By HARRY CLARKE
IN A sporting agreement that will generate a new base of Bulldogs fans in the Darling Downs and offer young rugby league players a pathway to play at the game’s highest level, the Western Clydesdales have officially partnered with Canterbury’s NRL club.
“Today is a really exciting day not just for Toowoomba, but for Toowoomba and the South West and for rugby league,” Clydesdales chairman Tony Coonan told a press conference in Toowoomba today.
“After a long time, a lot of work from a lot of different people, we can announce an NRL affiliation with the Canterbury Bulldogs.”
Under a three year contract beginning next year, the Bulldogs will establish a footballing academy in Toowoomba to foster development of young players and as well coaches and support staff.
Plans are in place to host regular season Bulldogs NRL games at Toowoomba’s Clive Berghofer stadium as early as 2023, while Toowoomba and South West rugby league fans will have better access to Canterbury season memberships.
Clydesdales players and staff will have opportunities to travel to Canterbury’s home ground and training facilities for clinics and coaching, while Bulldogs stars will also travel to Toowoomba to carry out clinics with the Clydesdales.
Toowoomba Rugby League chairman Joe Hannant said the new affiliation would give the Western Clydesdales a huge advantage in its bid to enter a senior team in Queensland Rugby League’s top tier Hostplus Cup in 2023.
“This is huge. This is a huge boost to our competition and huge boost to our sport,” Hannant said.
“The Bulldogs coming in and what they’re offering is significant. This will in time entice players back to the senior clubs but it will also open up pathways for our coaches and importantly our players.
BULLDOGS footballer manager Phil Gould’s comment on the Canterbury-Clydesdales partnership
“We want to ensure our sport remains the number one sport but also provides that important pathway.
“It will be a boost for the community and for the region. People love their football. A lot of people travel down to Brisbane to watch NRL football and now we’ve got some NRL games here in our own back yard.”
Speaking at the press conference, current players Rieily Land and Anna Dangley said the Clydesdales squads were thrilled by the announcement.
“It’s a pretty good opportunity to get us down to Sydney. All the boys are excited to play some footy down there. We’ll be able to to better our game,” Land said.
Dangley (pictured), who comes from Papua New Guinea, added: “I think it’s a very important announcement especially for women in sport. It’s exciting to see where this can take the club. I came from a small community and I didn’t expect that women’s sport would be evolving at the rate that it is, but in Toowoomba it opens a lot of opportunities for young girls that want to go that NRL career.”