Everybody agrees the big Gold Coast Titans vs Parramatta Eels rugby league match in Lismore last Saturday night was a great success but the town is divided over what sparked drunken brawls in the streets afterwards.
Lismore City Council made Oakes Oval available for free to the organisers of the event and chipped in $10,000 so around 8600 people would have the opportunity to see a major rugby league event.
Local sports clubs sold food and non-alcoholic drinks at the event, which police and Council staff both say was extremely well run, and no alcohol was served during the last half hour of the event.
But as little as 10 minutes after the game, things began to turn ugly in the Lismore CBD.
Groups of up to 20 people lashed out at each other in a night of alcohol-fuelled violence that kept police on the streets until 5.30am. At one stage Woodlark Street was barricaded by police cars to turn the mob aside. Police were only able to make four arrests on the volatile streets, and used move on orders to disperse the battlers. It is understood there were a number of injuries.
Lismore-based crime prevention officer, Michael Hogan, said police were very disappointed with the behaviour on the streets.
But the football went well, he said. We were very pleased with the football crowd and their behaviour.
Nobody was able to say whether the street affray was caused by visiting football fans or locals hanging around town.
One security firm, which did not want to be named, said the events had been blown up out of all proportion in some of the media coverage.
Council spokesperson Wendy Johnson said the match drew a huge number of visitors, who bought economic benefits of $280,000 to Lismore in terms of overnight accommodation and day spending.
There was no damage to Oakes Oval on the night.
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