The Warriors will take on the reigning premiers Melbourne Storm in Rotorua in February.

The two NRL sides will headline a two-day Festival of Rugby League with a trial at Rotorua International Stadium on Saturday, February 17, kicking off at 3pm.

It will cap a programme including a regional nines tournament for the Peter McLeod Cup, a trophy named in honour of the long-serving former general manager for Events and Venues Rotorua, who died almost two years ago.

McLeod was the driving force behind the bid which resulted in the Auckland Warriors being introduced to the then-Winfield Cup in 1995.


Through their Harvey Norman Community Warriors programme, the Vodafone Warriors will also have a strong presence in Rotorua leading up to game day when they'll be out and about in the community. The feature of the activity will be a packed schedule of school visits.

"Having a trial in Rotorua is a great fit for the club as well as our members and fans," said Warriors chief executive Cameron George.

"It's an ideal chance to take the team to another centre and this time there's the added attraction of having the premiers as our opponents, not to mention the possibility of Tohu [Harris] coming up against his former team-mates.

"We love the opportunity trials outside Auckland provide to meet fans and to connect with communities throughout the country."

It will be the fourth time the Warriors have had a trial in Rotorua.

"It's always exciting for us having the Vodafone Warriors in Rotorua," said Crispian Stewart, operations and event development manager, Events and Venues Rotorua.

"They do a great job getting out and about in the community and once again our local players have the chance to be involved with the staging of the nines tournament for the Peter McLeod Cup. The final will be played before the NRL trial with Peter's daughters presenting the trophy."

In recent years the Warriors have played trials in Palmerston North, Hamilton, Whangarei, Dunedin and Nelson.

Their first preseason clash in Rotorua was against the Sydney Roosters in 2010 when they won 26-8. In 2011 they beat Parramatta 24-4 at Rotorua International Stadium and returned in 2015 when they beat Penrith 18-4.

Warriors head coach Stephen Kearney and his staff will have an opportunity to use some of the club's new signings. As well as Harris, they have signed Kiwis Adam Blair, Gerard Beale, Peta Hiku plus Gold Coast's Leivaha Pulu and Taupo-raised Matiu Love-Henry from Brisbane.

Beale faces a lengthy stint on the sideline recovering from a broken leg he suffered in the Kiwis' opening Rugby League World Cup match against Toa Samoa on October 28.

While Cooper Cronk and Harris have finished with the Storm, the Craig Bellamy-coached champion side will go into 2018 still boasting Kangaroos Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Will Chambers, Jordan McLean, Cameron Munster and Felise Kaufusi, Kiwis Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Kenny Bromwich and Jesse Bromwich, excitement machines Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr and new signings Ryan Hoffman and Sam Kasiano.

Hoffman, who has come full circle by rejoining the Storm for 2018, could take on his ex-Warriors side after ending a three-year stint in Auckland.

Warriors v Storm
* Saturday, February 17, 3pm
* $20 adults, $7.50 children, $45 family.
* Tickets from Ticketmaster