Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

NRL: Warriors fan zones at Mt Smart and wharf

Warriors fans gather to welcome home the team at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Getty Images
Warriors fans gather to welcome home the team at Auckland International Airport. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors fans who are unable to make the trip to Sydney for the NRL grand final will be able to watch Sunday's match on giant screens at Mt Smart Stadium and Captain Cook Wharf in Auckland.

The Auckland Council decided yesterday that the stadium - nicknamed "the Fortress" by Warriors fans - and the wharf in downtown Auckland will be turned into fan zones so supporters can watch the action in a crowd atmosphere.

At the weekend, it was unclear if any Rugby World Cup venues could be used for Warriors fans because of a contractual ban on rival sporting codes using Queens and Captain Cook Wharves.

Prime Minister John Key said he was pleased at the co-operative approach taken by the International Rugby Board, Rugby World Cup 2011 and the Auckland Council to cater for rugby union and league fans on Sunday.

League fans will be able to watch three finals - the NSW Cup between the Auckland Vulcans and the Bulldogs; the Toyota Cup between the Junior Warriors and the Cowboys; and the NRL grand final between the Vodafone Warriors and Manly - on two giant screens at Mt Smart.

Those wanting to watch the All Blacks v Canada match on Sunday afternoon and the Warriors in the evening will be able to do so at Captain Cook Wharf.

The other two Rugby World Cup matches on Sunday - Wales v Fiji and Ireland v Italy - will not be shown on screens at the wharf as the NRL final cuts across both matches.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown said last night: "Providing two fan zones is another example of our responsiveness to the community and a testament to the speed at which we can create events for residents across Auckland.

"I hope to see Aucklanders out in force supporting the Vodafone Warriors this Sunday.

"No matter where you choose to watch, the message is the same: 'Go the Warriors.' "

For fans wanting to go to Sydney, Air New Zealand is laying on a second charter flight with 300 seats on Grabaseat from 9am today. The first planeload sold out in under an hour on Sunday, Grabaseat manager Duane Perrott said.

Qantas also added additional flights and increased capacity out of Auckland for the final.

Meanwhile, the Warriors may have more support in Sydney than they realise.

Adrian Proszenko, sports writer for the Sydney Morning Herald, asked readers during a live blog who they would support in this weekend's grand finals - the New Zealand Warriors or Manly - and got a mixed response.

A recent online poll, taken before the semifinals, found the Warriors to be the most liked of the final four and Manly the most hated.

Praises are being sung of the Warriors by Australian media before of Sunday's game and it could well turn out to be a situation where Sydneysiders will be cheering for a team coming from across the Ditch.

"In some ways this is a dream grand final, because only in our wildest dreams could we have imagined the Warriors would be there," reporter Glenn Jackson wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The paper said the Warriors were now "seemingly unstoppable" after describing the the team's qualification as "unexpected".

Manly has been called everything from "Sea Evils" to "rich kids" and "whingers".

"You gotta hate them, it's in our culture," said Ryan Love, who supports the Wests Tigers.

Phil Rothfield, the sports editor of the Daily Telegraph, said if the Warriors beat Manly on Sunday it would "catapult the Kiwis past the Kangaroos for the first time in more than a century".

"They already hold the World Cup from 2008, the Four Nations trophy from last year, and now they're just 80 minutes away from the NRL trophy, the Toyota Cup and the NSW Cup."

- NZ Herald

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