New Zealand Warriors coaches Stacey Jones and Tony Iro are joining Silver Ferns captain Katrina Grant as chief guests at the first race of the 2018-19 calendar in Hastings next weekend.
The rugby league stalwarts' injection into the Tarzino Trophy Daffodil Raceday comes because of the affinity Vodafone-sponsored National Rugby League (NRL) franchise CEO Cameron George has with Hawke's Bay Racing counterpart Andrew Castles.
"I have very close relationship with Andrew Castles," says George. "It's an initiative he introduced a couple of years ago so it's gone from strength to strength so it's a credit to him and the club for supporting the local community in such a great cause."
The first leg of the Bostock Spring Racing Carnival trilogy is on Saturday next week.
Admission is a $5 donation with all the proceeds going to the Hawke's Bay Cancer Society when the gates open at 10.30am. The members' stand will cost $30.
The first race starts at 12.20pm and the last one is at 5pm in the nine-race group one meeting.
Proceeds from a charity auction, as well as the generosity of other parties, will support a charity that has touched the lives of many Bay families.
Between the races, The Hits free-family zone will offer children's entertainment, live music. A food precinct will offer some of the Bay's finest outdoor catering.
George says this year Castles asked him if the Warriors could help on raceday and the NRL franchise was happy to oblige.
"We were happy to provide the personnel, stuff for kids and a signed jumper for an auction and the club is very proud to be associated with Hawke's Bay racing and Andrew Castles," he says.
George says the Warriors, who are at the cusp of making the quarterfinals of the professional Australian competition, represent the country in rugby league.
"Guys like these [Jones and Iro] really put something back into the community," he says. "We get involved when we're invited," says the Australian.
The racing community raises money for a worthy charitable cause in the country, he says, so if the Warriors can help out with their time and people then they will be there at the drop of a hat.
"I would have provided the opportunity for players but, unfortunately, at this time we can't be sure when and where will be in terms of finals football if we're fortunate enough to get there."
George says the coaches are available because the Warriors, who played the Penrith Panthers from 7.30pm at Mt Smart Stadium last night, will have a recovery and review the day after their match against the Canberra Raiders in an 8pm kick off at the same venue on Friday, August 31.
A former Auckland Racing Club CEO, George had worked with Castles for more than a decade in the gallops industry before the latter moved down to the Bay.
"Butch is doing a fantastic job down there and I'm more than happy to try to help him where I can."
George has two young unnamed horses but they aren't racing-savvy yet.
"I'd be there with bells on if I had the time to get from work but, unfortunately, I cannot this year."
George says the Warriors have come through some tough times to earn the respect of their fans.
"We went back to the basics of getting our club right, rebuilt from the ground up," he says. "That's work in progress but the expectations we internally put on our organisation were very high this year."
Consequently the incremental gains to the team's position is evidence of that commitment although they were unable to secure their playoffs position in the previous round against the Canterbury Bulldogs.
"You know, we've got the opportunity to be there so we've got to grab that with both hands.
"At the end of the day we just want to make our fans and [business] partners happy because it's about respecting what they do for us and us even before we've put on that jumper."
A northern New South Welshman, a laughing George reveals he was a Sydney Roosters fan growing up but his allegiance is totally with the Warriors.
"You won't find any interest about any other team now, bar the Vodafone Warriors, man."