Bulldogs to bring 'home' NRL match to Hamilton
The Canterbury Bulldogs will play a home NRL match in Hamilton next year.
While the opponent and date will be confirmed when the full competition draw is made public this afternoon, the club has confirmed to the Waikato Times that they will bring a 2014 regular season game to Waikato Stadium.
Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle said the decision to bring a home game across the Tasman was about growing the club's fan base.
"Obviously we have a huge amount of connection with New Zealand, not least of which is because I'm a Kiwi, but also we have six or seven [players] in our top 25 who are of Kiwi heritage," said the former Netball NZ boss, who started with the Bulldogs in July.
"So for them it's like coming home. We also have a huge supporter base in New Zealand so it's a great opportunity for us to bring that experience to New Zealand fans.
"And we think the stadium itself in Hamilton is fantastic and a full 25,000 crowd in there would be a fantastic outcome for us and we know they'd have a great experience."
The NRL have a desire to promote the game outside of just New South Wales and Queensland, and the Bulldogs will also be taking a game to Perth.
Ms Castle said that if the Hamilton game "works well" there was no reason why they couldn't hold further matches there.
This will be just the third NRL game played in Hamilton, after the Warriors-Parramatta Eels clashes in 2005 and 2006. There have also been three pre-season Warriors matches held there, in 2004, 2009 and this year.
News of the fixture comes just a day after the announcement that Waikato Stadium will host next year's third All Blacks versus England test, on June 21.
Hamilton City Council spokesman Murray Jeffrey, said getting a match of this calibre was a big coup.
"Having the Bulldogs - one of the NRL's top clubs with a strong Kiwi connection - play a home game in Hamilton is something very unique and special.
"It's an opportunity for the fans of the Bulldogs and NRL in general to see some of the highest level NRL action," Mr Jeffrey said.