David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

League: Eden Park among front-runners to host 2017 Rugby League World Cup final

Eden Park hosts the Nines this weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell
Eden Park hosts the Nines this weekend. Photo / Dean Purcell

Eden Park is among the frontrunners to host the 2017 Rugby League World Cup final with Auckland among six cities around New Zealand eager to accommodate tournament matches.

Michael Brown, chief executive of Rugby League World Cup 2017 - to be held across New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea between October 26 and December 2 - is hopeful that Eden Park will win hosting rights for the final for the first time since staging the 1988 tournament decider.

"I hope so. Eden Park is a pretty special place," said Brown.

"We've had a chance to speak with the Mayor [Len Brown], Ateed [Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development], last night and I've been very open in saying that this is a world class stadium. It's a fantastic place.

"Obviously there's a bid process in place, a match and team allocation process and that comes to its conclusion at the end of February and everybody, there's six cities in New Zealand and seven or eight in Australia.

"I've seen. over the last few days, an enthusiasm from New Zealand to get right behind the event.

"We've had a number of meetings with the NZRL, other meetings with NRL and there's a real connection now."

Andrea Nelson, newly appointed general manager of the New Zealand branch of tournament operations, is confident the New Zealand Rugby League and Australia's National Rugby League can work together to produce a world class tournament that improves upon the 2013 World Cup in England.

"The cricket World Cup showed how when you co-host an event with Australia you can still take your place and have a really unique identity and make it a really Kiwi event," said Nelson.

"My ambition is to try and create the same kind of experience at the Rugby League World Cup 2017.

"About six cities have put their name forward [to host games], and it's probably the people you would expect, with a good mix of big metropolitan centres and a few surprises in there.

"With the Kiwis playing at home and some really good high quality matches spread around the country, it's going to be a really significant event that might take a few Kiwis by surprise."

Less than two years out from the event, Nelson says promotions to raise the tournament's profile will start in earnest once the host cities have been determined.

"As soon as we've locked in the cities, we're likely to announce that in the middle of the year and then our promotional plan and community engagement will really kick in," she said.

"Everywhere we go we can see that people are really excited but once it becomes concrete and we can talk about venues, times, teams, that's when it will really come to life around the country."

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