Dubbo’s hopes of attracting an NRL Premiership game have received a massive boost with NSW Nationals Member for Dubbo Dugald Saunders named as chair of the Government’s NRL Regional Taskforce.

The taskforce is being formed to develop a plan to bring more games to regional NSW.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro made the announcement during a visit to Dubbo on Wednesday, where he and Mr Saunders outlined their vision for the taskforce and confirmed seeing a premiership game to the city for the first time since the 2014 Country-City fixture was a top priority.

“It’s an honour to be asked to chair this taskforce, and my top priority is to see Dubbo host an NRL premiership game in 2021,” Mr Saunders said.

“I have met several times with Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’Landys to discuss bringing a game to Dubbo and the regional approach that needs to be taken, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic where so many communities have been starved of football.

“The Deputy Premier worked very closely with the NRL to ensure the return of the competition and we were hoping to see a couple of regional games this year, but with the current health orders it will be extremely difficult to achieve that.

“So the focus will be on 2021, and I will now be working to put the taskforce team together, and work on the other locations in regional NSW that could host games next year.”

Deputy Premier John Barilaro said Mr Saunders’ passion for regional NSW made him the ideal choice to lead the taskforce.

“Dugald has certainly been on the front foot around bringing an NRL game to Dubbo, and we realise that it will benefit not only the city itself but the wider western NSW region,” Mr Barilaro said.

“He also realises there is a need to take the game to people all across the state, so I look forward to working with him and the taskforce to develop a plan that means we can play competition games in grass roots areas in 2021.”