Game day interest is booming as the Vodafone Warriors prepare to mark their first home game of the 2018 season against Gold Coast with a St Patrick’s Day celebration at Mount Smart Stadium tomorrow (kick-off: 5.00pm; match day sponsor: Suzuki).
While the NRL team went about its preparation with its final training run this afternoon, off the field all the trimmings were being put in place for what has become one of the most-anticipated early-season game days in the club’s history.
An Irish bar – the Simon O’Manner Inn – has popped up in the newly-named Entertainment Precinct behind the dead-ball line at the northern end of the ground while the Members’ Clubrooms will have a temporary home outside the club’s offices for the first two home games.
Coming off the breakthrough 32-20 win over South Sydney in Perth – the first in 10 attempts in Western Australia – the Vodafone Warriors have this week experienced levels of interest not seen for the first Mount Smart Stadium outing of a season since 2009.
Following the club’s 2008 NRL finals campaign and the Kiwis’ historic Rugby League World Cup title win, rugby league fever was in full force with Vodafone Warriors memberships booming and a crowd of 20,102 on hand to see the 26-18 first-round win over Parramatta at Mount Smart.
While the club experienced huge crowds when it switched to Eden Park for opening homes games in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – all 32,000 plus – attendances for early-season games at Mount Smart Stadium have been modest.
However, a special offer combined with the victory over the Rabbitohs has resulted in a rush on tickets this week.
Adult tickets were marketed at just $15.00 with $5.00 from each ticket sold being donated to the New Zealand Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund for victims of Cyclone Gita. The offer was originally available only until midnight today (Friday) but the deadline has now been extended to midday tomorrow (Saturday).
By this evening the East and West Stands were all but completely sold out. Tickets are still available in the South Stand with ticket sales pointing to a predicted crowd in the 18,000 range. It would mean around $25,000 would be raised for the Disaster Relief Fund.
There has also been a corresponding lift in membership sales this week with the total number of members now up to almost 13,500.
The opening home game day of the year is built around three games after gates open at 12.30pm. First up at 12.35pm is the Jersey Flegg Cup contest between the Vodafone Junior Warriors and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs followed by the same two clubs lining up in the Intrust Super Premiership at 2.45pm ahead of the feature game between the Vodafone Warriors and the Titans.
In terms of game day activities, another St Patrick’s Day feature apart from the Simon O’Manner Inn will be a performance by members from the Doyle Academy of Irish Dance. It might also be a day for green wigs for those of Irish persuasion while Flava will be outside the gates handing out green leis.
Other game day features:
- The Harvey Norman Community Warriors will have plenty of activities going on including the passing wall, face painters, bin pong, a photo activation with an Irish theme and JP the Clown.
- ACC Big Warm-up.
- Canterbury of New Zealand T-shirt Cannon.
- SKYCITY seats.
- Dance Cam.
- Merchandise offer: Spend more than $150 and receive a free Classic Basketball Trucker Cap.
- Drums of the Pacific (boosted to 10 drummers this year).
- New-look Tiki the mascot.
- Suzuki ‘Pot of Gold’ halftime activation.
- Let’s Play Live hot laps eSports simulators.
- Coca-Cola Happiness Truck.
- Pacific Rim Uprising virtual reality experience including ticket giveaways.
- Mini mod games: Te Atatu Roosters under-10s v Howick Hornets under-10s.
- Food trucks (Black Stag Deli, Taco Loco, Pita Pit, White Lady, Karena Coffee).
- NRL coin toss.