NRL clubs target the New Zealand provinces
Rugby league fans outside Auckland can expect to see more NRL games in their backyards from next year, as a major push goes into increasing the reach of the sport in New Zealand.
A number of cities, including Dunedin, Wellington, Christchurch and Hamilton, are in line to host games, with Australian NRL clubs said to be lining up to bring potentially lucrative fixtures to New Zealand crowds.
The NRL's commercial boss, Paul Kind, visited Auckland recently to speak with the Warriors about where they were likely to play future games, but also continued ongoing discussions with venue management throughout the country.
Kind, speaking to Fairfax Media last week, said it was likely that New Zealand fans would get the chance to see games spread throughout the country from as early as next season following a successful start to the year for league in this country.
Already this season, Eden Park has hosted all 16 clubs for the NRL Auckland Nines; Wellington, Dunedin and Whangarei will host games for the Four Nations in November, and regular-season NRL games will have been played in Auckland, Wellington and Hamilton by the end of the year.
This afternoon, the Bulldogs will host the Warriors in Hamilton.
"There is certainly interest from Australian-based clubs to play matches in New Zealand," Kind said. "We would work with our clubs and then with the respective cities - whether that be Dunedin or a Christchurch or a Wellington.
"It's an indication of our game's intent to spread across New Zealand."
Kind said the NRL was "certainly prepared to play major games as well as club games outside of Auckland".
"It's healthy for the game - it's certainly healthy for the Warriors and the New Zealand Rugby League if we play games across the country."
Cities such as Wellington and Dunedin had already proven their worth to league, he said.