What a big week for sport

By Cameron Leslie

Northland sports fans are in for what could be the region's biggest week of sport in many years, and all for around $70.

In a rare turn of events, top-class live sport is coming to us. And, the price isn't even that bad, thanks to a number of free events.

Whangarei District Council venues and events manager John Lynch said it was no accident that Northlanders have the chance to watch world-class players do what they do.

"That's the exact purpose of having these stadiums," said Lynch. "It brings people into town, whether they be following the England team or part of the media, and they spend money.

"It's good for the local economy, everything from dairies, fast food joints and petrol stations. Some people don't appreciate the effects bringing these events to our town has for the economy."

And the pros for Whangarei hosting the English cricket team, Northern Mystics and the Waratahs all in one week don't stop there. This week's Twenty20s will not only be broadcast live on Sky Sport, but also on British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB).

Lynch said by having the Twenty20s broadcast to such an audience, it opened up opportunities for internationals to see part of our district and hopefully attract them to Northland.

"We're constantly working on putting Whangarei out there to all sorts of organisations to try put Whangarei on the market and bring people up here," said Lynch. "Hopefully sending them away impressed with our district or city so they'll come back."

Lynch said he was working on a Whangarei event strategy which aimed to build the events industry in Northland.

Besides the Twenty20s being broadcast to a massive international audience, Jonathan Creek and QI TV star, and cricket nut, Alan Davies planned his Life is Pain comedy tour to stop off in Whangarei just so he could check out some cricket.

"Whangarei is my only day off so the main reason is cricket," Davies told the Advocate in October. "I said to my agent that there must be somewhere up there for me to play because I wanted to watch the T20."

Northland's ultimate sporting week started yesterday with the 2013 Hyundai Tour bringing their surfers to Sandy Bay as part of a three-day contest, where local surfer Wini Paul hopes to defend her longboard title from last year.

Although the forecast for the weekend isn't great - overcast with north easterlies and a high of 23 - it's still a free event with not only some of Northland's top surfers competing, but also some of New Zealand's.

Also on offer over the weekend is a chance to check out the English cricket team in two training session open to the public, one today and one tomorrow. See the Sports Guide for info.

Northland Cricket boss Gary Bell said the two T20 games were heading for sellouts. While the games would screen live on television, particular interest had arisen from English supporters, including the Barmy Army, and many were expected before the test matches being played in New Zealand and could head north. If that was the case there was a danger English fans would outnumber Kiwi fans.

Bell said the Jovial House of Ale would be the official home bar for the English in Whangarei and he added the English team might be the strongest seen in Whangarei.

Bell asked that the Northland public get organised and buy tickets to the Cobham Oval's two T20 warm-ups next week, saying buying tickets online will save a lot of mucking around on game-day.

To buy tickets to next week's T20 warm-up games, visit http://premier.ticketek.co.nz

Next up sees the Northern Mystics coming to Whangarei for an open training session at ASB Stadium, followed by an autograph session, from 4.15pm to 6.15pm.

Lastly, the Blues will look to kick-start their season on February 9 as the Waratahs come to Toll Stadium with new star signing, Israel Folau, in tow.

Tickets for the match can be purchased from the Northland Rugby Union's office on Okara Drive with grandstand tickets costing $20 for adults and $10 for children. General admission tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for children.

- Northern Advocate

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