In a move to grow rugby league in New Zealand and engage with fans further afield, the Vodafone Warriors have today announced a partnership with Westpac Stadium to play a home game in Wellington in each of the next two NRL seasons.
Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George said returning to the Capital is exciting not only for diehard fans from the region but also to provide a boost for the code in areas offering potential growth for both the club and the NRL.
"We are thrilled about playing in the Capital for the next two years and promoting the club away from our usual home base at Mount Smart Stadium, and we are really looking forward to engaging with the Wellington community," he said.
"It's great that the Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency, Wellington City Council and Westpac Stadium have come on board to partner with us to deliver what will be a hugely exciting and entertaining event for the Wellington region.
"Local communities across the country play a huge part in our future, developing players at grassroots level as well as growing the game of rugby league in New Zealand."
Wellington Mayor Justin Lester, who played rugby league growing up and has been to every Vodafone Warriors match played in Wellington so far, is excited about the two-year deal.
"There are huge numbers of Vodafone Warriors fans in Wellington. I am one of them and we are delighted we will be able to show our support at Westpac Stadium," he said.
"The last time the Vodafone Warriors visited in 2016, they finally beat the Bulldogs (for the first time in six attempts in Wellington) and we hope they can continue on a winning streak in Wellington. Back then they were the 'away' side but it will be nice to be able to call Wellington a home game for them."
Warrick Dent, Wellington Regional Economic Development Agency's General Manager Events and Experiences, said securing the Vodafone Warriors for the next two years was a boon for the entire Wellington region.
"Rugby league has a strong following and a proud history in this part of the country," he said.
"It will be great to see the trains packed with fans again on game day as they stream in to watch the Vodafone Warriors do battle."
Dent said previous Vodafone Warriors games in Wellington had been a big driver for visitors to the region with travelling fans accounting for between 20 to 40 per cent of all tickets sold.
Westpac Stadium Chief Executive Shane Harmon reinforced the value of Wellington hosting the Vodafone Warriors.
"We're delighted to secure a two-year deal with the club," he said. "This is a team that is going places and we very much wanted Wellington to be part of that journey.
"Westpac Stadium has regularly held NRL fixtures which are always well supported across the region. The four NRL games hosted in Wellington since 2013 have been the four highest attended games in New Zealand outside Auckland and we're hoping for a capacity crowd when the Vodafone Warriors return in 2019."
The Vodafone Warriors have played nine games in Wellington since 2001, six against Canterbury-Bankstown and one each against Canberra, Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra. Their first 'home' game at Westpac Stadium against the Bulldogs in 2013 drew a crowd of 30,112.
The date of next season's Vodafone Warriors match in Wellington will be known in November, when the 2019 NRL Premiership draw is released.