Pigs can fly and hell is freezing over. The New Zealand Warriors are on the verge of playing a home game in Australia next season.
Warriors Chief Executive Wayne Scurrah confirmed on Friday that his club would play ten games at Mount Smart Stadium and one at the much larger Eden Park.
But many are bewildered by the club’s intention to host a game across the ditch. Despite being the only NRL franchise in the country, the Warriors will look at Australian cities like Perth and Adelaide for possible venues.
It isn’t confirmed and still may not happen, but the fact that the Warriors are considering the move has shocked many fans.
“The NRL has indicated it wants to see a number of clubs’ games played away from traditional home grounds next year,” Scurrah said.
“With this in mind, we’re working with the NRL in assessing a number of options to play our 12th match at a venue either elsewhere in New Zealand or in Australia.
“A survey of our members earlier this year has also provided really positive support for us hosting a game outside Auckland. This will also provide them with an exciting opportunity for a new membership experience.
“Our home base is still Mount Smart Stadium with ten games scheduled there and, for the third season in a row, we will also play at Eden Park.”
Supporters have taken to social media in outrage with one fan calling it “insane”.
The negatives would far outweigh the positives if the move were to go ahead. The Warriors have been playing in the top flight since 1995 and have rarely shifted away from Auckland. Despite untapped, major markets like Christchurch and Wellington, the code still comes a very distant second to rugby union.
Taking a game away from New Zealand will only disenchant fans further.
Sydney clubs have shifted home games in the past for clashes with interstate sides. These moves are purely financial.
But the Sydney clubs don’t have a whole country at their feet.
“It’s going to be fantastic for everyone, especially Vodafone Warriors members, knowing the exact details of the draw for most of the season will be locked and loaded months in advance,” Scurrah added.
Not so fantastic for members if a game is shifted from their shores.
“We will work with Air New Zealand on special packages tailored for our members,” he said.
“In addition, the fixed scheduling next year provides an exciting opportunity for Auckland City to now promote visitation for games in the city. It’s especially attractive for our away members who can plan to come to games and help to boost attendances.”
It’s a strange old world.