Eagles grounded: NSW Country’s NRC fixture moved from Orange

WINGS CLIPPED: Eagles skipper Paddy Ryan and NSW Country won't play in Orange, Saturday's NRC fixture was moved on Thursday. Photo: SAM NEWSAM

WINGS CLIPPED: Eagles skipper Paddy Ryan and NSW Country won't play in Orange, Saturday's NRC fixture was moved on Thursday. Photo: SAM NEWSAM

Orange will not host the NSW Country Eagles’ National Rugby Championship (NRC) clash against the Perth Spirit on Saturday, the game was officially moved from the colour city on Thursday morning.

Endeavour Oval, the original venue, was scratched on Wednesday afternoon thanks to its condition and CSU Orange’s Ron Gordon Oval shaped as the 11th hour saviour, pending an inspection on Thursday morning.

But at about 10.20am on Thursday NSW Country Rugby Union (NSWCRU) president Barry Ruddy confirmed that ground wasn’t up to scratch either, officially ending Orange’s hopes of hosting the game.

Simply, Ruddy said, Orange’s ground are just far too wet, boggy and chopped up to safely host the nation’s second-tier domestic rugby competition – below the Australian conference of the Super Rugby and above club rugby Australia-wide.

Considering Orange has recorded more than 650mm of rain since the start of winter, it doesn’t beggar belief.

“It’s very disappointing but you can’t control the weather so there is very little we can do about it,” Ruddy said.

“As we know, Endeavour Oval was just far too wet and chopped up after last weekend’s Blowes Clothing Cup grand finals, but when we inspected (Ron Gordon Oval) at CSU Orange it was just too wet too. There was about an inch of water in some places on the field.

“If we had a fine day on Friday there might be a small chance we could get on there to mark it, mow it and do what we needed to on Saturday but we just couldn’t wait that long to make the call.

“With flights and accommodation for the Perth and NSW Country guys needing to be confirmed or changed, we had to make the call and unfortunately this was the one we had to make.”

Orange’s other suitable grounds – Waratahs Sportsground, Kinross Wolaroi School and Wade Park – were also unfit to host.

“They were ruled out early in the week but we did actually go back down to Wade Park [on Thursday] with (Orange City Council sport and recreation coordinator) Ben Keegan, as a last resort,” Ruddy said.

“But it was saturated. It was far too wet and then we had to think about the cricket pitch in the middle too.

“It was a mud-heap after the (Group 10 Rugby League) grand finals last weekend. You sunk inches into it when you stepped on it.”

As of late Thursday morning Ruddy said he couldn’t confirm where the game would be moved to however Sydney University or Warringah’s Rat Park shaped as the most likely to host the game.

Anywhere else in the central west was basically ruled out, for a number of reasons.

“I honestly can’t answer that question, I’m not entirely sure but I would think it will be moved to Sydney,” he said.

“Everywhere in the central west is probably in the same boat with the weather and again, the issue really comes back to flights and that sort of thing.”

We had to make the call and unfortunately this was the one we had to make. - NSWCRU president Barry Ruddy

While bitterly disappointed, Ruddy said NSWCRU along with the Eagles will do everything they can to bring a top flight game to the colour city in the future. Hopefully, during a period when torrential rain won’t be an issue.

While rumours are floating around a seemingly inevitable Eagles semi-final – they’re undefeated on top of the table as it stands – could be that replacement game, Ruddy said they are just that, rumours.

“I can’t answer that either, we haven’t got that far just year. We’re still trying to work out where this game will be played,” Ruddy said.

“It does look like NSW Country will host a semi-final but there’s a whole lot of factors to consider.

“We will do everything we can to get the top level of rugby back out to Orange.”

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