Up to 10,000 people are expected at No.1 Sportsground on Saturday when rugby league grand finals return to the historic Newcastle venue for the first time since 2014.
Newcastle and Hunter Rugby League (NHRL), the region’s second division competition, will hold its flagship event at the “spiritual home” of the code’s deciders with 11 clubs playing six games across more than nine hours.
“The spiritual home of rugby league,” NHRL administrator Dave Wild said.
“It’s good to be back here and it’s the first time for this competition so we’re pretty excited.”
The NHRL grand finals have usually meandered between grounds from season-to-season and this year were originally set for Harker Oval, which recently became unavailable.
It left organisers with no field to play on but with Aussie rules now over and cricket yet to begin, No.1 Sportsground was booked through Newcastle City Council.
This means NHRL will be the sole rugby league users at the venue in 2017 with Newcastle Rugby League in its third season at Broadmeadow-based McDonald Jones Stadium after a long-standing first grade grand final tradition closer to town.
Wild said there was a high level of excitement among the participating community.
“We’re genuinely hoping to get 8-to-10,000 people here, which would be an awesome sight,” he said.
“Looking at old games, as I have since we got it, there’s a lot of history attached to the ground and to have a crowd like that for our level of footy would be fantastic.”
Wild said there may be scope to make it a more regular arrangement for 2018 and beyond.
“We might even look at this on a more permanent basis in the future,” he said.
The move has been endorsed by Country Rugby League chairman John ‘Choc’ Anderson, who believes all rugby league grand finals should be played at No.1 Sportsground.
It tops off a record year for NHRL with 54 teams.
“Numerically, as far as I’m aware, it’s the highest ever for this competition,” Wild said. “In fact, I’m told it’s the biggest senior rugby league competition in the world.”
A-Grade: Shortland v Fingal Bay (4pm)
B-Grade: Kotara v Dudley (2:20pm)
C-Grade: Waratah-Mayfield v Abermain (12:40pm)
D-Grade: Glendale v Cardiff (11am)
Ladies League Tag A: Aberglasslyn v University (9:50am)
Ladies League Tag B: West Wallsend v Cardiff (8:45am)