BATHURST Harness Racing Club may be forced to move the date of next year’s Gold Crown Carnival finals after suffering a scheduling clash with the Penrith Panthers-Melbourne Storm NRL match at Carrington Park.
Thursday’s announcement of 2018 grand finalists Storm making the trip to Bathurst has created plenty of buzz in the city but it’s created plenty of headaches for the BHRC board.
It was a blow for the board who, in conjunction with Harness Racing NSW, put together their meeting dates more than a year in advance.
Both the Bathurst and HRNSW boards are meeting on Tuesday to discuss potential workarounds for the date clash.
If the Gold Crown finals date is changed then the preferable scenario, in the eyes of BHRC CEO Danny Dwyer, will be a move one day either side of the Saturday’s NRL fixture.
“Our obvious choice is not to clash but how we best go about the options we have then I’m not too sure at this stage,” he said.
“My preference would be the Friday night, or even a Sunday afternoon the day after.
“It can’t go back or forward a week because the club’s gone to great lengths to organise the Gold Crown tour that we’re doing with Panorama Cruise And Travel, which we did last carnival as well.
“All that planning has gone out to every race club, breeder in Australia and New Zealand to try and bring tourism to Bathurst. With that in mind it’s best not to tinker with the date too much and only make some small changes.”
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There’s the added blow of the crossover between Bathurst’s harness racing and rugby league communities.
Members of Group 10 Rugby League clubs train and own horses.
Bathurst Panthers premier league players Doug Hewitt and Jed Betts regularly drive during Bathurst’s Wednesday night meetings. Dwyer also manages the premier league side.
“When I first heard that March 30 was potentially the date for the game I was hoping that wasn’t going to be the case,” Dwyer said.
“I’m sure the people of Bathurst don’t want that clash either. From what I’ve heard there’s not a lot of room for the NRL to change the date.
“When we get these weekend dates we’ve got to hone in on them and get the word out there. Unfortunately a lot of the demographic we want to appeal to are also interested in rugby league.”
The Gold Crown finals haven’t budged from their place on the last Saturday of March since they were moved there nearly two decades ago.
Bathurst’s harness racing board will work with both Bathurst Regional Council and the NRL to secure the best possible outcome for all parties.
“Council have been very proactive at the moment in assisting us with the best way to go about it but at the end of the day the decision for when we race will come down to the board and Harness Racing NSW,” Dwyer said.
“Once we think of a suitable date we can go back to council and talk about what we can do to make this the best experience and opportunity possible for visitors to Bathurst and the local population as well.
“We don't have a population where we can have two major events on the one night.”