By STEVE MASCORD
THERE may not have been many of them there, but according to Country centre Jack Wighton someone in the crowd at Coffs Harbour yesterday will have a dream crushed if City-Country is called off.
Wighton’s passionate defence of the fixture has been backed up today by a plaintive CRL media release calling for calm over the smallest crowd in the 102-year history of City-Country games.
“It was only four years ago this game was back in Orange and I was sitting in the crowd watching,” Wighton told NRL.com
“Thinking how much it meant to me … all the country towns, they come from miles to watch it. I don’t think it’s in doubt at all. We all had a lot of passion for it and it should stay.
“It’s chasing a dream.”
CRL general manager Terry Quinn said a temporary grandstand at BCE Stadium created an expense that was passed on to spectators.
“We fought extremely hard to keep this game and the ARL Commission has supported us with a significant investment in helping stage the match,” he said in a statement.
“At no stage has anyone approached this game as a money-making exercise.
“It was with the best of intentions that we invested in extra grandstand seating for the match but this impacted on the pricing structure and we all have to take some lessons from that.”
Country coach Trent Barrett said after Sunday’s game that criticism of the fixture angered him, pointing to the progress made by the likes of Wighton.
The Raiders star continued: “It was unbelievable. It was amazing playing outside of Micky Ennis and playing with people like big Willie Mason, people who’ve done it all. It’s just unreal.
“(Willie) is a very passionate man. He’s always giving advice. It’s great for a young fella.”
The 18-12 win by City marked the end of a largely successful representative weekend, with a sellout 25,628 crowd seeing Australia beat New Zealand 32-12 on Friday night at Canberra Stadium.
ARLC chairman John Grant said on ABC on Sunday he was looking at ways of involving Queensland next year – and of formalising team medicals so that clubs were not seen to be pressuring players to withdraw.
The crowd at the Saturday night representative double header of 10,143 was also a triumph – although the fact around one tenth of them invaded the pitch with the Tonga-Samoa match still underway took some gloss off the occasion.
Grant said: “While there was a pitch invasion and while that’s absolutely not where we want to be, if you talk to the players and officials, there was not one bit of malice in that pitch invasion.
“It was all about the fact there was an unexpected win and they were excited.”
By STEVE MASCORD