Warriors take regular season game to capital

BEN STANLEY
Last updated 11:28 09/12/2012
Shaun Johnson
Getty Images
SHOW ON THE ROAD: Shaun Johnson and the Warriors will play a regular season game in Wellington next year.

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The Warriors are heading to Wellington.

The Mt Smart-based NRL team will play their round nine NRL encounter against the Bulldogs on May 11 next season at Westpac Stadium - marking the first time the Warriors have hosted a first- grade game out of Auckland.

Between 2001 and 2004, the Warriors played five games against the Bulldogs and Raiders, losing four and drawing one. However, these matches were all technically home games for the visiting Australian clubs - making the clash an historic one.

Since the release of the NRL draw last month, the Warriors have said they were looking at different potential venues for the match - with Hamilton's Waikato Stadium, Christchurch's AMI Stadium and Dunedin's Forysth-Barr Stadium all considered.

But Wellington has been given the nod, and Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the clash against the Bulldogs, this season's beaten finalists, will be a "landmark game".

"It's hugely exciting for us and fitting as well that this landmark event in our history will take place in the nation's capital and at one of the best venues in New Zealand," Scurrah said. "We know there's big interest in the Warriors and rugby league not only in and around Wellington but in the surrounding regions like Taranaki, Manawatu, Horowhenua, Wanganui, Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay, as well as Nelson and Marlborough across the Cook Strait."

The match will mark a home- coming for Wellington-born prop Ben Matulino and hooker Alehana Mara, while skipper Simon Mannering was living in Wellington when signed by the Warriors.

Paul Kind, the NRL director commercial and marketing manager, said the move to Wellington shows how the NRL is spreading on both sides of the Tasman.

"We already had games scheduled in Cairns, Mudgee, Mackay, Perth and Darwin and now we can add Wellington," he said.

New Warriors head coach Matt Elliott said he looking forward to returning to Wellington for what will be his second experience.

"I was there with Canberra in 2003 when we took our game to Wellington to take on the Warriors," he said. "I have great memories of the visit, too. We spent quite a few days there and I've never forgotten how well the people in Wellington looked after us.

"They were awesome then so it's going to be terrific going back this time with us being the home team there for the first time." Elliott's Raiders beat the Warriors 18-10 that day, with Kiwis legend Ruben Wiki, now the club's new strength and conditioning coach, scoring the winning try that night.

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