Rugby league is returning to the iconic Jubilee Park in Whangārei after more than 4000 days and Kiwis and Warriors legend Adam Blair will be part of two upcoming games at the ground.
A new committee, chaired by former Northland rugby league forward Riki Shelford, has been working frantically since taking charge of the Whangārei City and Districts Rugby League (FCDRL) late last year to spruce up the Whangārei-based park and get it ready for matches and other events.
The new committee is working towards restoring the ground, which has not been used for more than a decade and has provided an ideal refuge for the homeless and a target for arsonists, to its former glory and to improve the premier rugby league competition.
Plans are afoot for the Warriors U18 and the Auckland rugby league U16 teams to play matches against a Northland rugby league selection side at Jubilee Park on April 23.
FCDRL deputy chairman Haemish Reid said from memory, the last competitive match at the park was played sometime around 2009 and while there were plans to host the upcoming matches, his club needed a lot of support in terms of manpower and funding to get there.
A working bee that consisted of committee members, he said, did work around the fence and waterblasted the grandstand while Northland End Contractors and Lawns Plus mowed the grass on the field and the embankment.
"We are working towards getting another working bee that will involve the general public and try to remove the graffiti, clean the building and toilets, and tidy up the corrugated iron and things like that.
"It's all about making the park safe to enable us to have those games. If there are any businesses that can help, please come forward. We need new goal posts, if someone can sponsor things like shower trucks and porta loos, and marquees to be used as temporary changing rooms," he said.
Northland born and raised Blair - one of only four Kiwis to play more than 300 NRL games - said the two games were a great opportunity to bring back rugby league to the region and particularly to Whangārei.
"It's a great way to show how strong rugby league is up here. There's a lot of rugby league talent in Northland, even in the Far North, and what better way to showcase that talent than to get Jubilee Park hosting matches again."
Warriors academy manager Athens Henare said Blair was one of the ambassadors of the sport and was keen to help resurrect the home ground of Northland rugby league at Jubilee Park.
The two matches were part of the Warriors tour of the upper North Island in April after Covid cancelled their games in Australia.
"We'll do a couple of trainings in Whangārei, connect with the local community, and help launch Jubilee Park," he said.
Anyone wishing to help restore Jubilee Park can register their interest at firstname.lastname@example.org.