The Warriors and Storm in a round 3 match at Auckland in March. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES
By Jake Beleski
Australia and Melbourne Storm rugby league greats Cameron Smith and Billy Slater have tormented New Zealand for years, and now you might get a chance to see the trio in action in Masterton.
A proposal to bring the Storm, and New Zealand Warriors, to Masterton will be submitted by the Masterton District Council (MDC) before the end of the month.
Submissions to host the Warriors’ 2018 pre-season clash with the Storm are being taken, and MDC economic development manager Kieran McAnulty said Memorial Park would be the perfect host venue.
“Each year they play pre-season games, and each year organisations have the chance to put a proposal to the Warriors to host that match.
“We were made aware that there was this opportunity, and for the last week I’ve been working on the viability of Masterton doing this.”
Earlier this year the Warriors took a pre-season game to Palmerston North, and last year they took on the St George Illawarra Dragons at Trafalgar Park in Nelson.
A strong community-based proposal would be put forward by MDC, Mr McAnulty said.
“We think we’re in a position where we can put forward a compelling proposition.
“The Warriors have a strong community brand, and we think putting forward a community-based proposal will appeal to them and what they stand for.”
Any revenue raised from the game would be put towards a previously approved and designated community project, he said.
Given the contestable nature of the process, Mr McAnulty was reluctant to talk about what the venture might cost, but was adamant the benefits would outweigh the costs.
“We’re confident we can do it in a way that would benefit the community, and there’s always the opportunity for sponsorship as well.
“We’ve already had conversations with Trust House, and they’ve committed to look at how they could help us with this.
McAnulty said everyone he had spoken to in regards to how they could get the proposal across the line was “really excited”, because it was something different for the region.
He pointed to Memorial Park being endorsed by World Rugby and FIFA, as well as a capacity of 10,000 and lighting that would allow for Sky to broadcast the match without issue, as advantages Masterton may have over some other regions.
“We all know 10,000 people at Mount Smart Stadium or Eden Park looks awful, but at Memorial Park it would be a special occasion.
“And we know from other events that bring in thousands of people, the positive effects it can have on the town.”
The Warriors had been “nothing but encouraging” in preliminary talks, but only time would tell whether their bid would be successful, Mr McAnulty said.
“As long as we’re clever about how we do it, we think the proposal we put forward is worthy of consideration.
“It may not be accepted, but I guess the point is we’ve identified the opportunity, and we’re willing to give it a go.”
A date for the match is yet to be confirmed, but pre-season matches are generally held in February.