1 May 2023

Wagga fans turn up in record numbers for Raiders classic

| Jarryd Rowley
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Raiders fans in Wagga

NRL fans from Wagga turned out in force, with 10,445 coming through the gates at McDonald’s Park for the Raiders’ clash against the Dolphins. Photo: Jarryd Rowley.

What proved to be an instant classic on the field between the Canberra Raiders and the Redcliffe Dolphins proved to be a record behind the fence as well as 10,445 people packed out Wagga’s McDonald’s Park on Saturday (29 April).

The crowd, which packed the hill to see the Raiders bring home the 31-30 win in golden point rules, was the biggest ever for an NRL match at Wagga Wagga.

Despite the record crowd, the deal between Wagga Wagga City Council and the Canberra Raiders has run its course, meaning there are no plans for a game to be scheduled at McDonald’s Park beyond 2023.

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However, despite no plans to continue the fixture in NSW’s biggest inland city, Raiders chief executive Don Furner said the club was committed to making Wagga its second home.

“We’d love to bring more games here and we still will, just not in the next year or two,” Furner said.

“It was a fantastic leap of faith by the original mayor Greg Conkey and we thanked him then and thank council now as the crowd, the way they got behind it, the kids on the field, it’s a big thing.

“We think we’re the country club, we’re the only inland team in the NRL, and feel a connection to his area and Group 9.”

The two teams’ fans who attended the game on Saturday were disappointed by the news of no future games being planned in the region.

“We’ve come to every game in Wagga since they started here a few years ago now,” diehard Raiders fan Greg Cole said.

“Although we haven’t won every game we’ve played here, it’s always a fun day and has been something we have looked forward to every year.

“We have friends who are new Dolphins supporters who live in Wagga too. It was good for them to see their team every once in a while without having to travel to Queensland.”

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Even if this is the last time the Raiders come to the Riverina for a home-and-away match, the Wagga faithful put on a show for the 2023 fixture.

Fresh from their performance in Disneyland, members of Riverina performing arts studio Triple Threat hyped up the crowd on Saturday with a fantastic pre-match routine featuring flips, tricks and dance moves.

Meanwhile, rugby league’s future also looks bright in the region as teams from Wagga’s under 8s competition flooded the field at half time showing off their skills.

Clubs from NSWRL Group 9 also supported the event by providing food vendors and selling raffle tickets.

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