Canes-Phoenix double-bill a possibility

MARK GEENTY
Last updated 17:19 12/11/2012

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A Hurricanes-Phoenix double-header at Westpac Stadium could become a reality after Gareth Morgan's investment in Wellington sport stepped up a notch today.

Welnix Limited, owners of the Phoenix in the A-League, were confirmed as 12.5 per cent shareholders in the Hurricanes under the new partnership announced today at the Super Rugby franchise's base in Newtown.

The Wellington Rugby Football Union will own 50 per cent, with the other half split between private shareholders. The licence is for the next three years, with an option of a five-year extension.

Morgan, one of nine members of the Welnix group, saw rugby and football working together rather than competing against each other.

One idea that appealed to him was the Phoenix and Hurricanes playing a big ticket double header on the same day during the brief season crossover in February-March, perhaps as early as 2014.

"Absolutely not impossible. That would be fun, wouldn't it? Who do you think is going to be the main event? We'll have that conversation another time.''

Morgan saw many ''synergies'' between the two codes, including sponsorship, ticketing and season passes. They could also share sports science and medical expertise and potentially the same training base.

"Ultimately, with the support of council, we hope to develop a high performance unit capable of supporting multiple sporting codes in Wellington,'' Morgan said.

Welnix stepped in to save the Phoenix ownership from potentially falling into Australian hands, and they were also motivated to ensure the Hurricanes' base remained in Wellington.

"We're doing this for the Wellington region. These things are not massive earners and will never be massive earners. But it's really important to get them on a sustainable financial footing so there's certainty amongst the players and the guys in the admin. To do that we have to bulk up and share resources.''

The new Hurricanes board will be chaired by NZ Post Group chief executive Brian Roche, who was chairman of Rugby NZ 2011 Ltd. Morgan and two other private owners, Paul Collins and Liz Dawson, will sit on the board along with three representatives from the WRFU: Tony Duffin, Garry Poole and Iain Potter.

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- The Dominion Post

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