Dubbo has been dumped from the 2023 NRL calendar after the South Sydney Rabbitohs announced they would not return next year due to “football-based” reasons.

The Rabbitohs did not elaborate on their reasons for the withdrawal, but said they would not rule out returning to Dubbo one day.

“We’re certainly open to returning in the future,” a spokesperson said.

“We value the support we get from regional communities and are committed to continuing playing games in regional areas in the future, as we have demonstrated for many years.”

The NRL team played in Dubbo in 2022 and 2021 and suffered crushing defeats in both games.

Two women and a boy sporting their football team's colours as they sit in the stands at an oval.
Rabbitohs fans at Redfern Oval, the team’s home ground.(ABC News)

‘Fairly significant cost’

Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Mathew Dickerson said the Rabbitohs broke the news via email several weeks ago.

He said if South Sydney had agreed to return next year it would have come at a significant cost.

The team charged $350,000 per year to play in Dubbo, $150,000 of which was paid by the New South Wales government.

The council covered the remaining $200,000.

Cr Dickerson said the council asked the state government in February if it was still willing to chip in $150,000 for next year’s game, but received no guarantee.

A smiling man in business attire stands in front of a sign for a football field along with some youngsters in NRL uniforms.
Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders announcing the Rabbitohs’ return to Apex Oval earlier this year.(Supplied)

Without state government support he said council would have to fork out the full $350,000 which, minus ticket sales, would cost ratepayers about $217,000.

“That’s a fairly significant cost when the majority of ratepayers are telling me at the moment ‘Fix the potholes, get every cent you can and pour it into potholes,'” Cr Dickerson said.

“It was hard for us to absolutely fully commit knowing it might be a significant cost to the community — at least the previous two years we knew we had $150,000 to offset some of that.”

He said that if the Rabbitohs had offered to come to Dubbo next year council would likely have voted in favour nonetheless.

Last year’s match drew 11,124 spectators and generated an estimated $2.8 million in additional spending in Dubbo from visitors and local fans.

Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders was contacted for comment.