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Warriors to play 2012 season opener at Eden Park

The Vodafone Warriors will start their 2012 campaign at Eden Park after being approached by the National Rugby League to return to the country's biggest stadium for the New Zealand leg of a blockbuster opening round to next year's competition.
Warriors to play 2012 season opener at Eden Park
by NRL

The Vodafone Warriors will start their 2012 campaign at Eden Park after being approached by the National Rugby League to return to the country's biggest stadium for the New Zealand leg of a blockbuster opening round to next year's competition.

The NRL has revealed plans to not only start the season a week earlier than usual but to also begin the opening round on a Thursday night (March 1) for the first time.

"As part of what will be a fantastic start to the season, the NRL indicated they wanted us to return to Eden Park for our first game," said Vodafone Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah.

"They were really impressed with the occasion, the facilities and the record crowd (of 38,412) when we started our 2011 season there against Parramatta this year.

"This will be another huge day for our Vodafone Warriors members and all other fans, even bigger than this year's occasion. As well as playing at the country's biggest stadium, it'll be Brian McClennan's first NRL game as our new head coach and we'll also be playing in our new strip produced by Canterbury of New Zealand."

National Rugby League CEO David Gallop said the Vodafone Warriors' historic 'home' game at Eden Park this year convinced the NRL there was a real opportunity to use the venue more often.

"It was an outstanding success taking an NRL game to Eden Park for the first time this year and it has certainly shown the value of using big stadiums for big events," he said.

"We encourage clubs to look for opportunities to increase attendances and to give their members access to the best possible facilities. By going to Eden Park, the Warriors are certainly looking to do just that.

"This presents the NRL to a much wider audience and it can only enhance the club's profile."

Scurrah said it would be some time before the opposition and exact date for the match would be known but he said the Vodafone Warriors were working with the NRL to secure one of the competition's top-ranked clubs.

"After the NRL's approach we have been in ongoing discussions with Regional Facilities Auckland and Eden Park," said Scurrah.

"We've been delighted with the way they've got in behind our plans for next year and really look forward to working with them again. They ensured this year's event was a huge success and we're confident it will be even better next year following the experience gained through other big events since, especially with Rugby World Cup 2011 coming up."

Eden Park chief executive David Kennedy said the stadium's management welcomed the chance to work with the Vodafone Warriors and the NRL again.

"From our viewpoint, it was an outstanding success having the Vodafone Warriors at Eden Park for the first time this year and we're delighted they're returning in 2012," he said.

In confirming the return to Eden Park, Scurrah said Mount Smart Stadium was still and would continue to be the Vodafone Warriors' home ground with the remaining home games in the 2012 Telstra Cup regular season being played there. He said 2012 annual membership packages, which go on sale on September 4, would incorporate the Eden Park match as well as the 11 games at Mount Smart Stadium.

"With crowds at Mount Smart Stadium averaging between 12,000 and 13,000, the attendance of 38,412 we had at Eden Park this year was really beneficial in giving a wider cross-section of the public the chance to see NRL football while also being critical for us financially."

Scurrah said Vodafone Warriors members could look forward to kick-starting the 2012 season in a spectacular way.

"The club is in great shape as we build towards the business end of the 2011 season, providing a brilliant base for the Eden Park game next year," he said.

"Our NRL side is pushing for a spot further up the table, the Vodafone Junior Warriors are on top of the NYC ladder and the Auckland Vulcans, featuring many of our players, are also doing well.

"It gives Vodafone Warriors members and all other fans so much to look forward to in the coming weeks and then for 2012."

With three rounds of the 2011 regular season to go, the Vodafone Warriors are lying sixth on the NRL ladder just two points behind fourth-placed North Queensland and one point adrift of fifth-placed St George Illawarra. They face both sides in their last two matches before the finals start, giving them a chance to push for a spot further up the table.

The 2010 premiership-winning Vodafone Junior Warriors are four points clear at the top of the NYC ladder after second-placed Cronulla slumped to a 16-48 loss to Canterbury-Bankstown on Monday night. They'll secure the minor premiership if they beat Penrith this weekend.

The Vodafone Warriors are running second behind Melbourne in the overall Club Championship, a title they won for the first time last year.

The Auckland Vulcans are second on the New South Wales Cup's ladder and also have a chance to win their minor premiership. They can take top spot on points differential if they beat Canterbury-Bankstown this weekend.


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