League stars turn out for Pike 29

By Jarrod Booker

Warriors skipper Simon Mannering (L), Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn and Newcastle Knights football manager Warren Smiles lay a wreath at the Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial near Greymouth. Photo / Simon Baker
Warriors skipper Simon Mannering (L), Grey District mayor Tony Kokshoorn and Newcastle Knights football manager Warren Smiles lay a wreath at the Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial near Greymouth. Photo / Simon Baker

The Warriors say they will be thinking of the 29 men who died in the Pike River Mine when they take the field for a rare rugby league outing on the West Coast against the visiting Newcastle Knights.

In an event dubbed the Miners' Solidarity Day, the Warriors will play the visiting Australian NRL club team tomorrow in a match to remember the victims of the November tragedy.

All proceeds from the match at Greymouth's tiny Wingham Park will go to the Pike River mining relief fund and to the West Coast Rugby League.

The Newcastle team, who arrived in Greymouth yesterday, offered to be involved because they come from an area where mining is also a lifeblood industry.

"Anything that we do isn't going to change what's already happened, and I'm sure there are a lot of people still doing it tough," said Vodafone Warriors captain Simon Mannering.

"It will be a day to remember those people that have lost their lives in the tragedy, and we'll definitely be thinking about them when we are playing on Saturday."

The West Coast has its own rich rugby league history, having produced a long list of New Zealand representatives.

Warriors assistant coach Tony Iro said the team wanted to lend their support to a rugby league stronghold.

"It's a good opportunity to hopefully spread a bit of cheer after what was probably a really hard Christmas for a lot of families."

And tomorrow will have special significance for two players taking part in Miners' Solidarity Day matches.

Alan Monk, who lost his brother Michael, and Kurt Dixon, who lost his father Allan, will play for the West Coast Invitation XIII against the Canterbury Bulls team as a curtainraiser.

"Personally, for me, I'll definitely be playing for Michael, but as a team in general, we are playing for the whole Coast," Mr Monk said.

Newcastle Knights spokesman and former Australian representative Matt Gidley said the club's own region had a "synergy" with the West Coast.

"And given the tragedy that occurred, we thought it would be fitting that we could come over and pay our respects and pass on our condolences to the community."

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn said it was extremely humbling to see the two high-profile teams visit the area and offer their support.

"This will be the biggest sporting event that has ever happened on the West Coast."

Up to 7000 people are expected at tomorrow's match, which will begin with a minute's silence.

- NZ Herald

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