The rural city of Wagga Wagga will host a Sheffield Shield match for the first time this summer after New South Wales confirmed that two of their home games late in the season will be held outside Sydney. Newcastle will be the other city to host the Blues in February, when the SCG is unavailable due to the World Cup.
Wagga Wagga has a strong cricket pedigree - Mark Taylor, Michael Slater and Geoff Lawson all grew up there - but it has not yet hosted a first-class match. The city's Robertson Oval will be the venue for a game between New South Wales and Victoria from February 15 to 18.
Newcastle's No.1 Sports Ground will play host to the Blues from February 25 to 28, when they take on Western Australia. The ground has been the venue for 20 first-class matches since it was first used in the early 1980s, but Sheffield Shield cricket has not been played there since the 2009-10 season.
"We are delighted to be able to take two Shield matches back to the bush," Andrew Jones, the Cricket New South Wales chief executive, said. "Country regions have been tremendous nurseries of cricketers for New South Wales and Australia, and it is great that cricket fans in Newcastle and Wagga Wagga will get a chance to see their heroes up close this summer."
Cricket New South Wales said it had made multiple-year agreements with the councils of both cities which would ensure further events and fixtures in future, along with plans to improve the local cricket facilities.