#HistoryHappens is the NRL’s 2016 catch cry and it’s certainly happening this week when the Vodafone Warriors take their 11th-round ‘home’ game against the Canberra Raiders to New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium.
All roads lead to New Plymouth as sports lovers from the Taranaki province and outlying regions prepare for Saturday night’s eagerly-anticipated encounter (7.30pm kick-off), the first regular season NRL match ever played there.
New Plymouth becomes only the second centre outside Auckland to host a Vodafone Warriors ‘home’ game (Wellington the first with consecutive matches in 2013, 2014 and 2015).
The Vodafone Warriors have already been seen in the province in recent weeks with Taranaki’s favourite son Issac Luke spending a day at home in Hawera and New Plymouth to promote the match (he was joined by the club’s managing director Jim Doyle for a number of media and promotional opportunities)
And two weeks ago, the popular Charlie Gubb visited New Plymouth to raise further awareness of the match when he made a memorable visit to Highlands Intermediate School, did some media work, dropped in at Yarrow Stadium, made a Vodafone in-store appearance and met TSB Bank staff.
Bringing the NRL to Taranaki is not only history in the making but it also underlines the Vodafone Warriors’ desire to give the club a distinct nationwide identity.
Until the start of the 2011 season, the Vodafone Warriors had never played a home game away from their beloved Mount Smart Stadium.
That season they hosted a scheduled home game at Eden Park for the first time and in 2013 they went a step further, taking one of their own games outside Auckland when they played Canterbury-Bankstown at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium.
So New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium becomes the Vodafone Warriors’ fourth ‘home’ venue for the May 21 encounter with Canberra.
It rounds out a hectic period which has seen the Vodafone Warriors criss-crossing the country and the Tasman Sea playing in Gosford on April 3 (Roosters), Auckland on April 9 (Sea Eagles), Wellington on April 16 (Bulldogs), Melbourne on April 25 (Storm), Auckland on May 1 (Dragons) and Christchurch last Saturday (Panthers).
“Taking the Vodafone Warriors to Taranaki and other areas around the country is hugely important for us as a club,” said Vodafone Warriors managing director Jim Doyle.
“It’s exciting for us to come to New Plymouth where we have the chance to connect with another community and give members and fans the chance to see the team up close.
“We want the Vodafone Warriors to be as accessible to as many people around the country as possible. We’re always looking at opportunities to promote the club in other centres.”
This season the Vodafone Warriors have travelled more extensively throughout New Zealand than they have in any other year in their existence.
As well as having regular season games at Mount Smart Stadium in Auckland, Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, Christchurch’s AMI Stadium and New Plymouth’s Yarrow Stadium they have also been on show at Eden Park in Auckland for the Downer NRL Auckland Nines as well as NRL trials against Gold Coast at Toll Stadium in Whangarei and St George Illawarra at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.