Rugby league is set to bring thousands of people into Rotorua with an economic impact that will benefit the accommodation, hospitality and tourism sectors.
Eight tournaments across seven weekends are helping to fill the city's events calendar this year, with more games on the horizon as Rotorua is positioned to become the hub for league.
With teams from the NZ Māori Rugby League (NZMRL) and NZ Rugby League (NZRL) competitions heading to Rotorua, as well as whānau and supporters, tournaments are estimated to bring thousands to the city over the next few months.
NZMRL chairman John Devonshire said tournaments would be played at Puketawhero Park and Rotorua International Stadium which both provide world-class atmospheres.
"But it's more than the venues that bring these games to Rotorua," he said.
"It's everything about the game that makes Rotorua our preferred location to host - the kai, the culture, and most importantly, the people.
"The manaakitanga and whanaungatanga the people of the city bring to each tournament is infectious and I think this is because the rugby league culture has been ingrained within the community for many generations – this is ultimately why we choose to play in Rotorua, to be a part of this atmosphere."
First to hit Puketawhero Park is the NZMRL Tamariki tournament this weekend, followed by the Teina tournament in July.
Devonshire said both would be exciting tournaments as these two groups weren't able to play last year due to Covid-19 restrictions.
"Rugby league brings the community together, with parents, nannies and koro out to support their tamariki and mokopuna."
The highly anticipated Rangatahi and Tuakana tournaments will be played at Rotorua International Stadium, with NRL clubs, scouts and managers attending.
He said having these games played at the stadium would create an exciting atmosphere for the players as well as their supporters.
"Nothing beats playing on the professional grounds of a stadium and we're excited to be in Rotorua where the rugby league community are immensely proud and passionate."
In addition to the NZMRL tournaments, NZRL is bringing a further three competitions to Rotorua.
National football operations manager David McMeeken said Rotorua acted as the epicentre for its games nationally, with plenty of accommodation for teams and their travelling whānau.
"Matches can easily bring 450-plus players and team management, along with 1500 supporters per tournament," he said.
"This makes for an action-packed weekend, where accommodation providers, hospitality outlets, and tourist attractions are brimming from the influx of people into the city."
McMeeken said NZRL was working towards securing more games for Rotorua and the wider Bay of Plenty.
Bay of Plenty District Rugby League treasurer/secretary Jenny Nahu said Puketawhero Park was a beautiful, purpose-built venue known as the home of rugby league in the Bay of Plenty.
She said the atmosphere on tournament weekends was unbeatable, both on and off the field.
"A large component of rugby league is centred around whānau, demonstrated through the number of people of all ages on the sideline," she said.
The tournaments also provided an opportunity for clubs to come together and encourage participation in the sport.
"There is a lot of good that comes out of being a part of a rugby league team – wellbeing, a sense of community and a drive to do more."
Rotorua Lakes Council sports development manager Steve Watene said organisers had done a tremendous job in securing these tournaments for the city.
"We hope to secure even more, including some of the premiership matches," he said.
"For this reason, it's important to continue investing in our facilities,".
"Council has worked closely with Rotorua's rugby league community, the NZMRL and NZRL to ensure we get these events to our city. Supporting sports with a strong cultural connection to Rotorua is a key focus for us.
"We encourage the Rotorua community to get involved and head along to the sideline of one of these games. Each tournament will bring something different to the atmosphere, from the NZMRL Tamariki tournament offering some fun, to the NZRL North Island Men's Championship tournament posing some hair-raising competition."
For all the event information, visit www.rotoruanui.nz
League tournaments in Rotorua
April 24-25: NZMRL Tamariki tournament (10-12 years, mixed) Puketawhero Park.
June 5–6: NZMRL Rangatahi tournament (15-17 years) Rotorua International Stadium.
July 17–18: NZMRL Teina tournament (13-14 years, Kotiro and Tama) Puketawhero Park.
July 24–25: BOPDRL North Island District tournament (14–17 years, boys and girls) Puketawhero Park.
September 25–26: NZRL National Women's Championship and North Island Men's Championship tournaments Rotorua International Stadium.
October 6–12: NZRL National Youth tournament Puketawhero Park.
October 23–24: (Labour Weekend) NZMRL Tuakana open women and men's tournament Rotorua International Stadium.