The NRL has scheduled five games this Saturday to commemorate Anzac Day — but no game in Australia’s national capital.
Matches will be played in Sydney (Roosters v Dragons, Allianz Stadium), Newcastle (Knights v Cowboys, Hunter Stadium), Auckland (Warriors v Titans, Mt Smart Stadium), Melbourne (Storm v Sea Eagles, AAMI Park) and Brisbane (Broncos v Eels, Suncorp Stadium).
But Canberra’s GIO Stadium will remain empty.
“We have the Australian War Memorial here in Canberra, the Defence Department and all our military training establishments — but no game on Anzac Day,” said Raiders coach Ricky Stuart. “Rugby union and AFL have blockbusters here on Anzac Day — but there isn’t a rugby league game.”
Raiders fans on social media questioned how Newcastle had a stronger connection to Anzac Day than Canberra.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith was actually in Canberra on Tuesday announcing a four-year alliance between his sport and the Australian War Memorial.
That link, say Canberra, should have ensured a Raiders home match this Saturday.
“There should be a game in Canberra game celebrating Anzac Day,” said Stuart. “We get the NRL committing to a four-year partnership with the Australian War Memorial yet they still don’t give us a game on Anzac Day. I thought that would be the least they could do to be respectful of the Anzacs and our fans.”
Instead, Canberra will travel to Cairns for a match against South Sydney on Sunday.
“We don’t mind playing away — we actually enjoy road trips,” Stuart said. “But the scheduling is poor. It seems every other city has been allocated a game on Anzac Day except us.”
Privately, Canberra feel as though they are continually discarded by the NRL when it comes to key issues in the game, starting with a lack of free-to-air coverage.