What would you rather watch? Benji Marshall and Jarryd Hayne going after each other – or Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau trying to play AFL?
That’s the decision footy fans will have to make after the Wests Tigers and Parramatta declared war on the southern code in the battle for western Sydney. The two clubs are taking the fight to their rivals after moving their trial, originally set down for the Central Coast, to Campbelltown on February 19.
It means the game will now go head-to-head with the scheduled AFL NAB Cup trials featuring the Sydney Swans, the Gold Coast Suns and the new GWS Giants side.
And former Tigers great Benny Elias says the decision to finally take on the AFL at its own game is overdue.
“The AFL would be filthy,” Elias said last night. “What a great move.
“David Gallop should ring Stephen Humphreys to congratulate him on this decision. The NRL needs to support what he’s done with everything they’ve got.
“They’ve got to fight fire with fire. This isn’t firing blanks either.
“This is serious ammunition. This is showing the AFL we’ve got some cannons of our own to blow them away.”
The move to thwart what would have been an AFL monopoly of live sport in western Sydney on February 19 was hailed as a “masterstroke” by former players.
Humphreys believes the possibility of a Marshall-Hayne show at Campbelltown Sports Stadium will be the hottest ticket in town on the Saturday night as AFL converts Folau and Hunt make their NAB Cup debuts 40km up the M7 motorway at Blacktown Olympic Park at 7.15pm (EDT) – 15 minutes before the league trial is scheduled to kick off.
However, Hayne (hamstring tear) and Folau (ankle) are in doubt for the big night, still on the rebound from off-season surgery.
Before the AFL announced the fixture for the knockout NAB Cup competition on October 26, the Tigers-Eels match had been pencilled in to be played at Bluetongue Stadium. But the match was switched to Campbelltown in December after talks between Humphreys and Parramatta CEO Paul Osbourne.
The NRL was not directly involved in the late venue change.
“It really wasn’t in any Machiavellian way linked to the AFL,” Humphreys said. “Let’s just say that we’re very comfortable with our game being on the same night.
“When we looked at the landscape we thought that was an opportunity for us to not only do well for ourselves out of the game, but also fly the flag for the game. The primary thought was we wanted to play the game in western Sydney, the secondary thought was the AFL thing.”
Humphreys expects as many as 16,000 league fans to attend the match, while GWS CEO Dale Holmes said he expects his club’s first major match to sell out the 10,000-capacity venue in Blacktown.
2011 NRL Trial Matches
Warriors v Knights Wingham Park, Greymouth
Cowboys v Tigers Brothers Rugby League Club, Kirwan
Sea Eagles v Sharks Brookvale Oval
Broncos v Titans Kougari Oval, Wynnum
Warriors v Eels International Stadium, Rotorua
Roosters v Bulldogs Leichhardt Oval
Rabbitohs v Dragons ANZ Stadium
Dragons v Bulldogs WIN Stadium
Cowboys v Broncos Traeger Park, Alice Springs
Raiders v Storm Bega Recreational Oval
Rabbitohs v Titans BCU International Stadium, Coffs Harbour
Knights v Panthers Port Macquarie Regional Stadium
Tigers v Eels Campbelltown Stadium
Broncos v Storm Dolphin Oval, Redcliffe
Bulldogs v Raiders Scully Park, Tamworth
Cowboys v Titans Barlow Park, Cairns
Warriors v Sea Eagles North Harbour Stadium, Albany
Knights v Sharks Olympic Park, Muswellbrook
Panthers v Eels, Centrebet Stadium
Roosters v Tigers, SFS
By Buford Balony