Nelson now on horizon for Warriors
The New Zealand Warriors have all but signed a deal to play a pre-season National Rugby League game at Trafalgar Park in February 2015, while potentially holding a week-long camp in the region.
They could also be back in Nelson for the pre-season the following year.
The deal is likely to be finalised in the coming months after Mayor Aldo Miccio met senior management at the Warriors' base in Auckland on Thursday.
"It is absolutely on the cards," said Warriors' general manager Don Mann.
"These things take a while to put together, we will keep talking over the coming months, but there is certainly an appetite to lock in a pre-season game against an NRL opposition in Nelson in 2015."
Annually the Warriors play two pre-season trial games around the country. The team's other South Island trips have been to Greymouth, Christchurch, and this year to Dunedin, where 17,000 people turned out.
Mr Mann said when the Warriors travelled away from Auckland to play a pre-season game, they often extended the visit.
"At that time of year [Warriors coach] Matt Elliot is always looking for a pre-season camp, so it is a great opportunity to dovetail the annual camp and the pre-season game.
"Given all the attractions of Nelson, the waterways and walks, it seems like the perfect place that time of year to play football, but also get a pre-season camp under our belts."
Mr Mann said "Nelson wasn't immediately on the horizons" as a destination for the Warriors though the city was spoken about as Warriors' captain Simon Mannering is from the area and was educated at Nelson College.
Former Tasman Rugby League chairman Paul Lafotanoa had tried to get the Warriors to Nelson for some time, but the difference now was the move was led by the mayor and the council.
He said Mr Miccio's proactive approach had worked.
"It is not often a mayor from a regional town will come visit us in our office," Mr Mann said.
"He informed us of how progressive Nelson is in terms of the growth it is experiencing."
Mr Miccio, who funded the trip himself, said 2015 was now shaping as "a big year" for sport in the region with the Crusaders coming for a couple of matches, World Cup cricket, the Black Caps and now the Warriors. "And we want all of those teams to keep coming back."
Mr Miccio said events promoter and former Kiwis rugby league representative Dean Lonergan helped to broker the meeting with the Warriors.
Mr Miccio and Mr Lonergan met last month, prior to the opening of the new Victory Boxing Gym, to discuss plans to bring heavyweight boxer Joseph Parker to fight in Nelson.
A deal to have a Parker fight in Nelson is due to be finalised in the coming weeks.
- © Fairfax NZ News