CLASH: Elton John's two concerts in Coffs Harbour fall at the same time as the Bulldogs v Raiders trial which was targeted for the town.
CLASH: Elton John's two concerts in Coffs Harbour fall at the same time as the Bulldogs v Raiders trial which was targeted for the town. FILE

EXCLUSIVE: How Elton John cost Coffs Harbour an NRL game

COFFS Harbour was on track to welcome two powerhouse NRL teams next year, that's until a full schedule at the stadium, including concerts from one of world's greatest musicians, deflated those plans. 

The Advocate can exclusively reveal the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, who have a relationship with Group 2 and Group 3 rugby league, were considering bringing a pre-season trial to the town next February. 

The trial was scheduled to be played against the Canberra Raiders, with the clubs settling on holding the game on February 29.

Unfortunately for local footy fans, Sir Elton John had booked the C.ex Coffs International Stadium for his huge Yellow Brick Road world tour for concerts on February 25 and 26.

The three-day turnaround between the concerts and game wasn't logistically possible.

The match has now been penned in for Port Macquarie.

"The Bulldogs set their programs early for the following year and unfortunately we couldn't fit into their schedule because of the Elton concerts," Group 2 president Warren Gilkinson said. 

"So they've gone with Port Macquarie as the Bulldogs also have a relationship with Group 3."

Gilkinson said the Bulldogs might be bringing a trial game to the North Coast every year for the length of their ten-year contract, so is hopeful of securing a match in 2021. 

He also said a regular season game in Coffs Harbour has also been floated during his meetings with the Bulldogs. 

"It depends on a lot of things, including the NRL and the commission," he said. 

"The new stadium and seating at the venue certainly helps our chances."

Coffs Harbour City Council section leader of stadium and major events Dan Heather said February-March is the busiest time of year at C.ex Coffs International Stadium. 

Heather noted Elton John had booked the facility 18 months in advance, and his concerts are surrounded by events which are staples of the stadium's calendar. 

"Some of the events at that time of year bring big numbers of people to the region and inject a lot to the local economy," Heather said. 

Heather added the council did have preliminary discussions about a possible trial game with Country Rugby League, but politely informed them it wasn't going to be possible with the stadium booked. 

Heather also explained to them the Council has their sights set on a regular season fixture, having been in discussions with the NRL for over two years. 

'You can have a trial game at any venue, but with the facilities we have built we want to try and attract the highest level of sport possible.

"We've met with them on a few occasions and kept them up to date with what's been happening.  

"We're having the right conversations with the right people."

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs signed their contract with Group 2 and Group 3 at the end of 2018 in a great show of faith in the region's potential.

"It's about nurturing the kids in our area and then sending them to Sydney when they're ready. Not sending them down before they are," Gilkinson said.