Warriors’ double-header on the road?
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.’’