• Footy codes embrace $2 million practice facility

18 Apr 2013

Nikkie Beltran

ANZ Stadium's new $2 million practice facility is off to a flying start, with home NRL teams the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the South Sydney Rabbitohs holding rugby league skills clinics as fan engagement opportunities in the lead up to their matches.

The sight of kids in their favourite team colours kicking and passing, rumbling and tumbling, has drawn crowds of pre-game onlookers - adding greatly to the colour and experience of a night at the footy.

The 3000 square metre, flood-lit practice field is located on the western side of the Stadium, near Gate L and will be used as a warm-up ground and for fan engagement during the winter months before being transformed into a cricket training facility, complete with eight drop-in full-length turf pitches, for summer. School and community groups will also use the practice facility with the kids playing in the shadows of their sporting heroes.

Big-name players from the football codes – NRL, AFL, rugby union and football – as well as the Sydney Thunder Big Bash League team and the world champion Australian women’s cricket team were on hand to celebrate the grand opening of the new practice field in the lead up to Easter.

Former Socceroo and current Sydney FC star Brett Emerton, Waratahs flyer Drew Mitchell, Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson, Souths’ hardman Luke Burgess, young GWS Giants duo Dylan Shiel and Adam Treloar, women's cricket sensations Ellyse Perry and Lisa Sthalekar, and Ashes bolter Adam Zampa and Gurinder Sandhu took part in the first activities on the field – along with 40 children from Glenwood High School.

Former Swans captain Craig Bolton, the deputy general manager of AFL NSW/ACT, was also on hand as western Sydney development officers from AFL, rugby league and cricket conducted skills clinics with the schoolchildren.

Rival CEOs Todd Greenberg (Bulldogs) and Shane Richardson (Rabbitohs) and NRL legends Steve Mortimer and Mario Fenech also joined the opening, with the official duties carried out by ANZ Stadium managing director Daryl Kerry and Sydney Olympic Park Authority CEO, Alan Marsh.

Mr Kerry said the new facility will not only be used by sporting teams but by school and community groups who visit Sydney Olympic Park.

“While the new facility was primarily built for cricket, it will also be used as a warm-up area for the football codes during winter – with major rugby league, rugby union, soccer and AFL matches all played at the Stadium,” Mr Kerry said.

“The facility will also be used in a variety of ways to enhance the overall ANZ Stadium event experience, including fan engagement activities . . . that may include kids, mums and dads kicking the footy around before matches. It will also be used for corporate and promotional activities.”

Look out for activities on the new practice field next time you're at the Stadium.