War­riors’ dou­ble-header on the road?

Sunday News - - LEAGUE - DAVID LONG

THE War­riors are con­sid­er­ing tak­ing a dou­ble-header game away from Mt Smart Sta­dium next year and play­ing it else­where in New Zealand.

This year, the War­riors held a joint fix­ture with Wests Tigers, where the Ivan Cleary-coached side played the Storm and the War­riors hosted the Cow­boys.

It was a huge suc­cess with Mt Smart Sta­dium sold out for the oc­ca­sion, but there has been in­ter­est from ci­ties around New Zealand to move the dou­ble­header else­where, as well as take a sin­gle game around the coun­try.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the War­riors have had 11 home games at Mt Smart Sta­dium and one of them some­where else, al­though this year they chose to have that 12th game in Auck­land and mar­ket it as the dou­ble-header.

Next sea­son is the first of a new deal with Re­gional Fa­cil­i­ties Auck­land, an arm of Auck­land Coun­cil, and the War­riors are com­mit­ted to play­ing only at least 10 games at Mt Smart Sta­dium, al­low­ing the club to play two home games else­where.

‘‘The new deal gives us an ex­tra game to take away,’’ War­riors CEO Cameron Ge­orge said. ‘‘So we’ve got the abil­ity to take a game away or we can con­firm another dou­ble-header at the sta­dium.

‘‘This year the deal was that we had to play 11 games at home, plus take one away, but that 12th game was the dou­ble-header. So we still have the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore one to play out­side of Auck­land if we wish to do so.’’

Given the suc­cess of this year’s dou­ble-header in Auck­land, it would seem sur­pris­ing to move away from hav­ing it at Mr Smart Sta­dium, but Ge­orge is weigh­ing up what the best mix is for the club’s fans in Auck­land and around the coun­try.

‘‘We’re still de­cid­ing on what best suits our model go­ing for­ward,’’ he said.

‘‘We want to en­sure we com­mit to our re­quire­ments at Mt Smart and whether we take a sin­gle game away, or we take a dou­ble-header away.

‘‘We’re still ex­plor­ing all op­tions and there is a lot of in­ter­est for var­i­ous rea­sons else­where in New Zealand.

‘‘We’re very open minded about what’s best for the game of rugby league in New Zealand and our fans.’’

When de­cid­ing where to place games, Ge­orge looks at whether other NRL clubs are look­ing at mov­ing any of their home games against the War­riors to a New Zealand city, as was the case this year with the Sea Ea­gles, who hosted the War­riors in Christchurch.

‘‘When teams want to play us in New Zealand, it’s a great re­sult for us be­cause it re­duces our travel and we’re play­ing in front of our fans,’’ Ge­orge said.

‘‘If other clubs do that in New Zealand, com­mon sense would pre­vail and you’d look out­side of that area, so you’re play­ing in front of more fans through­out the year.’’

Mean­while, Ge­orge eased con­cerns that Is­sac Luke’s shoul­der was a tick­ing time bomb.

Aus­tralian me­dia re­ported last week that the hooker had a se­ri­ous is­sue with his shoul­der, which he dis­lo­cated ear­lier in the sea­son, but he is re­fus­ing to have an op­er­a­tion.

‘‘We’re all aware that Is­sac has had trou­ble with his shoul­der this year and our staff and Is­sac are man­ag­ing it ac­cord­ingly,’’ Ge­orge said.

‘‘He’s play­ing well and our staff are all over it and we’re treat­ing it the best way pos­si­ble.’’

Ge­orge says they will al­ways put the play­ers’ in­ter­ests first.

‘‘You can look at our play­ers who’ve had ma­jor in­juries, we’ve al­ways taken the time to en­sure they’re looked af­ter,’’ he said.

‘‘Their wel­fare is paramount and of course his health comes first.’’

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