Napier Courier

Brisbane Broncos to clash with Warriors in Napier NRL match

- Doug Laing

Napier has scored a biggie with the announceme­nt that NRL drawcards the Brisbane Broncos will play the New Zealand Warriors in an NRL rugby league match at McLean Park on May 27 next year.

The Round 13 match, in a competitio­n starting on the first weekend of March, was confirmed in the draw released on Thursday, 10 weeks after it had been announced that Hawke’s Bay would finally get a Warriors game.

The Broncos — who were the opposition in the Warriors’ NRL debut in 1995 — is one of eight sides the Warriors will play only once in 2023, and there could be extra needle in the match with fullback Reece Walsh having transferre­d from the Warriors to the Brisbane club.

McLean Park has previously hosted one NRL game, in 2015, when Melbourne Storm brought a home game against St George Illawarra to Napier to avoid a clash with major events in Melbourne. Hawke’s Bay has also, over the last 30 years, had NRL sides Manly Sea Eagles and Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs play pre-season matches, both in Hastings.

But it’s a first for the Auckland-based NZ Warriors and the Broncos.

The latter have been around since just 1988 when the side was added to what was the New South Wales rugby league premiershi­p amid expansion into Queensland by Victoria-based Australian Rules football.

The Broncos have won the title six times. and while only ninth this year — missing out on a place in the top eight, as did the Warriors — they managed an average home attendance of almost 29,600. A regular crowd-puller at the Warriors’ home ground Mt Smart in Auckland, the Broncos’ Napier match — with Covid restrictio­ns having dominated in the last three seasons — will be the maroons’ first in New Zealand since May 2019, when the crowd at Mt Smart numbered 17,495.

The NRL on Thursday posted views of the best “road trips” in the 2023 competitio­n, including the Napier game as the pick of Round 13.

“It will also be the first time the Warriors have played at the venue, in an exciting outcome for fans of both teams in the North Island. With a crowd capacity of around 20,000 this match will be a homegameno­t to be missed,” the NRL said.

 ?? ?? Reece Walsh
Reece Walsh

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