Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Warriors may legal Eagles

The addition of a second Eagles concert makes a round three home game problematic. Photo / AP
The addition of a second Eagles concert makes a round three home game problematic. Photo / AP

The Warriors could be homeless for the first month of next season.

They might not play in Auckland until round four of 2015, and their plans for a 20th-anniversary blockbuster game to kick off next season are in jeopardy due to an ongoing dispute with Auckland Council over the Eagles concert next March.

The club had been considering legal action over the concert clash - and remain concerned about the "serious disruption" the event could cause to their early season.

The recent addition of a second Eagles concert makes a round three home game - the Warriors' preferred option now that round two is impossible - problematic.

The club had planned a re-enactment of their inaugural game to kick off next season at home, to commemorate the spectacular occasion in 1995 when more than 29,000 fans saw the Broncos win a nine-try thriller on a night that also featured army cannons, explosions and hundreds of performers.

It's unlikely to happen in round one. With Wayne Bennett returning to his former club, the NRL and broadcasters will be keen to kick off the season in Brisbane to capitalise on the hype and interest.

Round three is also improbable as the additional Eagles concert on March 15 means the stadium will not be restored to a football arena until well into the following week and there are concerns about the impact on the playing surface.

"We are in a bind," Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said. "We are still waiting for a response from the RFA (Regional Facilities Auckland) and it's an issue we haven't encountered before. We had made plans and it's going to cause serious disruption to the start of our season."

The Warriors claim they were not told about the concert before the booking was taken, contravening their scheduling rights as principal tenant during the NRL season. It's believed the club and NRL were not informed of the concert booking until a week before the advertising and publicity was unveiled.

"I'm scratching my head that we could be in this situation - I find it extraordinary," Warriors co-owner Eric Watson told the Herald on Sunday in June. "I'm hoping there is some rational explanation along the way but we need to work out what the options are for the club."

Around the same time Warriors chairman Bill Wavish said: "It's a very serious breach of contract and it is going to take some time to resolve."

RFA director of stadium management Paul Nisbet wouldn't comment on the sequence of events but said, "in essence the Warriors have had up to 10 months' notice of those concerts happening at Mt Smart".

Nisbet also claims the venue could be turned around for a third-round match but Scurrah is sceptical.

"Look at it another way - if there was an All Blacks test a week after two Eagles concerts, would people be concerned?"

The situation is less than ideal from a football point of view. Eden Park is unavailable at the same time because of the Cricket World Cup, which means the team could face a log-jam of fixtures across the Tasman.

They traditionally try to avoid too many games in Australia in March, as they often struggle with the heat, and it's also not optimal to be travelling a lot in the first few weeks of the season, as the players are less conditioned and there can be issues around recovery.

It has shown in results. Since 2007, the Warriors have won only four matches (of 13) across the Tasman during the first month of the season, compared to eight victories (from 13) at Mt Smart.

- Herald on Sunday

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