By BRAD GREENSHIELDS
WHAT was once the Wallaby Pouch has now become the Rabbit Warren.
Yesterday Coffs Harbour City Council announced a commercial arrangement that will see the South Sydney Rabbitohs make the top-class sporting facilities at Novotel Pacific Bay Resort in Coffs Harbour their training home away from home.
South Sydney Executive Chairman Peter Holmes a Court yesterday promised that over the course of the next three years, the Rabbitohs will make at least three visits to Coffs Harbour each year.
"I'd like to see us here for training camps in the pre-season, the bye week and the off week and a sponsor camp," Holmes a Court.
"We want to bring up sponsors and integrate businesses into what we're doing. So we'll do motivational sessions with speakers and then we do joint training sessions.
"Obviously not tackling drills between sponsors and players but opportunities for people to see how we run our business."
The pre-season camps will culminate in a NRL trial match involving the Rabbitohs being played at BCU International Stadium for each of the next three pre-seasons.
"A great sold out trial, a long couple of training camps and some corporate events here during the year should work really well for the community," the South Sydney leader added.
At yesterday's announcement, Coffs Harbour Mayor Councillor Keith Rhoades couldn't have been any more pleased that another elite level team had chosen to use the facilities that Coffs Harbour has to offer.
"We're very proud that the Rabbitohs have chosen Coffs Harbour as their future training base," Coffs Harbour Mayor, Councillor Keith Rhoades said.
"Having close links with an elite team of the calibre and reputation of the Rabbitohs reinforces the city's position as the first-choice regional sporting venue in NSW.
"Not only will our relationship with the Rabbitohs give us enormous regional, national and international coverage, but it has the potential to boost local jobs through the increased use of existing sports facilities as well as indirectly via a growth in visitors to the area."
One of the major benefits from the commercial agreement between City Council and South Sydney will be seen in a week's time when the Rabbitohs kick off their 2008 NRL season.
Part of the agreement is that Coffs Harbour receives promotion via the massive 100 metre long LED display at all South's home games at ANZ Stadium.
In rotation with other sponsors, Coffs Harbour will receive constant 30 second exposures through the match to promote the city and upcoming events to a possible audience of up to one million people in next week's season opener.
Another community benefit is the implementation locally of the South's Cares program which concentrates on providing unemployed indigenous Australians with the best possible opportunities to enter the workforce.
The Rabbitohs are moving into their new hutch with a view to making friends.