Wellington gets behind the NZ Warriors
Players make new fans ahead of clashSAM WORTHINGTON
The Warriors are expecting another healthy crowd of 20-25,000 as the NRL returns to Wellington on Saturday.
A bumper Westpac Stadium crowd of 30,112 watched the Bulldogs beat the Warriors 24-16 last year - a record attendance for a league game in Wellington.
By yesterday afternoon more than 16,000 tickets had been sold for Saturday's clash with the in-form Wests Tigers.
The Warriors' playing squad doesn't arrive in the capital until tomorrow afternoon as they recover from the effects of last Saturday's 20-16 win over the Cowboys in Townsville.
So it was left to the advance party to help promote the game yesterday.
With the support of KidsCan, Warriors strength and conditioning coach Ruben Wiki, and injured players Kevin Locke and Sam Lousi, visited Naenae Intermediate School and handed out raincoats to each of the 350 students.
Flying fullback Locke was predictably the most popular but Kiwis legend Wiki and hulking forward Lousi also got their share of attention in between songs and a Q and A session.
"Naenae is right behind us, look at them," said Wiki as he was mobbed by delighted pupils.
"It's good to bring the game down to Wellington and get the game around the country. There's a lot of hardy league people down here and no doubt they'll come out in force on Saturday.
"The boys are pretty ecstatic to get the first win but we know we need to get better. There is a lot of improvement so hopefully we can rectify our mistakes from the game in Townsville."
After finishing 15th of 16 teams last year, the Tigers are high on confidence after winning their past two games, including last Friday's 25-16 upset of South Sydney.
In the past the Tigers have been known for the backline tricks of Benji Marshall and co but Wiki has been impressed by their forwards this year.
"They've got a pretty physical pack. The games are won and lost in the middle and they really took it to the Rabbitohs, who have got a pretty formidable forward pack.
"So they answered their critics, the Tigers, and got the job done. Robbie Farah is pretty dangerous around the ruck as well."
Tigers captain Farah will be given till game day to prove his fitness after sitting out training yesterday with a calf strain.
Known for brutal and fearless play during his illustrious 16-year career, Wiki also weighed in on the concussion debate yesterday.
Wiki said he'd suffered several concussions throughout his career but "nothing major" and had not suffered lingering effects in retirement.
He said the NRL was much improved in educating and protecting players.
"Over the years you've seen guys with concussion stay on the field. But this year they've put their foot down and any signs of concussion, the player comes off and gets assessed by the doctor. That's how it should be.
"It's all about player safety and you can't take a player back on the field if he can't remember what day it is. They're doing a great job, the NRL, and all the clubs are behind it."
The game kicks off at 5pm Saturday.
- Fairfax Media
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