The Santos Festival of Rugby will return to Narrabri in 2023, with a pre-season trial between the Queensland Reds and New South Wales Waratahs once again the centrepiece of the annual celebration of Rugby.
Held from February 10 to 11, the event will offer a huge amount of top-line Rugby for fans, including elite Sevens, country representative matches and men's and women's Super Rugby fixtures.
Queensland Country and New South Wales Country will face off for regional bragging rights to kickstart the action on the Friday night, before the Reds and Waratahs Super W sides take to the field for the first time in the event’s three-year history the following evening.
The two-day festival will culminate in a clash between traditional rivals Queensland and New South Wales, with the Reds searching for their first win in the yearly pre-season fixture.
Held at Dangar Park, home of the Narrabri Blue Boars Rugby Club, in partnership with Santos and the Narrabri Shire Regional Council, the event will also feature several country music stars including Brad Cox and Casey Barnes, who will perform on Friday and Saturday night respectively.
After their Commonwealth Games, World Series and World Cup success, members of the Australian Sevens Women's squad will be in action over the two days, while the Festival of Rugby’s two hosting clubs, the Roma Echidnas and Narrabri, will also clash in both men’s and women’s Rugby.
Santos Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Gallagher said Santos is proud to bring the Festival of Rugby back to Narrabri after a record-breaking inaugural event in 2021.
“The first-ever Santos Festival of Rugby was held in Narrabri in 2021 and we’re really excited to bring the event back again in 2023,” Mr Gallagher said.
“This time, with the inclusion of the Super W event, we hope the two-day festival breaks the 2021 records where more than 3,600 people flocked to the upgraded Dangar Park for the event.
“Economic modelling showed in 2021, the festival contributed more than $375,000 in indirect spend to the town with another $375,000 spent on local suppliers for field works and festival-related products and services, and an additional $200,000 on infrastructure upgrades.
“We look forward to bringing another fantastic weekend of rugby, along with the associated economic and tourism benefits, to Narrabri again next year.”
QRU CEO David Hanham said: “We’re looking forward to heading back to Narrabri for next year’s Santos Festival of Rugby.
“It’s exciting to have both our men’s and women’s teams in action for the first time in the event’s history, as well as our Queensland Country Orchids and Heelers.
“Thank you to Santos for their ongoing support of the festival, and for grassroots Rugby around the nation.”
NSW Rugby Union CEO Paul Doorn said: “The Santos Festival of Rugby has become a signature event in the Australian Rugby calendar and something we’re really excited to continue to be involved in.
“Last year’s event in Roma was a huge success and we can’t wait to get to Narrabri for a quality hit out against our oldest rivals and the opportunity to engage with the heartland of country NSW.
“This year we are thrilled that our women’s team will also be taking part, expanding what is already an amazing festival of Rugby.
“Whilst we maintain a fierce rivalry on the field, we’re pleased to be working with the Reds and thank Santos for the opportunity to deepen our connection with country Rugby and help foster the growth of the game in the bush.”
Narrabri Shire Regional Council Mayor Ron Campbell said: “Whilst heavily affected by COVID, our inaugural festival in 2021 was still a huge success and has been talked about ever since, both locally and regionally.
“We are so excited once again for this opportunity to host the Santos Festival of Rugby, and what it brings both economically and socially, not to mention the spotlight it puts on our Shire. We can't wait!”
Tickets for the 2023 Santos Festival of Rugby will be available soon.