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New signing Tohu Harris is in line for an early taste of facing his old team when the Vodafone Warriors and 2017 premiership winner Melbourne headline a two-day ‘Festival of Rugby League’ with a trial in Rotorua in February next year.

And Ryan Hoffman, who has come full circle by rejoining the Storm for 2018, could take on his ex-Vodafone Warriors side after ending a three-year stint in Auckland.

The Rotorua Lakes Council and the Vodafone Warriors today jointly announced the trial had been confirmed for Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday, February 17 (3.00pm kick-off).

It will cap a programme including a regional nines tournament for the Peter McLeod Cup, a trophy named in honour of the long-serving former general manager for Events and Venues Rotorua, who passed away almost two years ago. McLeod was the driving force behind the bid which resulted in the Auckland Warriors being introduced to the then-Winfield Cup in 1995. 

Through their Harvey Norman Community Warriors programme, the Vodafone Warriors will also have a strong presence in the Geyser City leading up to game day when they’ll be out and about in the community. The feature of the activity will be a packed schedule of school visits.

“Having a trial in Rotorua is a great fit for the club as well as our members and fans,” said Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George.

“It’s an ideal chance to take the team to another centre and this time there’s the added attraction of having the premiers as our opponents, not to mention the possibility of Tohu (Harris) coming up against his former team-mates.

“We love the opportunity trials outside Auckland provide to meet fans and to connect with communities throughout the country.”

It will be the fourth time the Vodafone Warriors have had a trial in Rotorua.

“It’s always exciting for us having the Vodafone Warriors in Rotorua,” said Crispian Stewart, operations and event development manager, Events and Venues Rotorua.

“They do a great job getting out and about in the community and once again our local players have the chance to be involved with the staging of the nines tournament for the Peter McLeod Cup. The final will be played before the NRL trial with Peter’s daughters presenting the trophy.”

In recent years the Vodafone Warriors have played trials in Palmerston North, Hamilton, Whangarei, Dunedin and Nelson.

Their first preseason clash in Rotorua was against the Sydney Roosters in 2010 when they won 26-8. In 2011 they beat Parramatta 24-4 at Rotorua International Stadium and returned in 2015 when they beat Penrith 18-4.

Vodafone Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney and his staff will have an opportunity to use some of the club’s new signings on February 17. As well as Harris, they have signed Kiwis Adam Blair, Gerard Beale, Peta Hiku and Harris plus Gold Coast’s Leivaha Pulu and Taupo-raised Matiu Love-Henry from Brisbane. Beale faces a lengthy stint on the sideline recovering from a broken leg he suffered in the Kiwis’ opening Rugby League World Cup match against Toa Samoa on October 28.

While Cooper Cronk and Harris have finished with the Storm, the Craig Bellamy-coached champion side will go into 2018 still boasting Kangaroos Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Jordan McLean, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi, Kiwis Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Kenny Bromwich and Jesse Bromwich, excitement machines Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr and new signings Hoffman and Sam Kasiano.   

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The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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