NZ Warriors to open at Eden Park again in 2012

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 00:30 19/08/2011
Warriors at Eden Park
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax Media
PACKING 'EM IN: Warriors fans packed Eden Park, the traditional home of Auckland rugby, in March for their NRL season-opener against Parramatta, and will get to do so again in 2012.
Warriors at Eden Park
JASON OXENHAM/Fairfax Media
CODE CLASH: Warriors fans won't be able to watch their team in the fan zones set up around the country.

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The Warriors are heading back to Eden Park next year, announcing yesterday they would be hosting their season opener at the Rugby World Cup final stadium.

The Warriors were planning to hold their opener at Mt Smart Stadium, but the NRL, impressed with the success of the clash against the Eels at Eden Park in round one this year, approached the club saying they were keen to see another game at the home of Auckland rugby.

The match, which the Warriors lost 24 - 18, attracted 38,412 fans, enough to persuade the NRL its viability as a big time league venue, chief executive Wayne Scurrah said.

''We hadn't fully considered Eden Park but the NRL approached us wanting to do it as part of a blockbuster opening to the season next year,'' he said.

''What we're pleased with is the NRL's view of the success of the game and their desire for us to repeat it.''

The Warriors' opponents in the game will not be known until the NRL releases next year's draw, expected later this year.

The rest of the Warriors 2012 home games will be played at Mt Smart with 2012 annual membership packages, which go on sale on September 4, incorporating the Eden Park game.

Scurrah didn't rule out more Warriors games, and other league matches, taking place at Eden Park in the future.

''The more successful we can be the more opportunity there is for things like test matches, perhaps attracting other NRL teams to Auckland to play double headers and State of Origin,'' he said.

''I think it's pretty important in terms of the development of rugby league in Auckland and the country.''

NRL chief executive David Gallop said the Warriors' 'home' game at Eden Park this year convinced the NRL there was a real opportunity to use the venue more often.

''It was an outstanding success taking an NRL game to Eden Park for the first time this year and it has certainly shown the value of using big stadiums for big events,'' he said.

''This presents the NRL to a much wider audience and it can only enhance the club's profile.''

The Eden Park clash will serve as new coach Brian "Bluey" McClennan's first NRL game, while the side will also be wearing a new strip designed by Canterbury of New Zealand.

Next year's NRL season opens a week earlier than usual - a first - starting with the game tonight.

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