No World Cup games will be held in Western Sydney, with ANZ Stadium in Homebush to stage two matches.
In an email to club members Payne said: “On behalf of the Panthers, I sincerely apologise to all Rugby League fans living in Western Sydney.
I was born and bred in Western Sydney and have been involved with Rugby League my entire life.
My decision to join the Panthers in May of this year was largely driven by my understanding of Western Sydney and Rugby League.
What do I understand about Western Sydney?
Firstly, Western Sydney is my home and I am a proud resident.
My home is Australia’s multicultural melting pot with in excess of 180 languages spoken, where 39% of residents speak a language other than English. We are a dynamic bunch.
We are home to Australia’s largest Indigenous population.
We are the third largest contributor to the Australian economy ($127 billion each year) and within the next decade will be home to an estimated three million people. Currently 830,000 residents aged under 30 call Western Sydney home.
We are building our own airport, our own light rail system, our own metro rail and have an estimated $35 billion of major infrastructure projects in the pipeline.
Through the development and work of Celestino Science Park, Badgerys Creek Airport and WestConnex, limitless opportunities and growth will be created in our backyard.
And I am not then only one who is seeing this opportunity, the growth potential…
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull clearly agrees, going on record in April this year noting:
“Western Sydney can be a launching pad for Australia’s future growth and prosperity.”
And his actions, not just words, represent his belief in our region.
Mr Turnbull came out to visit our backyard on both the first and the final day of the 2016 Federal Election campaign to support his candidate Fiona Scott.
His opponents must think similar. Former Prime Ministers Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and Julia Gillard arrived in Penrith with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten to support now Federal Member for Lindsay Emma Husar as Election Day approached.
All of Australia knows that our home is the country’s fastest growing region, with the most diverse population and biggest growth opportunity for business.
What do I know about the Panthers?
We are committed to Rugby League.
We spent $22 million building the best Rugby League training facility in the Southern Hemisphere.
We have the largest junior league in the country and are committed to developing talent from within. I should note that over 50% of our junior league players are of Polynesian heritage.
Our junior development system continues to produce results.
This year we went one game short of making the Grand Final in the NSW Under 16’s Harold Matthews Cup, we won the NSW and National Under 18’s competitions, we are defending premiers in the National Youth Competition and leading the 2016 competition by a country mile, and have just delivered two NSW State of Origin players.
We are heading in the right direction!
So, why am I apologising?
We have been overlooked to host any 2017 Rugby League World Cup matches!
I am extremely disappointed that we have been snubbed by the NRL for ‘commercial reasons’.
It doesn’t make any sense to me that the only two RLWC games scheduled for Sydney:
1. Australia v Lebanon; and
2. England v Lebanon.
Will not be played in our backyard.
Our backyard is the growth engine of Australia, a burgeoning infrastructure capital and home to the third largest economy in the country.
The region is a showpiece for multiculturalism in Australia.
Just so you know, we offered to host a RLWC ball, after-match functions, and organise junior league gala days and school visits at our expense.
We also offered Pepper Stadium at cost.
It is a real shame that the NRL cannot see the opportunity out here in the west.
If they cannot make RLWC games commercially viable in Western Sydney then I must be living on the Moon.
All we wanted to do is bring Rugby League, business and the community together in Western Sydney to celebrate the World Cup.
Western Sydney deserves better.”