Rotorua could host NRL matches

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A huge crowd turned out to watch the rugby league match between the Vodafone Warriors and the Penrith Panthers at Rotorua International Stadium. PHOTO/FILE
A huge crowd turned out to watch the rugby league match between the Vodafone Warriors and the Penrith Panthers at Rotorua International Stadium. PHOTO/FILE

A bid for a second New Zealand NRL team has taken another positive step, with Rotorua indicating it could host matches if the South Pacific Cyclones are granted an NRL licence.

The bid by an Australian consortium was announced in November 2014.

The team would be based in Wellington and the aim would be to play half of their premiership home games in Wellington and other games elsewhere, including Rotorua.

Bid spokesperson, Sydney-based Robert Picone, has been keen to spread the game throughout New Zealand as much as possible and said the bid team had been in talks with Rotorua Lakes Council events staff for some time, resulting in an informal agreement that would include games at Rotorua International Stadium.

"The bid team is very proud to be able to come to an arrangement with Rotorua, which would bring top class rugby league to the Bay of Plenty on a yearly basis and for the long term.

"A recent trial match between the Penrith Panthers and the Warriors drew a very healthy crowd and with Rotorua being another home for our club, we would be committed to growing the game in the Bay of Plenty region, ensuring extensive community support," Mr Picone said.

Current NRL stars such as Dean Whare from the Panthers and Jared Warea-Hargreaves hail from the region and the Cyclones will be looking to the region to produce stars of the future.

The region has also been a breeding ground for some great All Blacks such as Buck Shelford and Liam Messam.

It is hoped the South Pacific Cyclones will be included in the NRL competition from 2018.

Rotorua Lakes Council events and venues operations and event development manager Crispian Stewart said no formal agreement had been reached.

"We have registered our interest and there is an option for Rotorua to host games at the International Stadium if the bid is successful," Mr Stewart said.

Council events staff have been in discussions with the bid team since 2014.

"There's a good rugby league following in Rotorua and surrounding districts so we believe this would be a good fit for us. We are always looking for opportunities to attract major events to Rotorua," Mr Stewart said.

"However, a decision about the proposed franchise has yet to be made so we're not able to finalise or confirm details at this stage.

"We'll continue our discussions with the bid team and await the outcome of a decision about the proposed franchise before formalising Rotorua's potential involvement," Mr Stewart said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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