League: Warriors eye Dubai game

By Michael Burgess

Thomas Leuluai and the Warriors played in Perth a week ago; they could have a game in Dubai in 2015. Photo / Getty Images
Thomas Leuluai and the Warriors played in Perth a week ago; they could have a game in Dubai in 2015. Photo / Getty Images

The Warriors are investigating the possibility of staging a match in Dubai.

They went to Perth last week, ventured down to Wellington earlier this year and are now looking at a match in the United Arab Emirates, most likely a pre-season game against English Super League club Wigan.

The club was approached by a Dubai-based Australian entre-preneur who has been involved with motor racing and other sporting events in the Emirates. Senior club officials met the Australian in England and chief executive Wayne Scurrah visited Dubai for a follow-up meeting. The entrepreneur has since been in Auckland for further discussions.

While talks have only reached a preliminary stage, the club see some merit in the idea, particularly for a pre-season match.

Pre-season games in England have also been on the agenda but the distance is the major handicap - to make the trip worthwhile it is likely two matches would have to be played. Playing a game in the Middle East would be a halfway point for both parties.

It would be seen as a chance to increase merchandise sales, grow the brand and strengthen the relationship with the English club. It could also be seen as an adventure for players and supporters, away from the usual confines of Australasia.

It wouldn't be the first time for such a venture by the NRL either - in 2008 South Sydney played the Leeds Rhinos in Florida while a controversial fourth State of Origin match was held in California in 1987.

Dubai hosted AFL clubs Collingwood and Adelaide for a pre-season fixture in 2008 and Collingwood president Eddie McGuire has been lobbying for a round one game next year to be played there.

Rugby league has a presence in the UAE, with the first season of a domestic competition recently completed. Former Samoan great and St Helens forward Apollo Perelini runs his rugby skills academy in Dubai and is coach of the UAE's under-18 team.

Meanwhile, the Warriors have confirmed the signing of Leeds forwards Jordan Baldwinson and Mason Tonks.

The duo, both 18, are part of a "new direction in their recruitment strategy", according to the club.

"We're seeing more and more evidence of players from Super League clubs having success in the NRL," said Warriors general manager, football operations, Dean Bell. "Adrian Morley, Gareth Ellis and Sam Burgess have led the way while South Sydney is doing a great job developing the other Burgess boys into NRL players as well."

"They're two young boys with big reputations and I'm sure they're going to make a real difference to our squad,"said.junior recruitment and pathways coach Stacey Jones, who will take over the NYC team next season.

"We're committed to developing New Zealand players but we're also keen to have the best players in our system wherever they come from."

Baldwinson, 1.88m and 101kg, has been in the Leeds system since 2007. The prop made his Super League debut this year and captained the England Under-18s against France.

Second rower Tonks (1.88m, 100kg) played for the Leeds under-20 side last season and has been involved with the first team squad this year.

It is an interesting initiative, but will raise some eyebrows; given New Zealand's (and Auckland in particular) stocks of promising young forwards in both rugby codes, bringing some from England feels a bit like taking coal to Newcastle or exporting sushi to Japan.

- Herald on Sunday

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