is a really great continuation of what is already a really good relationship with the Canberra Raiders,” Cr Parkins said.

“We all know that Wagga is a place of great sports and now we’re definitely showing that that goes for both males and females.

“We have so many kids joining in on the clinics that have been hosted by the Raiders this week. Some schools have already finished for the term but have still come out to participate which I think is a testament to the calibre of the Raiders and their program.”

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The Raiders’ school clinics were held at Bolton Park, which has a number of ovals named after cricket identities, including the controversial Michael Slater Oval. Councillor Parkins recently voted in favour of a name change for the oval, with many local conversations leaning towards naming it after a female athlete.

Ms Parkins said by having clinics like the one run by the Raiders, more girls would have the opportunity to present themselves as future role models through their sporting achievements.

“I think women’s sport, in general, is definitely growing, but also the diversity of the types of sports that are played here (at Bolton Park) lends itself to a different sports figure being named in place of the existing oval name,” she said.

“Obviously we’ve got rugby happening now with the clinics; the oval itself was originally named after a cricket personality but we also have things like Saturday morning soccer competitions taking off as well. I think we have an opportunity to discuss the name change in depth and with the growth of women’s sports generally, there is a great opportunity to have an overall refreshment.”

The Canberra Raiders will be taking on the Newcastle Knights at McDonalds Park on Saturday 6 July at 2 pm; entry is free.

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