NRL 2021: NZ Warriors, Anzac Day game, more NRL games and trans-Tasman tests on the table for the NZ relaunch
Warriors CEO Cameron George has called for an Anzac Day game to be played in Wellington and rival NRL clubs to move home games across Tasman next year in a bid to revive the game in New Zealand.
George’s comments come as the Warriors prepare to host the Great Big Kiwi Party at Central Coast Stadium, which will feature legendary New Zealand rock band Dragon before culminating with their Matchday 14 match against Melbourne, in as a thank you to the local community for their support of the club. over the past two seasons.
As the Warriors finally returned home for their August 15 clash with Canterbury, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is also considering how to reimburse the club and fans in New Zealand for their sacrifices to ensure the continuation of the Telstra Premiership as borders were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Abdo suggested playing more NRL games and round-trip trans-Tasman test series would not only be a way to reward the Warriors and their supporters, but also align with the ARLC’s growth strategy. for the game in New Zealand, possibly including a second The Kiwi team in the future.
After nearly two full years with no matches to be played in New Zealand, George said the code must “orchestrate a massive year there in 2022”.
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“It’s not just about the Warriors, it’s about relaunching the game in a key market for the future of the game that has had no content for two years,” said George.
“We can’t just go back to the same old, same old Warriors playing 12 home games next year and expect the game to come back to where it was. We have to revive the sport in New Zealand and we have to. be creative about the way we do it. “
The Warriors face the Storm in an annual Anzac Day game, but the game was never staged in New Zealand.
George said he had offered the Warriors to play on Anzac Day in Wellington and that he was also in talks with other NRL clubs to host a home game in New Zealand next season.
“New Zealand deserves to be part of the Anzac Day tradition and I want it next year, and I want to play it in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand,” said George. “I don’t care if we play Melbourne or someone else.
“It would be an amazing experience for the Kiwis to enjoy an Anzac Day game. There is no contract in place for Melbourne to have it, so I want the league to facilitate that in Wellington. next year.”
With 52% of NRL players of Maori or Pacific Island origin, and 26% born in New Zealand, George said it made sense for rival clubs to play home games against the Warriors across the country. Tasman.
NRL clubs have already seen success winning games in Wellington, Christchurch, Hamilton or Rotorua and George said many are keen to do it again next season but need to know if they will be awarded a home game against the Warriors in the 2022 draw.
“Something has to happen, so let’s pledge to host the Anzac Day game in New Zealand and pledge to have other teams play in New Zealand next year,” said George.
“Each club has a huge Kiwi presence so we invite everyone to try and play in New Zealand.
“I have spoken to other clubs about the possibility of bringing games here and they have been very helpful and considerate about it, but we need the NRL to help facilitate that [with the draw]. “
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Abdo, who earlier this year revealed the long-term vision for a second team in New Zealand, said the NRL is looking to help the Warriors and the game through the Tasman.
“New Zealand and our fans in New Zealand are extremely important to us,” Abdo said.
“First of all, our priority is to get the Warriors home safely. Then obviously relocating them home and building them a wonderful season, where they play 12 home games at Mt Smart Stadium, is next. goal.
“Beyond that, thinking about how we might bring more NRL games to New Zealand is always a consideration. It is a consideration from New Zealand’s perspective being a growing market.
“Besides rewarding fans who haven’t seen much of NRL for almost 18 months now, it’s also an opportunity – and we’ve seen other clubs embrace it – to play games in different markets. and parts of New Zealand.
“We’ll play our part to help facilitate that. We’re looking at a range of different things – double headers [and] play games in other parts of New Zealand. It remains a work in progress.
“Before COVID, we were already thinking about how we could bring more rugby league content to New Zealand.
“A good example of this would be thinking about how we play test matches more regularly in New Zealand as well, developing a round-trip concept with our trans-Tasman test matches.”
Meanwhile, George said the Warriors sold more than 15,000 tickets in 24 hours for their August 15 rematch against the Bulldogs at Mt Smart Stadium – an indication of the league’s appetite in Auckland.
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The Warriors were originally scheduled to return home next month and had held a farewell to thank the Central Coast community for their support in Sunday’s game against the Storm.
“We thought we were still going to celebrate our home away from home and invite as many people as possible to the stadium for a great day of soccer, and we paired that up with a fantastic entertainment package,” said George.
With the support the team have received over their two years at Gosford, it is likely that Sydney-based clubs will want to host games against the Warriors at Central Coast Stadium in the coming seasons.