It's rare for a journalist to commend a public relations teams as they are so often the bane of our existence, dutifully putting up roadblocks and forever putting our calls on hold.

But I have to give it to the team from the New Zealand Warriors this week, because they've done a great job.

Going along to Te Kura o Otangarei on Thursday was a great experience where the Warriors players, including former student Adam Blair, gave out official Warriors raincoats to all of the school's pupils, in partnership with KidsCan.

As the three Warriors players were seen by the 90 or so kids, who were sitting patiently in the school hall, the hushed murmurs of excitement and the wide-eyed stares quickly told how much the visit meant to these young fans.


Even the way they revealed the raincoat giveaway was special. One child was chosen to receive one jacket, much to the everyone's disappointment, before the team from the Warriors got into a huddle and announced that everyone would be getting one.

The pure joy these kids were showing as they zipped up their new piece of clothing was enough to warm the cockles of this cynical reporter's heart. Getting official Warriors merchandise draped over your shoulders by not just a rugby league star but a hometown hero like Adam Blair will be one of the best moments of their young loves.

When Blair was at this school, he didn't even have a uniform, let alone a raincoat. As at the 12 other schools the team has gone to over the last three days, it's clear that the Warriors have left a lasting impression on Northland locals, one that will make people happy to see them back in town.

But there's another impression that many of the Northland Events Centre staff and trust members will be hoping to leave come kickoff at 5pm today.

The team last made an appearance in Whangārei in 2016 against the Gold Coast Titans but, before that, it was 2011 and 2012 when we saw our national rugby league team venture north from Auckland.

Getting another Warriors game in Northland will send a message to the rest of our sporting codes. Should the game go off without a hitch and Northland's rugby league fans enjoy what has been promoted as a fun day out for the whole family, it will say that Northland is ready for the bigger and better teams and sports to factor us into their calendar.

Talking with members from the Northland Events Centre trust, they believe this is another chance to prove themselves fit for national or even international sporting fixtures which will have obvious benefits to the surrounding community.

The organisation at today's game will need to be top-notch in order to show their capability in handling these events. As most people in Northland public relations will know, Northlanders lean towards turning up on the day rather than booking in advance which could point to chaos at the gates.


On the other hand, a busy time at the gates will be a good thing if staff can manage the numbers. Expectation has been high for the game in Northland's sporting community and I would say the recent presence in local schools will have piqued the interest of many parents looking keep their children's eyes off the screen and on some sporting action.

What should help the atmosphere is the context of the game. The Warriors have had one pre-season game against the Melbourne Storm which featured a number of their junior players.

Today's game will be the introduction of some more senior members of the squad after what has apparently been a tough pre-season, one where the Warriors will want to build from as they look ahead to their first regular season game against the Bulldogs on March 16.

On the other hand, the Tigers haven't had any pre-season games and will be looking to show their upcoming opponents that their work in the lead-up to the season puts them in good stead for this year.

The game holds a particular relevance for the Warriors in the absence of Shaun Johnson. After leaving the club, the team will want to confirm Johnson's replacement and establish a connection between other senior members like Blake Green and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck.

Whichever way the game goes, if the majority of people walking out of the stadium this evening think to themselves, 'That was a great way to spend a Saturday', it will be considered a success on the part of our event organisers.

Early success is key when we look towards the events coming in the next few years, one of which is the Women's Rugby World Cup in 2021. This should and will be the paramount focus for Northland's sporting administrators as the world's best in the women's game come to town.

In events like the Warriors game today, event staff can build their processes and plans for dealing with large-scale sporting events and, if Northland can show its worth hosting international sides in a world cup event, there should be no excuse not to attract more big-ticket items in the future.