GRIFFITH has been given the strongest indication yet that an NRL trial match is coming to town at the start of next year.
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg all but confirmed to The Area News that the Canberra Raiders will face the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs at EW Moore Oval in what could be Andrew Fifita's first outing in blue and white.
Greenberg was in town this week to meet with local rugby league powerbrokers and assess Griffith's sporting infrastructure and declared he was "pretty hopeful" the trial will go ahead.
"I think we'd be pretty hopeful that we can pull that off for next year," he said.
"The Raiders have certainly got a commitment to play in this region because they have a lot of local juniors that come from here.
"(Canberra chief executive) Don Furner's very committed to this area and I know he's doing everything he can to make it happen."
Asked if it was now a matter of convincing the Bulldogs to come on board, Greenberg said: "I think that's an issue for the Raiders and the Dogs to talk to."
"I think the Bulldogs will think very much about membership and local community support for their club.
"With Andrew Fifita now on their roster in 2015 it'd be a pretty good way to kick it off, wouldn't it?"
While Fifita could be unavailable due to the return of both the NRL All-Stars clash and the popular Auckland Nines tournament, the potential reluctance of the Bulldogs to travel to Griffith during a packed pre-season next year looms as the only possible stumbling block to the match.
Greenberg said EW Moore Oval is currently fit to host an NRL trial match - but the Griffith Leagues Club-owned facility could soon receive a vital cash injection from the sport's governing body.
He revealed the NRL is set to announce a $2 million "infrastructure and investment fund" that will help give regional venues in NSW the upgrades they need to meet modern standards.
"There will be ties to those funds. We won't simply write a cheque," he said.
"We're going to come into local communities and see who else can contribute dollar for dollar.
"We're certainly in that space and that money will be invested in the game because it's the right thing to do.
"One of the challenges is always around broadcast facilties but for trial games it's less of an issue.
"As we work closely with the mayor here and local rugby league clubs about how we can work hard to place some investment with their investment and turn this facility into something... that would leave a legacy when we walk away."
Mayor John Dal Broi said his talks with Greenberg and the NRL were "very positive".
He confirmed council is prepared to assist the Leagues Club and the NRL by way of grant funding and also by handling traffic management for any trial match in the city.
"It'd be fantastic for the area and for the local business chamber," he said.
"It's important they get involved as well because a lot of their members will enjoy the direct economic benefit.
"The NRL needs a press box, because it will be televised nationally, and we may need some raised areas for specators but basically, that's it.
"Todd is absolutely impressed with the ground, it's fantastic.
"In the short term the Leagues Club can't do much about the dressing rooms but if we are to continue to attract these games, we have to address that, and we'll help where we can."
Greenberg admitted it was a "challenge" to convince NRL clubs to come to the bush, admitting the game had work to do in that department.
"That's part of our challenge - understanding the commercial drivers for clubs to make those decisions," he said.
"Are there ways at the NRL can place incentives on the clubs to go and play in regional centres?
"It's clear we need to find bigger drivers for them to do that, but there's no doubt they understand a lot of their players have come through cities and towns like this."