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Festival of footy to support communities hit by bushfires

The NRL will relocate the "Battle of the West" trial game between the Panthers and Eels from Penrith to Bega as part of a three-day festival of footy to help support the area hit hard by recent bushfires.

The NRL rivals will face off on February 29 and both clubs will have their squads in the region for three days for a series of player-led community activities and public events in nearby towns.

The NSWRL will also move the under 16s Andrew Johns Cup and under 18s Laurie Daley Cup matches from Wollongong to Bega to provide an afternoon showcase of the best in young, regional rugby league talent.

"This is more than a game – this will be an event to lift the community spirit, say thank you to the many volunteers and selfless workers who gave so much during the recent disaster and bring dollars back into the local economy," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.

"Nothing brings communities together quite like rugby league, our game is part of the social fabric of these towns. This is an opportunity to provide the locals with a small respite from what has happened, acknowledge and thank the local heroes, and to deliver a much needed economic boost to the region.

"Everyone I speak to on the South Coast has the same message – we need visitors to come back to the area, stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants, visit our beaches and shop in our stores."

Bega Mayor Kristy McBain encouraged people from across NSW to travel to the match.

"Our economy has taken a significant hit across a number of industries. It's critical we keep taking action to bring some security to local jobs and the families they support," McBain said.

"I want to thank the NRL for creating this opportunity – it means the world to people.

"To those who have a connection with and love for the Bega Valley and Sapphire Coast I invite you to visit us and share this experience. You will be well looked after, but more than that you will play a role in making sure our region and people continue to thrive."

NSWRL chief executive David Trodden said all levels of the game working together would ensure the most productive outcome for the communities so moving the Andrew Johns Cup and Laurie Daley Cup matches was a very easy decision.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the game to have an impact and make a real difference to a community that really needs it and one where rugby league is an important part of the social fabric of all of the towns in the region," Trodden said.

"We urge all rugby league fans to unite and get behind this initiative which is just one of the ways the game plans to support the communities, workers and volunteers affected."

Elsewhere in the league the Dragons and Rabbitohs will visit bushfire affected communities as they travel to Mudgee for the Charity Shield match on February 29 and the Bulldogs and Raiders will visit schools and local community organisations in the mid-north coast region of NSW ahead of their trial game in Port Macquarie on February 29.

NRL stars have donated jerseys to a Rugby League Players Association auction supporting bushfire relief, the Raiders have committed to playing their 2021 trial match in Bega and all 16 NRL clubs have committed to the Bushfire Appeal Thank You Round One of the 2020 season.

Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.