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15th of October 2018

Sport



Castle ready to see what World Series can do for western Sydney

"We are in a deep dialogue with Minderoo [Forrest's company] into how we can work together to support the competition, with respect to the importance of protecting the Shute Shield, Queensland Premier Rugby and the player development pathways on the eastern seaboard."

It is a significant development in the World Series saga. Forrest's vision for the western Sydney team, which will join teams in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the Western Force, is understood to have a heavy Pacific Islands influence. Fairfax Media understands his representatives have already approached Tonga, Fiji and Samoa to gauge their interest.

The model proposed will see Minderoo run the competition, fund 16 marquee players in each team, contribute $1 million in prizemoney for the winner but not own the teams themselves. That raises the question of who will underwrite the teams and provide medium-term security to players and staff.

In many ways Forrest's intentions dovetail neatly with NSW Rugby's, a body that has struggled to tap into an area of Sydney that is dripping with rugby talent but has battled to field competitive teams in the top club competition, the Shute Shield.

Forrest's investment could solve a problem in that way, but there remains deep suspicion among the traditional stakeholders about Forrest's long-term commitment to the sport.

"The key thing is what’s in the best interests of NSW Rugby and the eastern seaboard rugby community as a whole," NSWRU boss Andrew Hore said.

"It’s the heartland, it’s where the majority of players who play Super Rugby come from. No matter what we do, it’s important that whatever is done is done for the right reasons for rugby.

"I don’t know what the level of investment is [from World Series Rugby], that’s one of the questions, or how long the investment is going to last for. There’s too many unknowns at this stage to be certain about anything."

Hore is in the final stages of an action plan to revive rugby in the south-west and north-west, both of which are experiencing booming growth. This year Penrith was kicked out of the Shute Shield, leaving only Parramatta representing the region. Penrith continues to field junior and colts teams, and Hore says the region needs more teams to match the latent demand.

"In the meantime, there are other options that could be positve for the game in NSW – do you put two more Shute Shield teams in there, for example – and we are working alongside the Sydney Rugby Union and Rugby Australia to identify what we should do."

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