Hull FC is to use Kiama as its training base when it comes to Australia to play the Wigan Warriors in the first English Super League match to be played outside of Europe.
Hull is one of the oldest clubs in rugby league. Founded over 150 years ago, and one of the original Northern clubs to split from rugby union, it is well known for its dedicated fans, and black and white kit.
Hull FC was named 2016 Super League Club of the Year for its great success on the field as well as off it, winning the 2015 and 2016 Challengers Cups.
Former Wigan and England fullback, and now Wigan Executive Director, Kris Radlinski was in Kiama for the announcement that the Sebel Harbourside has been chosen to host the 50 strong Hull contingent.
His side is basing themselves at the Novotel in Wollongong and, as Wigan was the instigator of the initiative, he wanted to give his personal seal of approval to the arrangements made for Hull.
“We’ve taken a risk coming out here, but I’m confident it is going to be a great success,” he says.
“The facilities are tremendous and the fans are going to love it out here.”
Because where these team go, their loyal fans will follow.
Thousands of fans are expected to travel out for the match between the two northern teams, which is to be held at WIN Stadium. Their ranks are expected to be swelled by the Barmy Army already out in Australia for this summer’s Ashes.
“This is a major coup for our Municipality,” says Mayor Mark Honey.
“I would like to congratulate Craig Hardy and his team at Sebel Harbourside for providing the winning bid to host Hull FC.
“The team will be conducting their training here, visiting our local attractions and taking part in community events.
“While the players and staff will be at the Sebel Harbourside, the size of the touring party means there will be plenty of opportunities for local businesses throughout the area to benefit.”
General Manager Craig Hardy says the visit builds on the hotel’s strong record as a preferred base for the training camps of leading football teams.
“We’ve hosted the Broncos, the Roosters, the Melbourne Storm and even the Tongan national side,” he says. “They love our big gym, our location and our professionalism and keep coming back.”
Destination Kiama will be working with cafes, restaurants and other hospitality operators to help them make the most of this occasion.
“This is a chance to provide a warm welcome and make a long-term impression on the players, fans and English media that will cover the tour,” says Cllr Honey.
“I know we will provide the players, coaches, families and fans with a memorable experience with our beautiful beaches, towns and villages, great food and wine and renowned hospitality.
“By getting behind this major event, we are not only showing what a great place this is and the friendliness of our people, but sending a giant postcard to the people of Hull and Wigan watching back in the UK.”
Mr Radlinski toured the area, including visiting Gerringong Oval with League great Mick Cronin as Hull FC is expected to use it as a training ground.
“Come February it will be as good as it gets for training,” Mr Cronin says.
The teams will also be playing in a double header at ANZ Stadium, with Wigan against Souths and Hull against the Dragons.
Hull FC will arrive in Kiama on 4 February, and will stay for over a week.