ST GEORGE Illawarra will take two home games west to Mudgee as part of a two-year agreement to take NRL games to the bush.
The traditional Charity Shield clash will also take place at Glen Willow Regional Sporting Complex in 2018 and 2019 as part of the agreement with Mid-Western Regional Council.
It follows confirmation the Dragons will play 10 of their 12 home games at their spiritual homes of WIN Stadium and Kogarah in 2018.
UOW Jubilee Oval will host five home matches, as it did this season, while Wollongong will pick up an additional home match, one up on the four fixtures it’s hosted for the past three seasons.
The Dragons also host the annual Anzac Day clash with the Roosters next year, that will be played at it’s regular home of Allianz Stadium.
It’s a departure from the unpopular ‘Right Game Right Venue’ strategy the club has pursued for the past three years that saw home matches taken to ANZ Stadium.
It comes amid uncertainty surrounding the NSW government’s plans to upgrade it's major stadium network, prompting the club to look for alternative revenue streams.
With the venue already the home of Group 10 side the Mudgee Dragons, St George-Illawarra chairman Brian Johnston said the partnership was a natural fit.
"The Dragons have a large and avid supporter base across all regional markets, in particular the Central West region of NSW," Johnston said.
"The opportunity to form a partnership with the Mid-Western Regional Council to play games in Mudgee ensures the Dragons play a leading role in the continued development of rugby league in the bush, and will enable us to further develop our brand in this important region.
"We enjoy a long standing association with the Mudgee Dragons, and through Mayor Des Kennedy, the council have expressed a strong desire to see the Dragons play in Mudgee, particularly given the quality of the Glen Willow facilities.
"I grew up in Dunedoo myself so I understand first-hand what bringing the NRL to Mudgee will mean to the Central West.”
Mayor of Mid-Western Regional Council Des Kennedy welcomed the two-year partnership that will begin with February’s Charity Shield.
"We're extremely excited to partner with St George Illawarra to bring two premiership games and the 2018 and 2019 Charity Shields to the region," Cr Kennedy said.
"It shows the club's faith in our world class facility that, in May this year, hosted the final ever Country versus City Origin before a crowd of more than 8,300.”