The New Zealand Warriors will break new ground by opening their 2011 NRL campaign against glamour side Parramatta at Eden Park.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah made that announcement today with the match taking place in the first round of the season on the weekend of March 11-14.
The newly refurbished ground played host to rugby's rival code earlier this month in an international double header featuring the Kiwis playing the Kangaroos.
The game attracted more than 44,000 people but Australia's 34-20 victory over New Zealand was overshadowed by crowd problems when bottles were thrown onto the ground.
Scurrah said the first-ever NRL game at the country's biggest stadium - the main base for Rugby World Cup 2011 - represented a landmark achievement for the NRL, the Warriors and the new Auckland Super City.
Eden Park CEO David Kennedy is excited about the opportunity the Warriors-Parramatta clash provides to continue to expand use of the newly redeveloped stadium beyond its rugby and cricket roots.
"We are confident that Eden Park can provide an enjoyable environment for the Vodafone Warriors' fans as we look forward to welcoming the Warriors for the first time," he said.
"We hope it is just the beginning of an ongoing relationship with the NRL."
The Warriors' 2010 NYC premiership-winning side will take on the Eels in the curtain-raiser while the Ivan Cleary-coached Warriors, NRL finalists this year, will meet an Eels side now coached by Stephen Kearney.
Kearney has just guided the Kiwis to Four Nations glory against the Kangaroos after also leading them to victory in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup final.
The match-up with the Eels will bring together many of the NRL's biggest stars as well as giving new coach Kearney his debut in charge of an NRL side.
His squad includes Jarryd Hayne, Timana Tahu, Nathan Hindmarsh, Fuifui Moimoi and Luke Burt while those in contention to play for the Warriors will include former Eels players Feleti Mateo and Krisnan Inu.
"We're absolutely thrilled to have the chance to take our NRL and NYC sides to a big stadium like Eden Park with a capacity for a crowd of 50,000," said Scurrah.
"With all the work that has gone into it for Rugby World Cup 2011, Eden Park is now clearly New Zealand's premier venue.
"We've been working hard with all parties concerned to confirm what will be a huge day for the Vodafone Warriors, the NRL and the region and, over the next few weeks, we will be announcing some very exciting initiatives about the game.
"Rugby league in New Zealand is enjoying exceptional success right now. The Vodafone Warriors have come off one of the most successful seasons in the club's history, winning the NYC premiership, making the NRL finals and winning the NRL's overall Club Championship for the first time.
"As well as that, we've just seen the Kiwis win the Four Nations after also taking the World Cup off Australia two years ago and also drawing a crowd of almost 45,000 at Eden Park recently."
It will be the first time since entering the Australian competition that the club has played an official home game away from its base at Mount Smart Stadium.
"While we are not playing this round at Mount Smart Stadium, our valued Vodafone Warriors corporate and public members will be guaranteed facilities and seats at Eden Park of at least similar quality to the ones they have at Mount Smart and their attendance for the Eden Park match is included in their membership fees," said Scurrah.
"Our remaining 11 home games in the regular season will all be at Mount Smart but this venture is exciting for everyone involved with the club. Many of us were at Eden Park for the Kiwis' match against the Kangaroos and were very impressed with the facilities.
"We remain very committed to retaining Mt Smart Stadium as our home venue but see the Eden Park season opener as a fantastic way to give our members a unique and historic experience; and to also attract new fans to Vodafone Warriors matches."
- Herald online