NZ Warriors to play Wigan in Hamilton match
The Warriors will make two visits to Hamilton next season, with the club today announcing they will play Wigan in a pre-season match at Waikato Stadium next year.
The news comes hot on the heels of the announcement earlier this month that the Canterbury Bulldogs are bringing their home NRL fixture against the Warriors to Hamilton, to be played on May 18.
The "Clash of the Warriors" will take place on February 12 (7.30pm) kickoff, 10 days prior to the Wigan Warriors' World Club Challenge match against the Roosters at Sydney's Allianz Stadium. Super League champions Wigan were looking for a warm-up match, and this game will be their sole hitout.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said the opportunity to stage the fixture came about through the signing of English fullback Sam Tomkins, who, ironically, could play his first match for his new side, against his old side.
"In the negotiations with Sam Tomkins we started to form the opinion that there was a natural fit between the two Warriors teams," Scurrah said. "We've got a lot of history in the [Wigan] club, with a lot of players, including Dean Bell as our first ever captain. And we decided that we should pursue other opportunities.
"This is a fantastic joint venture opportunity for our two clubs and another sign of how we would like to continue to work together."
Wigan Warriors chairman Ian Lenagan said he was hugely appreciative of the opportunity to play against the Warriors.
"It's been 20 years since the challenge was played in Australia and we are doing all we can to be ready be for the contest," he said.
"Quite apart from the importance of the warm-up game, being able to bring the two Warriors clubs together like this for the first time is great, not just for us but for the fans and the game itself."
Scurrah said the choice to play in Hamilton was about spreading the team around the country, particularly with the inaugural NRL Nines tournament being staged at Eden Park on February 15-16.
"We love Waikato Stadium, and the council and the stadium crew have been excellent to work with in the past," Scurrah said. "And with the Bulldogs taking a home game there it'll whet the appetites of all Waikato and all surrounding districts' people."
The Wigan game will be the Warriors' second pre-season fixture.
They play the Gold Coast Titans at North Harbour Stadium on February 9, before the Wigan game, the Nines, then a match against the Brisbane Broncos in Dunedin on February 23, before their season opener against the Parramatta Eels in Sydney on March 9.
Warriors coach Matthew Elliott will juggle his squad among all those pre-season games but is yet to decide who will play when.
"We won't have a full squad back in training until January 13 so there's a long way to go yet before we make our decisions," he said.