Newcastle's rugby union community has vowed to defend its turf after a review of the city's sports infrastructure recommended a shake-up of who plays at two key inner-city venues.
But netball chiefs were reaching for the champagne after the report's preliminary findings recommended increasing their number of courts and combining them on one side of National Park.
City of Newcastle commissioned Queensland-based consultants Otium to produce a sports strategy to prepare for a growth in population from 162,000 to 188,000 over the next 12 years.
Two of the more contentious recommendations of a discussion paper sent to clubs on Friday are to convert Wickham Park into two Australian rules fields and use No.2 Sportsground as a venue for National Premier League soccer games.
Wickham Park's Passmore Oval is the winter home of the Hamilton Hawks, the reigning Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union premiers, and No.2 Sportsground is the home ground of the team they beat in this year's grand final, Wanderers, and the NHRU's finals series.
Clubs have six weeks to comment on the paper before a draft plan goes on public exhibition next year.
Wanderers president Brett Derwin, who attended a briefing this week, said he had seen enough of the report to be "concerned".
"It was fairly clear to me that grassroots rugby would be taken away from No.2 Sportsground," he said. "The consultant talked about it being used for higher-level sport, and it was the same for Australian rules on No.1."
Mr Derwin said it was unclear what constituted higher-level sport.
A first draft of the paper referred to using No.1 and No.2 for "high-level competition and training only", but the council amended this on Friday to "prioritise the highest level of competition/event use in allocating usage" in the version sent to clubs.
The discussion paper recommends relocating rugby union and league from Wickham Park to Waratah Park, which would be reconfigured to cater better for football codes.
NHRU president Andy Fairfull said the council had embarked on a "logical and consultative" process to review its sports infrastructure but rugby would seek to protect its interests.
"Hats off to the council for their communication and wanting to plan, but as a rugby union we'll obviously be vigorously defending our members and our turf, in a responsible way," he said.
"We're not going to be at loggerheads with the council, but we're certainly out there to protect the number of participants, participant clubs, the families that go and watch both seniors and juniors and women's and men's rugby every Saturday."
Otium's findings are based on an analysis of participation and forecast growth in each sport, a measure which favours soccer and Australian rules over rugby.
The review covers 13 "primary" sports and measures the market share of each. Soccer dominates with 27.5 per cent of participants in the target sports, followed by touch football and Oztag at 21.1 per cent, cricket (13.1), rugby league (10.7), netball (7), tennis (5.6), rugby union (3.9), equestrian (3.6), athletics (3), softball (1.8), Australian rules (1.7), baseball (0.7) and croquet (0.2).
The review does not include basketball, which is moving from Broadmeadow to a new stadium at Hillsborough, in the Lake Macquarie local government area.
The report also recommends planning for sports in the "western corridor", where the council has acquired land at Maryland from Glencore for a new sports complex and at Minmi.
The discussion paper has alarmed the rugby union community, but Newcastle Netball Association president Cheryl Hernando was delighted with its findings.
The plan recommends combining all of the National Park netball courts on the Union Street side of the park and increasing the number of courts from 30 to 32 or 36.
It suggests converting the six courts on the western side of the park near Parkway Avenue into a car park and the 10 beside Smith Street into two playing fields for other sports, one of which could be artificial grass.
Ms Hernando said increasing the number of courts would allow the association to apply to host junior and senior state championships.
"May I just say how excited I am. Oh my god, get the champagne out," she said.
"That's a fabulous outcome if that's what they're planning to do for netball in Newcastle. And moving it all on to one side would be absolutely wonderful."
If a turf war was to break out over the use of No.2 Sportsground and Wickham Park, someone forgot to tell Australian rules and soccer.
Newcastle City Blues vice-president Courtney Knight said he was surprised to learn a consultant had recommended Passmore and Hawkins ovals be converted into Australian rules fields.
"As far as us having input into the preliminary plan, we completed a questionnaire, as did all the other sports," he said. "We certainly didn't lead the horse to water, so to speak."
But Mr Knight said the club did "need some more space" as player numbers had ballooned in recent seasons.
"Our team numbers are quite astronomical. We're up to 18 junior teams in our club, and we've had four or five seniors teams in the last few years as well," he said.
Mr Knight made it clear the club harboured no desire to steal the home of another sporting team, but would "love" to be able to play at Hawkins Oval.
"There's obviously some controversial recommendations at this early stage, and we've put the olive branch out to the Hamilton rugby club to just reassure them that we don't have any ambitions to steal their facilities," he said. "That's certainly never crossed our mind.
"No doubt we would love access to Hawkins Oval again, which has been our home in decades gone by.
"We'd love some access to that ground going forward."
A spokesman for Cooks Hill United FC said the club wanted to play at NPL level and share No.2 Sportsground with Wanderers.
The council has invited the community to an information session on the preliminary plan at No.2 Sportsground on Saturday.
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