Provincial North Island fans will have two chances to see the Vodafone Warriors prepare for their 2020 NRL campaign when they face the Melbourne Storm and Wests Tigers early next year.
In confirming the NRL trials today, Vodafone Warriors CEO Cameron George announced the club would return to Rotorua and Palmerston North for its preseason matches.
The Storm encounter has been set for Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North on Saturday, February 22 (5.00pm kick-off) while the Vodafone Warriors will face the Tigers at Rotorua International Stadium on Sunday, March 1 (2.00pm kick-off) to round out their preparation for the club’s 26th season.
“We love having the opportunity to travel to provincial areas whenever we can and we’re really excited we’re heading back to Palmerston North and Rotorua,” said George.
“We’ve enjoyed connecting with local fans there previously and we’re all looking forward to returning. Both areas have given us wonderful support in the past.”
It will be the third time the Vodafone Warriors have had a trial in the Manawatu region’s main centre.
“Our team at Central Energy Trust Arena is thrilled to be welcoming back the Vodafone Warriors, and hosting the Melbourne Storm franchise for the first time,” said John Lynch, venues manager at Venues and Events Palmerston North.
“This is another opportunity to showcase rugby league locally and further enhances the venue’s ability to host major, world-class events. It’s a real boost for our venue and the region alike.”
Rotorua has been a frequent destination for trials and preseason camps for the Vodafone Warriors over the last 10 years.
“It’s exciting to be able to showcase some of the world’s best players in our venue in front of our community,” said Rotorua Lakes Council sport development manager Steve Watene.
“We have a passionate local league scene and many of our players have gone on to age-group, national and professional representation.
“Partnerships is how we do things in Rotorua and our ongoing partnership with the Vodafone Warriors enables us to give the community access to high calibre games that might otherwise be out of reach for many children and families.
“We’ve got a proven record of manaakitanga and hosting great events in Rotorua and I know locals will turn out to support our New Zealand team and the locals who may feature in both sides.”
The March 1 hit-out against the Wests Tigers will be the Vodafone Warriors’ fifth trial in Rotorua featuring the fifth different opponent.
Their first was against the Sydney Roosters in 2010 when they won 26-8 while the other three also provided wins over Parramatta (24-4) in 2011, Penrith (18-4) in 2015 and the Storm (20-14) in 2018.
The 2020 trial in Palmerston North will be the club’s third there after meeting Gold Coast in 2017 and Central Districts ahead of the debut campaign in 1995.
The Vodafone Warriors also met Melbourne and the Tigers ahead of the 2018 season, beating the Storm 12-6 in Geelong and Wests Tigers 26-16 in Whangarei.
Tickets for both trial matches are expected to go on sale in early November.