By MATT NICHOLLS
ARMIDALE will unearth a new NRL player when it hosts filming of a new reality TV show featuring former Australian and NSW coach Ricky Stuart.
The University of New England, with the backing of Armidale Dumaresq Council, won the bid to have the show, titled The Coach, filmed in Armidale.
The Coach will see 13 rugby league hopefuls do battle for an NRL contract.
The show has the backing of the NRL and several high profile players.
The show’s contestants, who are already talented rugby league players, will be put through a number of gruelling challenges to impress Stuart, the current coach of the Canberra Raiders.
The show will air on Fox Sports and be replayed half a dozen times each week.
Filming will start in October and the show is likely to start airing in late November.
The joint initiative between UNE and the council to secure the filming was no mean feat in a highly competitive bidding process.
“Armidale won out in the end because of our state-of-the-art sporting and campus facilities at UNE, our proximity to national parks, and our location as a thriving regional centre,” UNE Life’s interim chief executive David Schmude said.
“The reality TV show will be a vehicle to showcase UNE’s sporting academic programmes and facilities as well as its on-campus college experience.
“The contestants and crew will stay at the new Wright College.
“Armidale is in an enviable position for a regional centre with sporting facilities that rival many of the big cities in Australia.
“I think it really was a ‘no brainer’ for the producers of the show to choose Armidale.
“Ricky knows Armidale and UNE well from his time with the Eels and enjoyed his time here.”
Armidale Dumaresq Council’s economic development, tourism and marketing manager Tony Broomfield said the national exposure presented the opportunity to showcase Armidale’s many assets.
“There will be an opportunity for engagement at the local level with the mentors, coach and participants, while the crew are here for the month of October filming the series of challenges,” he said.
“We should also note the economic benefits flowing to local businesses from this activity, perhaps from their involvement in some of the challenges.
“This has has been a great year thus far with Armidale achieving widespread national media coverage after being voted the third hottest destination by Australian Traveller magazine.”
It’s believed the winner of the TV show will be given a $75,000 contract with an NRL club, which would be exempt from the salary cap.
The Raiders, Bulldogs, Roosters, Panthers and Storm are believed to be the clubs interested in attracting the signature of the winner.