The New Zealand Warriors have made two grand finals in ten years and their national side won the 2008 World Cup. So why are they still on struggle street across the ditch?
Most rugby league administrators would love to have the untapped markets the Warriors have at their fingertips. The list goes on with Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton and Dunedin barely touched by the Warriors or the New Zealand Rugby League.
Yet the Warriors are still considering a home game in Australia next season.
Forget the opportunities these cities offer for a moment. Consider the nirvana of young talent coming through the system at the Warriors. This is seriously just the tip of the iceberg if things are done right.
Everyone wants and expects NZRL and the Warriors to be juggernauts in the rugby league world.
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Chairman Damian Irvine spoke exclusively to FootySocial.
“The Warriors have an incredibly unique position. We talk in our game of “one team towns” and all of their advantages yet the same doesn’t seem to be driven as an advantage for the Warriors” Irvine said.
“The job for the Warriors has been made very difficult by the different ownerships over the years. However now they have a really sound administration, CEO and ownership I think most in the game, myself included, expect them to really start harnessing the massive catchments both in terms of on-field talent and customer base.”
Irvine added that Australia’s thirst for Islanders is eroding the game in New Zealand.
“Why we as a game would want to cannibalise the amazing natural talent in NZ and the islands by poaching every talented junior and turning them into Australians is beyond me” he said.
“Australia is strong enough to field three World Cup league sides we always hear, yet our admins over the past twenty years have constantly bent eligibility rules in order to suit ourselves.
“To the detriment of our sport not only in the island nations and New Zealand, but locally at international level also.”
Has the problem been inaction on the part of the Warriors and the NZRL?
Or does the problem stem from almighty Australia?
Irvine believes it’s the latter.
“It’s not cool for a very powerful nation like ours, the most powerful, to keep picking the best kids from the playground just because we want to win easier. That isn’t the Australian way or the way we were brought up as a sporting nation” Irvine added.
“Stop picking New Zealanders, Fijians, Samoans and Tongans and any other nationalities for our national teams. If they are not getting picked they will soon play for their own nation and hopefully want to prove something
“Thus creating very strong, interesting, broadcastable international Rugby League. Provincial and International union is ripe for the taking at present. We should be better positioned to make a huge play for their market than we are.”
Like all of us, Irvine is speaking as a rugby league fan only wanting the best for the game in New Zealand and around the globe.