CITY of Newcastle is in talks with Venues NSW and Rugby Australia about the city becoming a permanent venue on the rugby calendar.
McDonald Jones Stadium is tracking towards a COVID-19 sell out for the second time in seven days when the All Blacks tackle Argentina on Saturday night in a clash that could determine the Tri-Nations.
A crowd of 11,749 - the biggest at the stadium since the outbreak of the COVID-19 - were on hand to watch the Wallabies draw 15-all with the Los Pumas last Saturday.
The Wallabies have been based in Cessnock, staying at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and using training facilities at St Philip's Christian College and Pokolbin Rugby Club, and were highly complimentary of the area and the reception they received.
Argentinian captain Pablo Matera questioned why the Pumas stayed in Sydney rather than Newcastle.
"I don't know why we didn't come [to Newcastle] earlier," Matera said. "It's nicer than Sydney ... I like it here. It feels calm. It's a beautiful place."
If Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes gets her way, both countries will be regular visitors to the Hunter.
"We want Newcastle to be a permanent fixture on Australian Rugby calendar," Nelmes told the Newcastle Herald. "We want to be a fixture on every national sporting team's calendar.
"We are working closely with Venues NSW on attracting teams like the Wallabies. It's a genuine collaboration with the peak authority that looks after all the major venues in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. We partner with them so we are not competing against Sydney for these events. We are competing against other states and other countries. We are getting a much better outcome through those collaborative process."
The Tri-Nations is expected to revert to the Rugby Championship next year with the return of South Africa after they were a late withdrawal from the current series.
With matches to be played home and away, Newcastle's best bet is the return of the Wallabies and Argentina.
All Blacks captain Sam Kane is visiting Newcastle for the first time and is in favour of taking the game to "new places".
"It's great to spread our Test matches around the country," he said on the eve of the clash with Argentina. "I'm always a big fan of going to new places. We quite often play at the same stadiums and stay at the same motels."
"I suppose for the organsiers the proof will be in the crowd numbers and the support, so if that goes well then maybe they'll start to do that a bit more."
Before last week, The Wallabies had only played one Test in Newcastle - a 9-6 loss to Scotland in cyclonic conditions in 2012.
But since the success of the Asian Football Championships in 2015, Newcastle reputation as host city has sky-rocketed. McDonald Jones Stadium has hosted two Super Rugby games, an ANZAC rugby league test match, A-League grand final, Matildas Olympic games qualifiers and a series of other women's football internationals.
In 2023 Newcastle will be one of 12 host cities for the FIFA Women's World Cup.
"After the Asian Cup and the success of that event, we went to a new level in terms of being able to negotiate to bring these type of events to the region,"Nelmes said.
"Since then we have seen record-breaking crowds for the Matildas, Our reputation is growing.
"All of that work has paid off with the FIFA women's World Cup as well. That is going to be phenomenal for this region. That will be a great six weeks.
"In between that time, we want the Wallabies to come back here next year as a permanent fixture."
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