The Penrith Panthers have agreed to play one NRL home game in Bathurst for the next five years in a major boost to NSW country rugby league.
The Panthers and Bathurst council on Friday penned a new deal to take professional rugby league to Carrington Park from 2014 until at least 2018.
Next year’s match in Bathurst will be the first top-level game played in the region since the City-Country fixture in 2001.
Panthers spokesman Justin Pascoe said the decision to shift a game a season away from Penrith had not been taken lightly.
“A lot of due diligence has taken place to ensure we are doing the best thing for both the game and the community,” he said.
“We are not going to emulate a copy and paste mentality as happens across other clubs and codes where we simply take a game away for commercial gain only.
“We are committing to the community of Bathurst and its surrounding communities for five years and the game itself will be a by-product of a whole raft of initiatives.
“These initiatives will focus on developing the game of rugby league in regional NSW, focusing on the development of players in Group 10 plus the development of coaches in the region through a coach the coaches program.
“We will also be tailoring merchandise and membership offerings specifically to the region allowing for a target approach to fan engagement, plus we will leverage the Bathurst leagues club, which is one of our greatest assets, to host several functions both community and sports based throughout the contract period.”