19/05/2015 - 05:01

Roos and Bunnies come out (west) to play

19/05/2015 - 05:01

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Perth's professional sports administrators are getting bang for their buck in their efforts to lift the city’s profile as a sports destination, with some high-profile teams heading west this year.

Roos and Bunnies come out (west) to play
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: John Lee says the Rabbitohs will continue to play home games in Perth. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Perth's professional sports administrators are getting bang for their buck in their efforts to lift the city’s profile as a sports destination, with some high-profile teams heading west this year.

Fans of sports as diverse as soccer, rugby league and ice hockey will be able to see the best in the business go around in the next few months.

Asian Cup champions the Socceroos will play Bangladesh at nib Stadium, Perth Arena will host the US and Canada in classic ice hockey match-up, while 2014 National Rugby League champions the South Sydney Rabbitohs will play a ‘home’ game in Perth against the New Zealand Warriors.

When the Australian national soccer side plays in September, it will be the first time the Socceroos have competed in Perth for more than a decade.

Unlike the exhibition ice hockey match set for June between the two fierce North American rivals, the Socceroos game is a World Cup qualifier match for Australia, which is ranked fourth in Asia and 63rd in the world.

Football West chief executive Peter Hugg told Business News he was expecting a sell-out crowd of 22,000 at nib, after Perth won hosting rights to the event over other capital Australian cities.

“Our young kids will be able to go along and see in the flesh players they’ve previously only watched on TV,” Mr Hugg said.

“It follows years of lobbying on the part of Football West, Eventscorp (a division of Tourism WA), and the WA government as well as nib Stadium.”

Bringing unique sports events to Perth has its challenges though, according to former professional basketball player Andrew Vlahov.

Mr Vlahov, who was instrumental in organising the now defunct professional basketball series, Sino-China Australia Challenge, said the competition, formerly called the YouYi Games, had been worth it despite only running for three years.

“I do believe that (for) the people who go to that effort, and I was one of them, it is well received,” he said.

“Certainly for the kids who got to see the Boomers play, they enjoyed it and the visibility that the series got on TV in China was again a real benefit for tourism.

“These sorts of things, when done properly, I believe can have significant economic impact and visible impact for Perth as a brand.”

Rabbitohs chief executive John Lee, whose rugby league team will make their way to Perth for the seventh year in a row next month, said hosting a Perth game was vital for fans who largely missed out on live games because WA did not have its own representative side.

“There is a whole community who have found their new life, or a different life in Perth and Western Australia ... but where is their chance to enjoy rugby league now?” he said.

“And we say that is our obligation.

“It’s not an exhibition for the fans, they know their teams are playing for competition points; it means so much more, the athletes leave nothing to chance, it’s like gladiators out there.”

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