League battles AFL in Albury - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

League battles AFL in Albury

David Beniuk 05/05/2011 06:32:29 PM Comments (0)

Taking the NSW City-Country Origin clash to the border town of Albury is the latest shot to be fired by rugby league in its battle with AFL.

Despite sitting to the north of the Murray River, Albury is a staunchly AFL town, its three-hour drive to Melbourne and media that largely comes from Victoria making locals much more likely to support Essendon than the Canberra Raiders.

The town boasts three well-supported Australian Rules clubs - plus another two on the Victorian side of the border in Wodonga - to one group nine rugby league club, the Albury Thunder, who have recently experienced sponsorship troubles.

An Aussie Rules pre-season match between new boys the GWS Giants and North Melbourne pulled 6000 people to Lavington Oval, where Friday night's City-Country clash will be played, doubling the expectations of the AFL.

It's a truth acknowledged by a native of nearby Junee, Country coach Laurie Daley.

"It's (a) very important (game) obviously, given that rugby league is in competition with a lot of other sports and in particular down here in Albury where the main focus is AFL," he said on Thursday.

And it continues the NRL's counter-attack on the AFL - rugby league launched its season in the western Sydney base of the Giants and the City side headed straight to Blacktown earlier this week.

The traditional City-Country clash has had its critics but league legend Brad Fittler believes the season's first rep footy weekend could stand alone.

He says players could avoid backing up for NRL games if City-Country and the Test between Australia and New Zealand are complemented by other representative games.

"You can ply this with some South Pacific games and all of a sudden you've got a fantastic weekend of footy and you're not ruining the players," he said.

"I don't think you can have just a stand alone weekend of one Australian game and one City-Country, I think that's a bit ridiculous really.

"If all of a sudden you've got South Pacific games and maybe an under-20s thing coming up underneath and you've got five or six games of footy, then (you could) make it a real weekend, a real festivity."

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